7 Simple Tips to Make Your Meals Look *And* Taste Amazing

October 10, 2017

First and foremost, I strive to create a delicious plate of food that shocks the palate with bold flavor. But I’m not gonna lie—I love to make things look beautiful, too. My own style is rooted in simplicity, and while aesthetics are paramount, so is accessibility.

While developing recipes for my book, Cook Beautiful (out today!), I wanted to unite my overlapping passions of food and design. With a background in interiors, visual presentation plays an integral role in everything I do—particularly how I style and plate food. I decided to pair each recipe with a tip that improves flavor and efficiency in the kitchen, as well as the meal's overall beauty.

I’ve developed an arsenal of easy tricks for making food both delicious and a feast for the eyes. After all, our eyes are the body's first sensorial indicator. I believe flavor and beauty, taste and visuals are always working in tandem with technique. Below, are some of my favorite examples.

Get your pan good and hot! Photo by Johnny Miller

The perfect sear

There are few things less attractive than a pale pork chop. Happily, it's not hard to achieve that deeply golden sear. The key is to get your pan good and hot—and keep it that way. To that end, bring your meat to room temperature before cooking—a cold chop will cool down your pan—and opt for cast iron, which retains heat most evenly.

Elevate the humble potato

Crispy spuds not only taste better, they look beautiful, too, with their deep golden hue and lacy, caramelized edges. The key to pretty potatoes: Get them good and dry. After boiling, drain them and then return them to the pot for 2 minutes over super-low heat to burn off any residual moisture.

A sweeter way to keep your apples from browning

Honey contains a compound that prevents oxidation, ensuring that apples remain bright white. In fact, a quick dunk in a mixture of honey and water keeps apples from browning for up to eight hours, far longer than the more commonly used lemon juice.

The tart secret to a pretty poach

The secret to pretty poached eggs? Adding a little vinegar to the water, which causes the proteins in the whites to coagulate more quickly, preventing unsightly wisps. Swirling the water with the tail of a wooden spoon to create a little whirlpool also helps by drawing the egg in the center, encouraging a nice round shape. And if you happen to break a yolk while plating, don't sweat it. A sunny little pool of bright yellow creates color contrast on the plate.

Fennel a cut above the rest

To produce gorgeously feathery slices of fennel, start by dividing the bulb in quarters and paring away most, but not all, of the core. Next, carefully shave each quarter lengthwise on your mandoline. Make sure to slice the fennel paper thin to combat the veg’s natural toughness.

A gentle swirl is all it takes. Photo by Johnny Miller

Step up your soup game

Pureed soup can look—and taste—boringly basic without a garnish or two to liven it up. Restaurant chefs often use plastic squeeze bottles to layer on something bright or creamy, but at home there's no need to be so fussy. Just gently swirl in a minimal amount of pesto with a teaspoon, mixing only on the surface of the soup in a loose circular motion.

Don't crowd your cauliflower

Heads of cauliflower vary greatly in size. If you buy a large one and find your florets don't fit easily in a single later on one baking sheets, use two. A mound of veg will end up soggy and steamy rather than beautifully browned.

Share your favorite tips and tricks to creating beautiful AND tasty food below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jonathan
  • AntoniaJames
  • witloof
Interior designer & creator of lifestyle site


Jonathan October 16, 2017
Elevate the potato! <3
AntoniaJames October 10, 2017
Another cheat code for crisp, great-tasting roasted vegetables is to get your baking sheet screaming hot before putting the vegetables on. When they hit the pan, a lot of moisture will evaporate instantly, so you'll want to open the oven door for a few seconds, after putting the veg in, to release the steam.
I've been evangelizing this for a number of years now - and encouraging others not to use parchment, even if it does make clean up easier. (Seriously, how hard is it to run a bit of water on the pan after removing the vegetables, letting it sit for 5 minutes and then giving it a light scrub?) ;o)
witloof October 10, 2017
Love this! I'll try tossing the pans in the oven while I'm cutting the veg.
AntoniaJames October 10, 2017
Thanks, witloof. You'll find this tip especially helpful for roasted sweet potato wedges, which tend to have a lot of moisture which can make them rather limp and even soggy if not handled intelligently. It requires virtually no additional effort, but delivers impressive results. ;o)

P.S. For sweet potatoes, I also recommend removing them from the sheet pan after a couple of minutes and putting them directly on a wire rack to let the steam escape better, popping them back in the hot oven, still on the wire rack, for a minute or two right before serving.
witloof October 10, 2017
I usually eat them the day after I've roasted them, even the gorgeous Japanese ones from the greenmarket, because they don't taste like anything when I first take them out of the oven. After a few hours in the refrigerator they are much better. I wonder if your method would take care of that problem. I'll try it! Thanks!