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What Is A 3 Course Meal?

A 3 course meal is made up of an appetizer, main dish, and dessert. They’re also known as a standard course meal or a full coarse meal. Most restaurants offer a menu with these three main courses. When you go to an Applebee’s, Fridays, P.F. Chang’s, Cheesecake Factory or other similar restaurant, you’ll find appetizers, main courses and desserts on the menu. This is because the menu is based on a standard three course meal. A three course meal is the standard way most people eat their dinners.

A three course meal consists of three dishes that are served one after the other. Appetizer first, then the main course and finally a dessert. There’s a lot of thought and planning that goes into preparing a three course meal and a purpose for each course. The appetizer prepares your pallet for the main course. Generally a 3 course dinner serves an appetizer that supports the main dish. The main course is your dinner. And finally there’s a dessert. The best way to end a great meal is with something sweet.

A three course meal consists of an appetizer, main course, and dessert. The size of each dish is larger because it’s based on there being just 3 courses. As the number of courses increase, the size of the dishes get smaller. There are 4 course, 5 course and 6+ course meals. Each additional course reduces the size of every dish served in the meal. Some restaurants have 10 course meals which are basically a large tasting menu with each dish being just a bite or two.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about a three-course meal and why it’s the right amount of courses.

What Are The Courses In A Meal?

Meals are divided into courses or dishes that come out in rounds, one after the other. A course contains all the food items served together at one time that are meant to be eaten together.Here are examples of a few courses:

  • Soup and crackers are an appetizer course.Two items but meant to be eaten together.
  • Salad, dressing, and bread served together.
  • Meat and potatoes.
  • Chips and dip.

There is usually a short pause in between courses which allows the plates from the last course to be taken away. Parts of a meal are generally brought out in a specific order. For example, if you order and appetizer, dessert and a main dish, a standard 3 course meal, your appetizer will be brought out first, then the entrée and finally the dessert.

Occasionally diners request plates to be brought out in different order but this is usually in a 4 or more course meal. Some people like their salad before a meal and some after.

A Breakdown Of The Three Course Meal

A three-course meal includes an appetizer, the main course, and a dessert. Each course serves a different purpose and fulfills a distinct need.

  1. An appetizer can prepare your palate for the main course. Or it can be a snack while you wait for dinner. Appetizers break up the meal and give you something to do while the food is prepared. Personally I love the appetizer round of a meal. It’s a small portion so the food can be fun and light with bolder flavors. Appetizers are great for trying new things and testing out foods you wouldn’t ordinarily eat. And they’re cheaper than the main course so making a mistake isn’t a big deal.
  2. The main course is a much bigger choice because this is your dinner. The appetizer was just a sampling of the food to come. If you order something you don’t like the dinner will be ruined so most people don’t take as many chances here. It usually takes a longer time to prepare and eat a main course because it’s much larger.
  3. The final part of a three-course meal is the dessert. Who doesn’t love something sweet at the end of a good meal. A dessert is usually sweet and may contain foods such as ice cream, cake, pie, or a beverage. Even coffee at the end of a dinner may be considered a dessert.

Most restaurant menus are based on the three course dinner. It’s a standard found all over the world.

A Three Course Meal Is Best

The three course meal is best because it has a clear beginning, middle and end. This makes sense to most diners. The main course is the actual big meal you’ll be eating like a steak, fish or pasta. An appetizer is a great way to start a meal with something tasty. It’s not too big or too expensive and fills time while you wait for your meal to be delivered. And a dessert is a great way to finish a meal with something sweet.

Portion Size

A 3 course meal has just the right portion sizes. The appetizer is a small dish. The main course is much larger because it’s your dinner. And you get a small dessert. Each portion is sized so that the average diner can eat all three. More or less portions would change the size of the dinner.

If you skipped the appetizer round you’d be able to eat more dinner. But that can be too much of a single dish. The appetizer lets the chef reduce the size of the dinner while still satisfying the diner.And you should always save a little room for dessert.

More courses means smaller dishes. I was once at a 10 course dinner and each dish was basically just a tasting bite or two. It was a strange way to eat. For me, even 4 courses is too many. It feels like I’m eating 2 appetizers. Although I do sometimes like to squeeze in a salad.

Flavor

Breaking a meal down into the appetizer and main course lets you sample more flavors. I would rather have a small or medium sized appetizer and a medium size main dish than just one huge dinner. It’s too much of a single food. Having a 1st round appetizer lets me sample more flavors and try things I wouldn’t normally eat for dinner.

In prepared 3 course dinners, the appetizer relates to the main course. Great chefs tell a story with their food so an appetizer is a part of the main course in some way. A lot of thought goes into planning a preparing each plate of a 3 course meal.

Time

It takes a while for some main courses to be prepared. In that time many restaurants will give you bread and butter, a dip or chips to snack on. But I prefer to fill the waiting time with my appetizer.

Food courses that are spaced out on a schedule is a great way to manage your time in a restaurant. You sit and order, drinks come out, then an appetizer and finally the main course. In the best restaurants you don’t notice the time your waiting because they will it with food and ambiance.

A Well Balanced Meal

A three-course meal is well-balanced because portions are sized correctly. You can vary the food you eat in lots of different ways which can create a more nutritionally balanced meal.

Eating in courses allows you to eat a variety of foods with a combination of flavors and nutrients. This is up to you of course, but just about every restaurant has healthy choices you can work into a 3 course meal. Try some fruit as a dessert rather than an ice cream sundae.

Sitting down to a three-course meal allows you to savor delicious foods. This is something I really enjoy when on vacation because I can try more native dishes. I usually experiment with the appetizer and dessert but stick to meats and pasta or some vegetables with dinner. It’s a great way to test different foods out while still eating healthy.

More Courses

You can add more courses to a 3 course meal. This will add to the length of the meal and shrink the portion sizes

A four-course dinner will include an appetizer, main dish, and dessert but also a fourth course. This is usually hors-d’oeuvres served before the appetizer. If you choose a five-course dinner, you’ll get a four-course meal with a salad after the appetizer, before the main dish.

You can adjust the number of courses to suit your occasion. For example, for a wedding reception, rehearsal dinner, graduation, or birthday, a three or four course meal is standard. But very formal dinners may include more courses.

In total, you can have up to 12 courses, which arrive in the following order:

  1. Hors-d’oeuvres
  2. Amuse-bouche
  3. Soup
  4. Appetizer
  5. Salad
  6. Fish
  7. First main dish
  8. Palate cleanser course
  9. Second main dish
  10. Cheese plate
  11. Dessert
  12. Post-meal drinks and pastries

By removing the cheese plate and Amuse-bouche it becomes a 10-course meal. This is a standard substitution.

With all these courses, the serving sizes have to get pretty small. A 3 course meal is the standard size dinner with a small to medium size appetizers, a medium to large dinner and then a dessert. As courses go up, serving sizes go down. The most courses I’ve ever had was the 10 course and sizes were basically a bite or two. I think of a 10 to 12 course dinner as more of a tasting menu than a traditional dinner.

How To Plan A 3 Course Meal

Most people have enjoyed a great 3 course meal at their favorite restaurant, wedding or event and now want to prepare one at home. The great thing about three courses is that the dinner can be a little smaller since you’re also serving an appetizer and a dessert.

Planning a 3 course meal isn’t that hard to do but there are a few things you should know:

  • Most people get bored of eating the same thing in one huge serving. That’s why courses are so great, you can break the meal up into portions. I like to do 5. 1/5 is the appetizer, 3/5 is the dinner and 1/5 is the dessert. This means the main course is 3 times as big as the dessert and appetizer. This ratio seams to work best and I also serve bread with most of my meals. Decide how much big a meal you want to serve and then break it down.
  • Relate the appetizer to the main dish. I plan my apps as a warm up for the dinner.
  • Try a theme. If I’m serving an Italian main course I stick with Italian for the appetizer and sometimes even the dessert. A theme dinner can be a lot of fun to plan and eat.
  • Don’t forget drinks. Depending on what you decide to serve the right drink to go with dinner can change.
  • Decide if you’re serving a salad or appetizer. Or both. The salad can either be the third course which means skipping dessert or you can turn your dinner into a 4 course meal.
  • Spice is another consideration. Find out if your guests like spicy food or not. I’ve seen a lot of dinner ruined by this one. Not enough spice isn’t as bad as too much. Food that’s too hot can make dinner inedible for some.

That’s basically it. A great appetizer, main course, sweet dessert and maybe a salad. I usually serve bread with dinner too but don’t really count that as a course. Keep it simple and you’ll do fine.

Summary: What Is A 3 Course Meal?

A 3 course meal is made up of an appetizer, main dish, and dessert. They’re also known as a standard course meal or a full coarse meal. Most restaurants offer a menu with these three main courses. When you go to an Applebee’s, Fridays, P.F. Chang’s, Cheesecake Factory or other similar restaurant, you’ll find appetizers, main courses and desserts on the menu. This is because the menu is based on a standard three course meal. A three course meal is the standard way most people eat their dinners.

A three course meal consists of three dishes that are served one after the other. Appetizer first, then the main course and finally a dessert. There’s a lot of thought and planning that goes into preparing a three course meal and a purpose for each course. The appetizer prepares your pallet for the main course. Generally a 3 course dinner serves an appetizer that supports the main dish. The main course is your dinner. And finally there’s a dessert. The best way to end a great meal is with something sweet.

A three course meal consists of an appetizer, main course, and dessert. The size of each dish is larger because it’s based on there being just 3 courses. As the number of courses increase, the size of the dishes get smaller. There are 4 course, 5 course and 6+ course meals. Each additional course reduces the size of every dish served in the meal. Some restaurants have 10 course meals which are basically a large tasting menu with each dish being just a bite or two.

If you have any questions or comments about multi course meals, email any time.

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