Keeping food warm, presenting it on plates and serving it up

A set table with name plate

If you like having friends over and spending a lovely time together, getting together is bound to be associated with a nice meal. However, the larger your circle of friends and the smaller your kitchen, the more you’ll start to find that cosiness can soon be overtaken by stress, especially if you’re the one doing all of the cooking. With proper menu planning and the right kitchen equipment and processes, however, you can keep your dinner parties on track.

Keeping food warm

In small kitchens, preparing lots of different ingredients, a shortage of hot plates and a lack of space in general can make preparing meals for guests a challenge. As such, doing things in the right order is a must. One of our grandmothers’ top tricks for keeping cooked food warm doesn’t even require any kitchen equipment. Simply drain hot pans and wrap them in a warm woollen blanket. But be careful: keeping certain ingredients warm for a long time can be detrimental to the taste. The texture can change a lot, too.

Keeping things warm for a brief period of time, on the other hand, isn’t a problem for certain foods. Potatoes or rice are particularly good for this. You should avoid attempting to keep most types of vegetables warm, as they will soon exceed their cooking temperature. The order in which the food is cooked is thus crucial, as not every ingredient can be kept warm or heated up again.

It makes particular sense to prepare soups, casseroles, sauces, potatoes or rice, first as they can then be kept warm.

Pre-warmed plates and serving dishes are also helpful for keeping the dishes warm before serving them to your guests. You can fill the plates with hot water and pour it away into the empty sink, an additional bowl or the outflow shortly before you need to plate up.

Food presentation

Talk about a feast for the eyes. Thanks to social media, we’re constantly bombarded with pictures of beautifully presented dishes. Bloggers and instagrammers style their food, creating veritable works of art.

Here are some examples to inspire you:

As a result, expectations have been raised when it comes to home cooking, too. How can you give your own creations that extra something?

The basic rules for presenting food tastefully

  • Bear the right proportions in mind. Plates shouldn’t be piled too high nor look too empty.
  • To ensure a sense of balance, having the right size of the plate for the amount of food on it is paramount.
  • Always choose plates that are large enough to leave some empty space around the edge. The plate edge frames your food, so it should always remain clean. Don’t add any decoration around the edge.
  • Feel free to mix soft and crunchy, light and dark – anything goes, provided that the flavours work with the dish; after all, the perfect dish features different taste sensations. Get creative!
  • And to really set things off, you need some sort of garnish. This could be fresh herbs or some of the ingredients that went into the dish. Essentially, the decoration should relate to the recipe.
  • But don’t get caught up in these details: your food should be the main focus, not the adornment.
  • If you are preparing the same dishes for a number of guests, their plates should look as similar as possible.
  • Besides colour, height is another key element when it comes to plating up food. Layering and stacking food can add another dimension to a plate.

A woman looks happily into the camera and holds a wine glass in her hand

The right equipment for beautifully arranged food

When plating food, choose a free space on your worktop that is as close as possible to your sink. If you don’t have enough space on your worktop, you can cover the sink with a fitting cutting board, and do it there. The advantage of this is that it’s easy to rinse off your serving utensils every so often so that you don’t spill anything on the fresh plates.

As well as having a space to plate up, certain cooking utensils can also prove useful as you prepare your dishes. You have to work fairly briskly to ensure that the food doesn’t go cold in the meantime.

  • Serving ring – Rice, couscous or finely diced vegetables tend to fall apart. A serving ring keeps everything in shape. If you don’t happen to have a serving ring, you can put the rice in a glass and then turn it out onto the plate.
  • Sauce bottle or piping bag – These are useful if you want to add precise droplets or lines.
  • Spiraliser – If you have a spiraliser or Julienne peeler, you can enhance the look of even the most basic ingredients, such as carrots, cucumber or courgette.


Now things need to happen quickly. Once the food is all cooked and arranged on plates, it’s time to serve it to your guests. If you’re not a seasoned dinner party-thrower, then you’re bound to welcome a little help. Planning routes within the kitchen is crucial if you don’t always want to be getting in each other’s way. And now it’s finally time to sit down at the table! Let’s eat!