Easy Entertaining: Five Simple Tips for Plating Food

Earlier this week, we talked about plating and presentation, and whether these are important to us as home cooks. Most of you responded with an emphatic "Yes!" and pointed out that making the effort to arrange food before serving doesn't have to be hard or time-consuming. Here are some of our tips for easy plating - and a few we picked up from you!

We'll start off by saying that we are by no means plating geniuses. But remembering just a few basic principles can make the difference between an everyday meal to a memorable one.

1. Use nice plates. When we finally were able to pony up for a set of basic white dinner plates, we couldn't believe what a difference it made over the chipped hand-me-down plates we'd been using for years. Whether you're shopping at Williams Sonoma or the local thrift store, be wary of colors and designs that look cool on their own but might clash when covered with food. If you're indecisive, plain white shows off food very well and is always a good choice.

2. Plan the presentation ahead. Whether you're plating food on individual plates or serving it family-style on platters, it's good to have a picture in mind before you start. This saves you time, and in our personal experience, looks a lot better than something we make up as we go along!

3. Don't fuss with the food once it's on the plate. Even if it's not quite what you imagined, messing with it only makes it look worse. Trust us on this one!

4. Wipe up drips and spills. This is one of those small details that can make a big difference in how food is perceived and enjoyed.

5. Don't underestimate the power of garnish. If you have everything plated and it's just not looking...good...to you, try adding a sprinkle of chopped parsley or a few shaves of parmesan cheese. It might not make a big difference in taste, but it definitely perks up the visual appeal!

For inspiration on how the food is actually arranged on the plate, we turn to our stack of food magazines. The parmesan cracker molded into the shape of a tulip might be a little beyond us, but we can pick up some basic ideas about how the individual components can be placed next to (or on top of) each other.

What other plating or presentation tips do you have?

Related: Tips: How to Arrange a Buffet Table

(Image: Flickr member jspatchwork licensed under Creative Commons)

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