Food Presentation Tips
Sometimes you can follow a recipe perfectly and still find that your version doesn’t look quite the same as the one from the cookbook.
Often, it all comes down to the way you plate up your food. Even though you don’t need fancy-looking food for every meal, it’s nice to serve up something that looks as good as it tastes.
Whether you’re planning a dinner party or just want to perfect your plating skills for your own enjoyment, we’ve put together a few simple food presentation tips that will help make your food a visual delight.
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Tip 1: Less is more
This first tip is perfect for portion control! It’s easier to make food look better when you don’t overcrowd your plate. Luckily, this concept goes hand in hand with keeping your meals slimming friendly – each serving should be well-balanced and proportioned.
Flooding the plate with too much food will make it far trickier to arrange the ingredients in an appealing way. Smaller portions give you more room to play with, so you can get creative and serve up the prettiest plates!
These Oat Pancakes look so tempting, and part of the reason is because there aren’t too many of them on the plate. The rule of three works well when it comes to food presentation, so pile them up, leave some empty space around your stack and spoon on your toppings.
When you cook a recipe in a big batch, it can be messy to spoon it out onto a plate – and easy to serve a little too much. For something with a lot of sauce like this Lemon Chicken, it’s important to get the portion right so that it doesn’t flood the plate.
If you’re adding a side like fluffy boiled rice, it can be handy to use a pudding mould to control where it sits, keeping your plate of food looking tidy. A simple non-stick mould like one of these will do the job nicely.
Stacking up the different elements of a dish is another way that professional chefs make sure their plates never look too crowded. This trick has the added benefit of creating a bit of height, which is a surefire way to make your food look fancier!
Using this tip, even an easy, comfort food favourite like this Corned Beef Hash can look elegant. Rather than serving a dollop of the Hash with an egg on the side, neatly cut out your portion and stack the egg on top – picture perfect!
Tip 2: Make it colourful
A vibrant plate of food won’t just catch your eye, it’ll make your mouth water too! As a general rule, the more colourful a dish looks, the more appetising your guests will find it. This is another tip that goes hand in hand with slimming friendly food – you want dishes that are packed with a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables.
It’s easy to accomplish this with a crunchy salad dish like this Tuna Niçoise Pasta Salad. Not only do you get a splash of green from the salad leaves, cherry red tomatoes and bold black olives, there’s also the vibrant white and yellow yolk of the boiled egg. We’re feeling hungry just looking at the photo!
Sometimes, a spoonful of a multicoloured side dish can be all you need to brighten up your dinner plate. This Jewelled Giant Couscous is super versatile, and a great way to add colour to so many different dishes.
Like the name suggests, this is a rainbow of fresh veggies, sprinkled with gem-like pomegranate seeds that look appealing and taste delicious.
With orange carrots, green beans, yellow lemons and golden brown chicken, this Lemon and Garlic Chicken Traybake is another feast for the eyes! Serve it up with some Creamy Mashed Potatoes, remember to not overcrowd the plate, and you’ll end up with a colourful dinner that’s healthy, delicious and a visual triumph.
Tip 3: Choose the right plate
However colourful your ingredients are, they’ll look even better if you serve them on a plate that complements them. Your choice of dinnerware can make a huge difference when it comes to improving your food presentation.
You don’t need to rush out and buy loads of plates you’ll hardly ever use, but investing in a couple of different options will mean that you can choose a design that will set off your food when it’s time to dish up dinner.
Plates can come in various shapes, sizes and colours, so there can be an overwhelming choice when deciding which will make your food look best. Remember Tip 1 – you’ll want to use a plate that’s big enough for the portion you’re planning to dish up, without making the serving look too small.
Plain white plates or pale colours are great for drawing attention to the food, but dark or bright colours can also work well. We’ve served these Chicken Gyros Kebabs on a sky blue plate that brings the recipe to life. Set against the turquoise hue, the salad garnish looks so vibrant and appetising!
A couple of statement plates like these elegant blue porcelain plates are ideal for when you want your food to have a real impact.
Sometimes you don’t need a plate at all – certain food looks better served in bowls. Choose a plain or patterned bowl in a colour that complements or contrasts with the different elements of the food. You can even use mismatched bowls if you’re serving multiple people. This will add extra colour to your table, making it more pleasing on the eye.
Take a look at the way we’ve dished up this Fakeaway Chicken in Black Pepper Sauce – each bowl is slightly different but still complements the colourful ingredients inside.
This set of ceramic bowls would be ideal for serving soups and stir-fries. They’re patterned inside and out, perfect for when you want your table settings to be really eye-catching!
Tip 4: Style it out
The way you arrange the food on your plate can also make a big difference to how well put-together the finished meal looks. One helpful tip to improve food presentation is to remember to cut your meat horizontally and fan it out on top of the accompaniment, just like we’ve done with this Herby Lemon Chicken Salad.
Other little touches, such as serving any dips or sauces in individual pots, will help to keep your plate looking tidy and stylish. Why not try making finger food like these Veggie Dippers and serving them on a tray alongside a small dish of spicy ketchup (it’s included in the recipe!). It’s a quick way to elevate a simple dish, making it more visually interesting.
A set of small dishes like these ones will come in handy time and time again. Perfect for all kinds of dips and sauces!
Certain types of food look best served in individual portions, rather than serving a scoop of a larger version. For example, these mini Apple Crumbles are baked into ramekins that can go straight from the oven to the table. This can look much neater than scooping spoonfuls of one big crumble into bowls – and it’s less washing up too!
These 240ml porcelain ramekins come in a set of tonal colours that you can mix and match to suit your table settings.
Tip 5: Finish with a garnish
Once you’ve chosen your plate, perfectly portioned and arranged your food, you just need to add the finishing touches. These are the little flourishes that make your food look its very best, from a drizzle of dressing to a sprinkling of icing sugar.
Although we love dried herbs to add flavour to our recipes, it’s hard to beat a garnish of fresh herbs on the finished dish. A handful of chopped greenery can make even the most humble midweek meal look far more presentable.
Take our classic Chilli Con Carne for example – it’s a hearty, homely dinner, but add a sprinkle of coriander leaves on top, right before serving and it looks instantly more impressive.
There are other ways to add greenery to the plate of course, a little side salad or a segment of lime, depending on what’s on the menu. Anything that adds extra colour is the perfect finishing touch, so fresh fruit is another go-to garnish.
Whether on breakfasts or desserts, a few berries or a sliced up strawberry can take your plate of food to the next level.
This Blackcurrant Mousse is so easy to make and it looks really pretty when it’s served in a small dish, with a garnish of plump, fresh blackcurrants on the top. Simple but effective!
Or how about these Chocolate Waffles? They smell and taste incredible, and they can look far more interesting when you add a little imagination into how you plate them up. We love to add a dollop of sweetened quark, some fresh strawberries and a light dusting of cocoa powder to finish it off. How good do they look?
What are your top food presentation tips?
Have you got a clever trick to make sure your meals always look irresistible? Let us know over in our Facebook group where there are almost 1 million members already sharing tips, inspiration and slimming motivation. Don’t forget to tag us in any amazing photos you’ve taken of your favourite Pinch of Nom recipes!