Prev NEXT  


How to Garnish

Tools for Garnishing

Food that tempts the eye is more likely to tempt the taste buds. When a meal is presented with panache, your guests are more likely to eat and enjoy it. Just as you rely on the equipment in your kitchen to help you turn out a good meal, you'll also need a few tools to create spectacular garnishes. This handy glossary lists the most common kitchen tools used in garnish making.

Try It!
Here are some recipes from our collection to use with garnishes:

Apple cutter/corer

This wheel- shaped gadget is great for cutting vegetables, such as carrots, as well as apples.


Standard pastry brushes work for most garnishing, but for precise or delicate chores, a child's small paintbrush is best.

Butter curler, butter paddles and candy molds

Each of these helps you shape butter. Use the curler to form delicate butter curls, the paddles for butter balls and the molds for special designs. Candy molds are also known as butter molds.

Citrus stripper

Use this tool to cut a thin strip of peel from citrus fruit or other fresh produce.

Decorating bag

Use these items for piping designs and other cake- decorating tasks. The decorating bag is also known as a parchment cone.

Decorating tips

The tips you'll use most often are writing tips, star tips, rose tips, and leaf tips. Start out by purchasing one of each type. Then add to your collection whenever you need an additional tip for a new garnish.

Tools for garnishing.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Row 1: Sieve, Apple Cutter, Butter Curler
and Paddles, Hand Grater. Row 2: Scissors,
Parchment Cone, Skewers and Toothpicks,
Knives. Row 3: Vegetable Peeler, Decorating
Tips.Row 4: Brushes, Small Cookie
Cutters, Grapefruit Knife, Melon Baller,
and Citrus Stripper.

Grapefruit knife

The jagged edges on this knife come in handy for many garnishing tasks.

Hand grater

A grater with at least one section for fine pieces and another section for larger shreds is the most practical.

Small cookie cutters

These are sold in most cookware shops. Choose the shapes you think you'll use most often.
Small cookie cutters are also known as hors d'oeuvre cutters.


Sharp knives are a must. The knives you'll use most often are a chef's knife for cutting large items, such as watermelons; a utility knife for medium-sized foods, such as pineapples or cantaloupes; and a paring knife for all-purpose cutting.

Melon baller

This handy tool comes in a variety of sizes. The one that is the most versatile is the 1-inch-diameter size.


A small pair is ideal for snipping small items, such as green onion tops. Kitchen scissors or poultry shears are better for large, tough jobs.

Skewers and toothpicks

For garnishing, keep a supply of wooden toothpicks, as well as 6- and 10-inch wooden skewers, on hand. Occasionally you may need a metal skewer. Choose one about 8 inches long.

Vegetable peeler

The swivel- type of peeler works best. Just make sure it's sharp.

Wire strainer

This bowl-shaped tool made from wire mesh is great for sifting or sprinkling powdered sugar or cocoa over foods, as well as for draining foods. Wire strainers are also known as sieves.

Cues for Bright, Colorful Garnishes

Once cut, some foods discolor quickly, e.g. pears, apples, bananas, avocados, potatoes and eggplant. To slow the discoloration process down, brush the cut surfaces with lemon juice before wrapping and refrigerating.

To make garnishes last:

To maintain and heighten the color of fresh vegetables, blanch them before using them to make garnishes. Simply immerse the produce in boiling water for 1 minute, drain, and plunge into a large bowl filled with ice water or rinse quickly under very cold running water. Always dry the ingredients thoroughly before use.

This chocolate garnish adds to the look of the dessert.'
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
This chocolate garnish was added
to the cake just before serving.

To prevent drying out, keep garnishes away from air and heat. If possible, protect them with an airtight covering of plastic wrap.

It's always best to make garnishes just before serving, but some can be prepared ahead of time and assembled on the plate at the last minute.

Store garnishes like you would similar foods. If made with ingredients that are normally refrigerated, wrap in plastic wrap, or store in an airtight bag or container, and refrigerate.

If the ingredients are crispy or dried, or if they need to firm up, do not refrigerate. Store in a cool, dry place for several hours or overnight.

Some cut-up or carved vegetables can be prepared in advance and covered with ice water until you are ready to assemble the finished presentation. Be sure to drain and dry them off well before placing the garnishes on the plate.

Add garnishes to the food just before serving.

Learn how to make colorful citrus garnishes in the next section.