The Practical Reason Restaurant Plates Are Always So Hot

If you've ever eaten at a restaurant, you're probably familiar with the "hot plate" warning your server gives before setting food down at your table. It feels like nearly every restaurant dish comes out on a piping hot plate that is even hotter than the food you're about to eat. It may seem like a strange practice, considering most people eat off of room temperature plates at home, and a potentially dangerous one since the plates are so hot. Still, there is a logical reason why restaurants opt for high-heat plates for their meals

The answer lies in the way heat travels. If you have two surfaces in contact, and one surface is cooler than the other, the heat from the hotter surface will travel to the cooler one, which causes both of them to become lukewarm. So having a hot plate not only ensures that the heat from your hot food is maintained, but also prevents you from eating lukewarm, or worse, cold food. 

Think of the hotter plates as an asset to maintaining an exquisite restaurant experience. Your food can't always immediately come to your table, but by keeping plates hot, you ensure a meal that feels fresh from the kitchen.

How restaurants keep plates warmed

Restaurants can keep plates at an optimal temperature through a variety of methods. One of the most common methods is to use heat lamps in the areas where chefs leave food for servers to pick up. Heat lamps keep the food and the plates warmed. Another common method among restaurants is to use an oven at a low temperature to store plates until they are ready to be used. Some establishments have even designated plate warmer devices to help maintain plate temperatures. These devices keep plates at a warm temperature and store them out of the way, making this device a favorite.

Warming plates is a practical tool that is effective for some, not all, dishes. But the dishes it works for create an elevated meal experience. A warmed plate can be a welcomed tool for a meal when done correctly, but not every dish will need to be served on a warm plate. For some dishes, a hot plate can be detrimental to the quality of the food. If things are too hot, the food could continue cooking on the plate, which can ruin the texture of the meal. Or if a dish has both hot and cold elements, a warm plate could create unequal heating across all food items.