The term "cold platter" is typically used by caterers, restaurants, and other food service establishments to describe a tray of cold foods, often served as appetizers or as part of a larger buffet. The types of foods served on a cold platter vary by the formality of the event, the preferences of the hosts, as well as the culture in which the meal is served. While a cold platter is often arranged on a standard serving tray, some manufacturers now produce trays and other serving dishes that are designed to help food maintain its temperature. Individuals who are planning a party or event are often encouraged to select both hot and cold platters as part of their menu so as to provide guests with a variety of dishes to enjoy.
Parties and other events frequently make use of trays of food so that guests can either serve themselves from a buffet table or from a tray carried by a member of the waitstaff. Simple cold platter foods include deviled eggs, raw or blanched vegetables served with a cold dip, or an assortment of fresh fruit. More elaborate types of finger foods that are often served from a cold platter include finger sandwiches and cream cheese canapés and even seafood items such as shrimp or crawfish. A cold platter may also contain components for sandwiches, such as a selection of sliced meats and cheeses along with various condiments and garnishes. When served at an event, cold platter items may be frequently replenished by catering staff to ensure that guests can enjoy fresh-tasting food.
The flavor of even well-prepared cold foods can suffer from changes in temperature, and there is always the risk of foods going bad as a result of sitting in the open air at room temperature for too long. To address this, some hosts and caterers use trays that can keep cold foods from warming up too quickly. One version of these platters has a thermal material at its core to maintain the platter's chill. Users are instructed to put the platter into the refrigerator for several hours so that the core becomes very cold and then keeps the cold platter at a consistent temperature while it is in use. Another version of this type of tray is actually a set of two trays, one smaller than the other. The person preparing the food simply fills the larger tray with ice and then places the smaller tray on top of the ice. This protects the food against freezing while also keeping it cold and palatable.