How to Serve a Full Course Meal

Serving a full course meal requires understanding what each element is and what it consists of. A formal meal can be a small course of a plate or multiple course of dishes. A full course meal consists of many courses most probably a formal meal has many courses too. This article explains how to present a full course meal.


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    Serve an amuse bouche. This element of the meal is served before the appetizer. Amuse bouches are very small, bite sized savoury items.
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    Serve appetizers (often known as entrée in British/Australian cuisine). The appetizers, also called starters, are the first course of a meal. Appetizers are served in small portions; this is important because quite a few more courses will follow.
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    Serve a salad course. The salad course is sometimes served in addition to an appetizer, sometimes it is the appetizer and sometimes it is served at the end of the meal following the entrée (main course), before the dessert. Salads are light enough to satisfy, but not to fill up a diner before they get to the rest of their meal. Salad courses as a separate part of the meal are not common in UK or Australian/New Zealand cuisine.
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    Provide a soup course. A soup can be anything from a light, clear broth to a hearty puree, depending mainly on the season. The type of soup offered is often determined by what is to follow in the meal.
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    Serve the fish course. Many formal meals feature a fish course in addition to the main meat course. This is particularly so in British cuisine. The fish course can be just as elaborate as the main feature of the meal, which, confusingly can also be fish, but the specific fish course will usually be lighter and smaller than any fish served at the main course.
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    Serve the main course or entrée. The main course or entrée usually consists of the largest portion of the meal and, in many cases, features some type of protein. Sometimes a meal is divided into multiple entrees/main courses, such as a fish and a meat course, but generally there is only one main course.
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    Serve a cheese course. If a cheese course is being served, it is usually done after the entrée and before, or in lieu of, dessert. The cheese course can be as simple as one piece of cheese on its own or as elaborate as a sampling of numerous cheeses along with various accompaniments such as bread, fruit, and nuts. It is also possible to serve a cheese course after the dessert course.
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    Serve the dessert course. The dessert course always features something sweet and is designed to round out a meal and satisfy the craving for sweetness that many people have after eating savory foods.
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    Serve the mignardises or petit fours. Mignardises are tiny, bite sized desserts like cookies, candies, or tarts that are sometimes presented at the end of a meal as a final small treat. An after dinner chocolate-mint wafer is another standard option. These can be served with coffee.


  • Keep the full course meal for exceptional and special occasions. They contain more food than is healthy to eat on a regular basis.
  • Realize that there are many variations on what consists of a full course meal, depending on culture, location and country.
  • Remember that some people will have dietary needs that differ from the standard full course meal, such as gluten-free, vegetarian or non-allergenic foods. It is wise to ask in advance and to have special foods on standby, just in case.


  • Do not force guests to finish or even take a particular course. Not everything will be to every diner's liking.

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Categories: Food and Entertaining