High Marks: Presenting the Perfect Plate

High Marks: Presenting the Perfect Plate

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With the summer holidays fast approaching, use these tips for presenting that delicious BBQ meal like the work of art it really is.

By Robert Fure

When the summer holidays arrive, it's always a time for gathering with friends, imbibing good drink, and undoubtedly eating piles of delicious grub right off the grill. Now, when the food arrives in hot stacks the last thing on your mind is probably presentation, but that doesn't mean there isn't a place for style. Whether you're having a smaller, more intimate get together or you just want to have a little fun with your food before you eat it, taking the time to nicely present the meal can improve the entire experience.

Grill Marks

Is there anything more appetizing than a perfectly grilled piece of meat? The answer is no. The secret to making a beautifully grilled dish is simple – leave it alone. Too many people touch the food they're preparing too often, which leads to uneven heating and color and a complete lack of cool grill marks. To start, get the grill nice and hot before even thinking about putting the meat on to cook. Know ahead of time how long it takes to cook what you're preparing – both burgers and steaks of a normal size take in the 4-6 minute per side range at a medium-high heat. For single line grill marks, simply place your burger on the grill, close the lid, and only flip it once, about 5 minutes later. To create a cross-hatch pattern, put the patty on the grill, then 2 or so minutes later, rotate it ninety degrees. Two minutes after that, flip the patty and two minutes after that, rotate. You get the idea and you'll get great grill marks.


There's more to a meal than just the meat. Presenting the garnish and side dishes nicely around the main course is pleasing to look at and brings some fun to the meal. When you eat out at a restaurant, you're not served a dish of lettuce, a bowl of tomatoes, or other stacks of condiments for you to pick out yourself. Rather, everything is presented neatly around the plate, or on the food itself. When preparing a plate for another, taking the time to nicely assemble the toppings while leaving room for them to customize the meal to their tastes wins brownie points – even if you're not serving brownies.


Everyone has had a burger and chips. There's something nice and comfortable about that. But when it comes to style and presentation, sometimes it's wise to mix things up a bit. Serve a burger with gourmet crackers. Add some strawberries to a chicken plate. By changing things up you can come across great flavor combinations and visually appealing dishes. Don't be afraid to be bold in the kitchen or at the picnic table.

Bringing It All Together

When it comes right down to it, just splattering stuff across a plate looks messy and less than appetizing, even if the food itself tastes great. Especially when entertaining, don't be afraid to take the time to serve someone a nice, completed plate. Whether you're trying to thank your mom for cooking or impressing the cute neighbor girl, you might be surprised at how well received something as simple as a plate of food can be. In plating, look for a balance between portions. No one thing should dominate the plate, they should all share the space and compliment each other. Avoid letting the food mingle on the plate. A place for every thing, and every thing in its place, as Mom used to say.

Faced with a smorgasbord of food, you may be tempted just to pile it on. Resist! Everyone appreciates cleanliness and attention to detail. If you take the time to smartly prepare your dinner, people will take notice. It reflects well upon you. So this upcoming Fourth of July, whether you're just getting your own or if you're serving others, take a moment to present the plate as you present yourself – clean, balanced, and well put together. And take extra care if you're handing the plate off to the cute neighbor.