If you’ve ever snuck a view into the kitchen of a restaurant, you might have seen the many tools chefs utilize to make your plate of food look stunning: tweezers for optimal garnish placement, a whipped cream dispenser for foams, a squeeze bottle for beautiful dots of sauce. Plating a dish to look at its best is a signature of the chef, the restaurant, and the style of cuisine.
While we all desperately miss restaurants, we can recreate some of the magic at home by putting the care and love into the dishes we serve our friends and family each night - all with items you already have in your kitchen!
Fine Mesh Strainer
Not just for washing fruit or skimming stock. A fine mesh strainer can be used for dusting powdered sugar or cocoa powder over your freshly baked desserts. With the ability to create a snow-like dusting on your food, a fine mesh strainer will elevate your plating style. All you need to do is add the powdered sugar or cocoa powder to the strainer and hold it high above your molten lava cake or cookies. Give the side of the strainer a few good taps and you will have a gorgeous dusting on your food.
Everyone has Ziploc or sandwich bags at home and now you have another reason to use them other than for packing leftovers or kids lunches. A Ziploc bag is perfect for piping toppings onto your plate, toast, or cake and serves as an excellent replacement for conventional piping bags. Simply put your bag in a mason jar or glass with a wide rim and fold the opening over the edge of the glass. This will allow you to fill the bag more easily. Once all of your ingredients are in the bag, push it all to one of the corners on the bottom and then make a small cut on that corner so that the filling can come out. If you want a thin, more precise design, cut a small slit. If you want something thicker and more robust, cut a larger part of the corner. I love using this technique to layer whipped ricotta on grilled bread (shout-out to Missy Robbins) and for frosting cupcakes.
Yes, you read that correctly. Something as simple as a spoon can be super resourceful when it comes to plating. One of the more common techniques used with a spoon is the swoosh of a sauce. Simply put a dollop of your sauce down on the plate and then take the back of your spoon, push down, and spread the sauce out. Another way to use the back of your spoon is to create a Jackson Pollock design. This works best for large parties if you are plating in advance. Lay out all of your plates next to each other and simply put your different sauces down on random parts of the plates. Use the back of your spoon to hit these spots. While this might look like a mess, it will make the sauce spray in beautiful, colorful patterns and make your plates look like one big canvas. It’s time to break out your spoons for your plating process, as they offer more control and have the added ability to hold sauces.
Will home chefs’ plating ever be as good as restaurants? I like to think yes. And the best part about that is with these tips and tricks, you don’t have to break the bank for fancy tools. So the next time you’re having a dinner party, or feel like elevating a solo dinner, let loose when it comes to inspiration for your plating.