We can’t help getting a little envious when we see the beautiful dishes plated up on shows like MasterChef, Chopped, or The Kitchen. Professional chefs make it look so easy! But you can also make your food look pretty. With a few handy tools and these useful tips, your dishes will soon look like they belong on the cover of a magazine!
There’s a well-known saying: “You eat with the eyes first”. So, if your tasty dishes are looking somewhat lackluster then you need to listen up. With these tips, your dishes will be Instagram-worthy in no time!
The plate will be the empty canvas for your masterpiece meal. The choice of a small or large plate will depend on the type of food you’re dishing up. There should be some white space, but not too much – just enough for your eating utensils to rest on the plate without touching the food.
Plate color also plays an important role. White plates are the best choice. They are very versatile and are often seen in fancy restaurants. However, for a more dramatic look, choose charcoal or black plates. These work especially well for rich desserts!
Shapes are also important, so don’t feel like you have to stick with round plates. Square or oval plates have become quite trendy and are the quintessential items for a more contemporary feel.
When it comes to color, texture, and even shapes, opposites attract! Try to contrast these elements wherever possible. For example, when plating a vanilla ice cream quenelle on a dark chocolate crumb, you achieve the opposites attract rule in two ways. First, you have contrasting textures (smooth vs. crumbly), and second, you have contrasting colors (dark brown vs. cream).
Ever seen those metal rings in the store that look like cookie cutters? Well, they are called ring molds, and they’re perfect for when you need to plate foods like rice or salad that need to be shaped in some way. It also creates some height on the dish, which makes it look fancy!
To make interesting patterns and squiggles with sauces, you need a squeezy bottle – the type you would use for ketchup or mustard (no need for being extravagant here, any normal bottle will do). Use these bottles to beautifully decorate your plates with purées and thick dressings like mustard, balsamic reductions, and even chocolate sauce!
If you regularly watch any cooking show, then you probably know what a crumb is! When dishing up desserts like ice cream, add crumbs for texture. Crush some biscuit (chocolate, oat, or ginger) or honeycomb, and add the ice cream on top. In a similar way, crushed nuts can add great texture to salads.
We all have a pastry brush hiding somewhere in a kitchen drawer, even if we never bake. Well, now you can use it to create pretty-looking dishes. Dip the brush into your sauce of choice, and add stripes to the plate. This works great for plating up a piece of meat. Remember, practice makes perfect! Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time! Good excuse to try it again.
A blowtorch is great for making Crème brûlée, but it’s equally useful for plating. Use it for some last-minute charring on veggies right before serving. If you’re a food photographer, a blowtorch works great for heating up the food, creating that ‘steamy’ look that we often see on professional food photos!
Microgreens are basically baby herbs, about 3 inches tall. If you are unable to find microgreens at a store near you, then use normal herbs. Just choose leaves that are young and vibrant green – thyme leaves work perfectly! Scatter them over your dish just before serving, which will give it a fresh look. Sometimes all a dish needs, is that touch of green!