How to Decorate a Meat Tray

Written by fred decker
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How to Decorate a Meat Tray
Visually appealing meat trays are usually gobbled up in no time. (Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images)

Trays of cold meats are a buffet table staple. Attractively presented trays of cold cuts are found at wakes, weddings and social gatherings of all kinds. For professional caterers, the skill they bring to creating trays with visual appeal is an important business asset. Anyone can stack sliced meats on a tray, but arranging them artfully with well-selected garnishes creates a much more appetizing appearance. With a bit of practice and some online research, anyone can decorate meat trays to look more professional.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Selection of deli meats
  • Trays or commercial domed catering trays
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Pickles, pickled onions or black or green olives
  • Roasted bell peppers or banana pepper rings
  • Sliced cheeses
  • Fresh herbs
  • Ramekins
  • Mustard, horseradish, hot sauce or other condiments

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    Choosing and Arranging the Meats

  1. 1

    Select a variety of deli meats in different shapes, sizes and colours. Trays look more attractive when the meats themselves provide some of the visual interest. A mixture of dry salami, mortadella, pastrami and turkey are more appealing than multiple varieties of pink ham.

  2. 2

    Fold or roll each kind of meat in a different way. With large, thin slices, roll some into tight cylinders and some into loose cylinders, folded in half lengthwise. With others, fold the top and bottom to meet in the middle, then do the same with both sides to make neat, square packages. With large, round meats, fold them into quarters to make wedge-shaped pieces. Make a loose, unstructured stack with finely shaved meats. Fold and overlap smaller meats such as dried salami, or roll them into cones. Cut sausage or pepperoni into bite-sized diagonals or wedges.

  3. 3

    Group the meats on the tray, arranging them in such a way that bands of uniform colour and shape are interspersed with contrasting colours, shapes and textures. Dark Genoa salami, pale turkey and richly browned roast beef make an excellent contrast with the pink tones of ham and other cold cuts.

    Garnishes and Other Accents

  1. 1

    Purchase commercial catering trays with domed lids to keep your arrangements intact until the event is under way. If there is no restaurant supply store in your immediate area, you can often buy them from the deli manager at your local supermarket.

  2. 2

    Line the tray with dark, leafy lettuce leaves before laying out the meats. This is more attractive than the traditional fistfuls of curly parsley. Plus, as the trays are emptied, the lettuce becomes available for those who want to use it on a roll with their cold meats.

  3. 3

    Use garnishes that will complement your meats and provide a visual contrast. Small, dark-green pickles, pale pickled onions, black or green olives, colourful spears of roasted red and yellow bell peppers, banana pepper rings, sliced cheeses or fresh herbs are all excellent complements to sliced meats. Mound them between the meats to provide visual contrast.

  4. 4

    Fill one large or several small ramekins with dips or condiments. Put a large ramekin at the centre of your tray and fill it with an unusual mustard or dipping sauce. Alternatively, use several small ramekins filled with horseradish, hot sauce or several gourmet mustards and place them around the edge of the tray.

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