Why Restaurant Food Stays Hot on Your Plate

November 25, 2009 at 11:59 pm 7 comments

Here’s a good secret for Thanksgiving dinner or the next meal you cook. I learned this during a cooking class from the experts:

Never serve hot food on a cold plate!

warm platesHave you ever sat on a bench when it’s cold outside? Your butt gets cold almost instantly! The same thing happens to your really hot food when you put it on a (comparatively) cold plate.

When you’re at a restaurant, what does the server say whenever they bring your food? “Watch this plate, it’s extremely hot.” They’re not trying to burn you, they just want your food to stay hot while you eat it.

Even buffets respect the warm plate. You know the hole at the end of the buffet that the plates magically rise from (see photo)? That’s not there for ergonomics, that’s a plate warmer.

So, if you’re not doing it already, here is a list of ways to get your plates warm.

  1. Buy a plate warmer ($35 and up).
  2. Many ovens have a warming drawer underneath.  No, that isn’t a cookie-sheet graveyard.
  3. Set your cook-top on low heat and lay the plates on top.
  4. Rinse the plates in really hot water, then dry them.
  5. Some dishwashers have a plate warmer function, otherwise run the rinse cycle on high heat with a heated dry cycle.
  6. Put them in the microwave for a short time.

I should also say that the opposite is true, don’t serve cold food on hot plates.  For example, when you go to a buffet and they have hot bowls for your “hard” ice cream.

Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers!

Disclaimer: some dishes may not be suitable for some of these methods.  Check with the manufacturer to be sure.

Photo Credit: LexnGer (flickr/creative commons/attribution)


Entry filed under: Food and Drink, ProTips. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Betty  |  November 27, 2009 at 9:22 am

    I never realized how important warm plates were. Thanks for making this clear.

  • 2. Evil Taco  |  July 27, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Umm…. I’ve been a professional chef for like 15 years. No, this isn’t true. Some buffets *do* use warm plates, but most restaurants? The plate turnover is so fast that you wouldn’t have *time* to warm them. No, the plate is hot because it’s held under a warming lamp while the waitresses run the food. Also, a lot of dishes involve putting the plate directly into the broiler, to melt cheese or what have you. Toast bread crumbs.

    Sure, this is great advice for at home, but at a restaurant? I’ve worked in dozens and I’ve never seen this in action.

    Also, that thing at the end of the buffet table? May be a plate warmer. More likely, it’s a plate dispenser. You ever see plastic salad bowls come out of those? Yeah.

  • 4. Mary Kay  |  October 17, 2010 at 12:50 am

    Your microwave should not be used to heat dishes,or dry your wet newspaper or your laundry! MicroWaves are actually radiowaves and cause items to heat by setting the molecules
    in motion thereby causing friction in the item to be heated (much
    like rubbing our hands together to warm them.) Microwaves can only heat items which contain sugar, fat, oil or water. Putting
    empty dishes in a microwave could actually damage the Magnatron-a costly repair. Sorry!

  • 5. Mark  |  March 21, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Sorry, but I do not see the purpose. I do not heat my plates when cooking at home and I do not need it at a restaurant either. How long does it take you to eat something that you need the plate to keep the food warm? I guess that is the guy in me that is all about eating and not taking one bite every 5 minutes…ha

  • 6. Lyle  |  April 21, 2017 at 11:56 am

    I am also a lifelong restaurant professional. If you do not heat your plates you will have dissatisfied guests and will be comping lots of dollars away.

  • 7. Colin Singleton  |  January 15, 2020 at 8:08 am

    I use the micro to warm the plates I put beans or whatever in at the same time when breakfast is cooked I plate it up put it in the micro then when the eggs are done I put micro on for one minute unfortunately the plate has still gone cold half way through the meal please help


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