Welcome to Day 4 of our 20-Day/20-Part series of blog posts titled “Tips, Tricks, and Secrets of Professional Chefs”. Yesterday we talked about how to prepare Perfect Scrambled Eggs
Today, we’re going to look at one of my favorite kitchen secrets. It’s a favorite because it’s so easy, requires no “cooking skills”, and yet delivers a huge return on your finished dish…and almost nobody’s doing it!
Secret #4: Happiness is a Warm Plate
Whenever possible, I warm the plates that I’ll be serving hot food on, and chill the plates I’m using for cold food.
Good restaurant chefs warm their diners plates because, while hot food served on a room-temp (cold) plate is fine when it reaches the table, it quickly becomes cold before the end of the meal. This is especially true for light foods such as loose rice, pasta, and other foods that tend to cool quickly.
Let’s put it this way. Ever been out for a walk on a snowy day? You’re bundled up nice and toasty, and then you plop down for a rest on a snow-covered bench.
In the instant battle between warm and cold, who wins…the bench or your butt?
Hot food will cool much sooner than the cold plate will get warm. And hot food is simply more attractive, flavorful, and enjoyable to eat.
Old fashioned steam plate-warmer
When you’re at a restaurant, and your server says “Careful, this plate is very hot”…that’s no accident. Nothing frustrates a chef like putting a nice, hot meal on the pass-through, only to have a customer dig into a lukewarm chunk of meat or tepid veggies.
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Even in a serve-yourself situation, there’s something very comforting and inviting about picking up a warm plate. In fact, my father (also a chef) always made it a point, when he had guests over (he liked to serve family-style) to hand each diner a warm plate. It never failed to illicit a smile and a positive comment.
And…it’s so easy to do! Honest! You can warm plates in the oven, microwave, or dishwasher, or just run hot water over them, and then place them in a (warmed) towel-lined basket until ready to serve.
1. For the oven, set it for lowest setting (typically 150F) put the plates in the cold oven and allow to warm 2-3 minutes. If you have to stack your plates more than 2 deep, you’ll need to “shuffle” them while warming.
(A toaster oven works great too, and uses less energy.)
2. Run them under some really hot water, or fill the sink with hot water and let them soak a few minutes. Towel dry them just before plating the meal, or popping them in the basket.
3. If you’re a gadget junkie, consider using an electric plate warmer: think of it as an electric blanket for your plates. These typically hold between 6-16 plates and can be a little spendy, but in their defense…sometimes I’m using my oven AND my sink, and I just want some warm plates. When that happens, this gadget is awfully convenient.
4. Lastly (and this is the method I typically use for the three of us) if your oven’s in use, and the sink’s full already, you can stack the plates on top of the oven between the burners, or on the back “oven vent” burner, if you’re warming something inside.
I recommend this method unless you’ve got the oven on high broil, which can heat the stove-top to unsafe temps, especially at the vent. If not, stack ’em up, cover with a dishcloth (both to hold in heat, and to protect from splatters) and shuffle them now and then so the bottom plate doesn’t get too hot, while and the top one stays cool.
This concept it equally important when serving salads, cold sides, and desserts.
A good rule of thumb – you want the temperature of your plate to generally match the ideal temperature of the food that’s being served on it.
Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates, and come back tomorrow for Secret #5: How to make Rice that’s Extra Nice!
See ya then!
PS – Disclaimer: some dishes may not be suitable for some of these methods. Check with the manufacturer to be sure.