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Perfect Plating: Which Food Presentation Technique is Best?

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Areas of Science
Time Required
Long (2-4 weeks)
Material Availability
Readily available
Low ($20 - $50)
Adult supervision is required when using the oven, stove, sharp knives, and kitchen tools.
*Note: For this science project you will need to develop your own experimental procedure. Use the information in the summary tab as a starting place. If you would like to discuss your ideas or need help troubleshooting, use the Ask An Expert forum. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions and offer guidance if you come to them with specific questions.

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Did you know that people eat with their eyes as well as with their mouths? Food presentation—also called plating techniques or garnishing—makes food appear more appetizing. Checking out how the food looks is the cook's last task and the diner's first. Food that is well-presented is beautiful, colorful, and captivating. Not only does it make the diner really want to eat, but good presentation also allows the diner to identify the food ingredients, their quality, and the technique used in preparation. Poor presentation, such as off-colors, or an overcrowded plate, might make a diner not want to eat the food. Many cultures, like the Japanese, have turned food presentation into a high art, creating a "feast for the eyes," inspired by nature. The Japanese even have a special word for the rules of food presentation—moritsuke.

Sushi with garnish wrapped in bamboo leaves

Figure 1. This photo shows an example of Japanese food presentation. (Wikimedia, 2006.)

In this cooking and food science project, you will explore different food presentation techniques to determine which ones make food appear the most appetizing to your volunteers. You can choose to test one or more presentation methods, including the following:

You might also want to experiment with the shapes of food pieces, with sauces around the main dish, with layering or fanning of food pieces, or with the placement of starch, carbohydrate, and protein on a plate (if you are presenting a full meal).

To conduct this science fair project, you will first need to choose which food-presentation techniques, like the ones described above, you want to test. Then you will need to prepare meals and present them in different ways, according to the techniques you have chosen. For example, if you are testing whether volunteers prefer the appearance of odd or even numbers on their plate, you will prepare one plate with an odd number of pieces, and another with an even number. You will try this for several different types of meals. After photographing your presentations in similar lighting, you will ask volunteers to tell you which photographs of different food presentations look the most appetizing to them. Read this article on sample size to determine how many volunteers you will need.


This source gives an overview and a history of food presentation:

icon scientific method

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General citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Perfect Plating: Which Food Presentation Technique is Best?" Science Buddies, 20 Nov. 2020, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/FoodSci_p066/cooking-food-science/plating-food. Accessed 3 June 2023.

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2020, November 20). Perfect Plating: Which Food Presentation Technique is Best? Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/FoodSci_p066/cooking-food-science/plating-food

Last edit date: 2020-11-20
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