How to Arrange a Cold Plate

By Amelia Allonsy

A cold plate provides convenient nourishment as part of a party spread, an after-school snack, or when you just do not want to turn on the stove. Arrange a cold plate with an attractive presentation while providing easy access to each food variety. A typical cold plate might include meat, cheese, bread, crackers, pickles, olives, and fruits or vegetables to cleanse the palate between sandwiches.

Dish with pastrami and salami slices.
credit: nata789/iStock/Getty Images
Artful food placement and use of color make a cold plate look attractive and appetizing.

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Classic Wedge Presentation

A deli meat and cheese tray is a classic example of a cold plate presentation that groups food together in wedges. Roll large meat and cheese slices into cylinders, or cut them into small pieces roughly the size of a cracker round. Vegetables and fruits can also be cut into sticks or slices. Place a bed of kale or leaf lettuce around the edges of the plate for presentation. Group the foods by type in wedges, leaving the center of the plate open for pickled foods or spreads. You can form additional layers of rings outside the first ring -- as many as will fit to the rim of the plate. A line of crackers or baguette slices between each food type creates additional division.

Alternating Patterns

Instead of keeping each food type relegated to a single spot, you can alternate the foods so the colors are spread throughout the plate. This arrangement looks best with sliced vegetables or smaller, two-bite pieces of meats and cheeses. Position the foods in concentric rings on a round plate or in straight rows on a square plate. Alternate foods in a repeating pattern as you build the rows or rings. An example pattern might include sliced pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, a square of honey ham, Swiss cheese, Genoa salami and Colby cheese. You can even add slices of cucumber, peppers or carrots between the meat and cheese.

Cold Plate Bouquet

Perfect for a garden party, this arrangement manipulates the food to create an edible bouquet. Roll up meats or long strips of carrots, cucumber and tomato into a cylinder. Adjust the roll so the center sticks up further than the outer layer to resemble roses. Cut small wedge shapes around radishes to make tiny tulips for the bouquet. Cut layers of slits straight down into a strawberry, working from the base to the tip, for a layered petal look. Roll white cheese into cylinders with one wide end; insert a carrot matchstick to make calla lilies. Arrange the different edible flowers in a bouquet shape on the plate, using green onions, celery, green pepper strips, pickle spears or cornichons to make flower stems. Fill in the gaps with cherry cherry tomatoes, cauliflower florets, grapes, cheese cubes or pieces of leafy greenery.

Playful Shapes

Arrange your cold plate in simple shapes and designs, such as a heart, Christmas tree or butterfly, as a way to celebrate a special occasion or to encourage picky kids to eat. Start by forming the outline of the design, using larger foods such as rolled meat slices or thick pepper pieces that contain the foods you use to fill in your design. Fill in the design with the remaining foods. Break a butterfly design into quadrants, perhaps using a group of olives or tomatoes to make dots at the center of each wing. Arrange various types of food in rows inside a Christmas tree shape to resemble tinsel and lights; use a cookie cutter to make a cheese star topper.