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Entertaining

How to Warm Up Plates for Dinner Guests

Your dinner plates should be warm. Here are five ways to do it, according to professional chefs.
By Published Sept. 22, 2022

In a restaurant, your meals always come piping hot straight from the kitchen. And they stay that way—the plate is often warmed too. It’s a nice touch that elevates the experience. (And keeps your meal hot on its journey to your table.)

So why not do the same at home?

You spent so much time and effort creating the perfect meal, timing everything right so it’s hot when your guests are ready to sit down. But when you ladle that pasta onto a cold, straight-from-the-cupboard plate, it instantly cools down. 

“Similarly, delicate buttery sauces can get thick and unappealing when cold,” says Paul Butler, the co-chef behind Spoke Wine Bar in Somerville, Mass. 

Here are some chef-approved suggestions for how to warm your plates and bring the restaurant experience home.

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1. Put the Plates in the Oven

Many large restaurants install heat lamps to keep plates warm. But Spoke Wine Bar is too small to justify the investment. Instead, Butler says they warm their plates in a hot oven (between 325 and 400 degrees) for just 10 to 40 seconds. 

At Joshua Lewin’s renowned restaurant Juliet, he uses a similar strategy, but at a much lower temperature. He parks a stack of plates in ovens that are not in use. “Set the temperature as low as possible,” Lewin says. The plates can stay in the oven until they’re ready to be used.

2. Put the Plates on Top of the Oven

But what about when you’re already using the oven for your meal? When Juliet is busy and all ovens are in use, Lewin says they put the plates on top of the oven and in between the burners, as those areas tend to be warm when the oven is on. The hot air from the oven will gently warm the plates.

Of course, that’s assuming your stove isn’t in use. You also could leave a stack of plates in the bottom broiler or warming drawer that’s typically attached to the oven, Lewin suggests. Just don’t turn it on—the heat from the oven will warm the plates enough.

3. Use the Microwave

For home cooks, Butler advised the microwave route that could work as effectively as a hot oven. “A few seconds would suffice,” he says. 

4. Run the Plates Under Hot Water

This one is the simplest and doesn’t take up any oven or stove space. Just run the plates under superhot water for 10 seconds and thoroughly dry them using a clean towel before serving. 

5. Use the Dishwasher

In our Menu Cookbook, we recommend putting the clean plates in the dishwasher on the drying cycle to warm them up. Of course, you’d have to make sure the dishwasher is otherwise empty.

Bonus: How to Chill Your Plates

If hot food should go on a hot plate, then cold food should go on a cold plate. For serving cold dishes, such as crudo, sushi, and especially salad, which stay fresh and cool longer on a cold plate, both Lewin and Butler advise storing the plates in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour before serving. Alternatively, rinse the plate under cold water and dry it off.