We have all heard the saying, “We eat with our eyes first!” How food is presented on a plate plays a significant role in our experience and how we perceive the food will taste. Attractive food presentation is just as important when eating at home as it is in a restaurant yet, it is the most commonly ignored facet of home cooking. How do you feel when you go to a restaurant and your meal comes out perfectly presented? The visual cues are the first sense we have to judge how it tastes and what we will pay for it. The key to looking like a star in the kitchen, building confidence, and getting rave reviews on your simple meals starts with food presentation. You can even try these techniques to introduce new healthy foods to picky eaters. Don’t worry, putting together pretty plates and making beautiful meals is easier than you think. Here are some techniques that can elevate your everyday meals in just 60 seconds or less.
When picking items for your meal be sure to take their physical color into consideration. A plate of all brown food, like potatoes, and fried chicken will taste good but not nearly be as interesting as one with herb seasoned chicken and broccoli with a cheese sauce.
Cut vegetables in assorted shapes like pepper strips, summer squash in a half-moon, carrots on an angle and pea pods in half. This will add interest and help ensure even cooking by keeping the vegetables similar sizes. Cutting vegetables in different shapes is also fun for kids and lets them experience the same food in a different way.
The texture of our food is significant in how we enjoy it. No one wants a limp potato chip, dry cinnamon roll or crispy, undercooked pasta. Make sure you are cooking foods properly and introducing a few textures on the same plate to keep it interesting. For example, plain oatmeal is fine but one with fresh fruit, nuts, and a drizzle of honey will be well received in both visual and taste appeal.
Plates with many colors and designs may be interesting to look at alone or place on a wall for decoration, but are not the best choice for food. The colors of the plate will compete with the color of the food. A white plate is like a blank canvas allowing the food to be shown off rather than hidden in a pattern. If you don’t have white plates, go with a solid color.
A plate does not have to actually be a plate. Think outside the box when plating your food. Try serving a stir fry or noodle dish in a shallow bowl rather than a plate. Your favorite soup could be served in a mug. Even desserts like chocolate mousse or an ice cream sundae in a martini glass, can give new life to an old favorite.
There is nothing worse than drab, olive green, overcooked soggy vegetables. No one wants to eat much of that. When you cook vegetables properly with methods such as sautéing, steaming, or grilling, this helps retain their color, texture and nutritional value.
This is a technique that is overlooked and abused by many home cooks. Adding a sprinkling of chopped parsley to every plate you serve is not good garnishing skills. Garnishes should always be edible. Never serve anything that cannot be consumed and enjoyed. Use a garnish like a fresh herb to call out the flavors in the dish; Italian herb chicken for example, could have fresh basil leaves with it. Remember garnishes should enhance flavors not mask flavors.
Less is more, it is perfectly acceptable and very restaurant like to have open “white space” on a plate. You can create this by using larger plates, uniquely shaped plates, or by simply stacking your food. Stacking the food creates height and interest. Start with your starch on the bottom, then layer in a vegetable, and end with your protein top on or leaning against the pile. Finishing with a drizzle of sauce and you have created an edible masterpiece.
Remember in the end someone will eat and enjoy your food. Don’t fuss over it and handle items too much so that it looks overworked and the food starts getting cold. Great presentation and visual appeal will never make up for a cold plate of food.
It doesn’t take a gourmet chef to make meals that look as good as they taste. With these simple techniques your everyday meals and favorite easy recipes can receive great reviews at the dinner table. Food presentation is the key to elevating your experience, making people feel special and keep them coming back for more.
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