Chafing Dishes: 9 Best Ways To Keep Your Food Hot And Tasty
I used to have issues with cooking everything at the same time and then trying to keep everything at a pleasant and safe temperature. But that was before we discovered how versatile a chafing dish could be!
The following are some of the things we learned about chafing dishes and how to utilize them:
A chafing dish uses a hot water pan to heat a smaller pan that rests on top of the hot water pan. It can be used to keep food warm and in a temperature-safe zone for parties and large gatherings, as well as to keep food from drying out (as it would in an oven) and to keep flies and other insects away from your meal.
However, a chafing dish can be used in a variety of unexpected ways.
So let’s take a closer look!
What is the definition of a chafing dish?
Chafing dishes, sometimes known as chafers, are the most significant way to keep prepared food warm for a dinner party, buffet, or any event where a big group of people will be eating over time.
Chafing dishes are available in a range of sizes and depths. They use a large steam pan to contain water, followed by one or smaller pans put into the steam pan to hold the meal.
They usually come with lids to keep the heat and moisture in, keeping your food fresher for longer and preventing it from drying out. Traditionally, little disposable Sterno cans were used as the heat source, although electric chafing dishes are also available.
The Sterno cans are held in place by the racks that hold the pans.
Basically, the heat originates below and heats the water in the steam pan closest to the bottom. After that, you put the meal in somewhat smaller insert pans in the water pan. The water is heated by the heat source, which then heats the meal.
You can buy disposable chafing dishes, rent nice ones, or buy nice ones, depending on your needs and how often you want to use them.
What are the most popular chafing dish sizes?
A full-sized chafing dish steam pan measures 20 inches long by 12 inches broad. You can find them at depths of 2?? or 3??. Half-pan inserts can also be used in a full-size steam pan. Half pans are approximately 10?? long and fit into the one giant steam pan.
Steam pans with a depth of roughly 3 inches are my preferred choice.
When I put the food into the pan, there is plenty of capacity for water, and it isn’t so shallow that I fear overflowing the steam pan.
However, steam pans that are less than 2 inches deep may be effective for keeping the food hotter. When you put the food in them, you can’t put as much water in the pan since it will overflow. As a result, water may be required at some point during the event. You may also see round or oval-shaped chafing plates at restaurants or hotel buffets.
What is the best place to buy a chafing dish?
Chafing dishes are available from Amazon and Walmart. However, I prefer the disposable chafing dishes available at Party City. I keep the frame and steam pan and replace the insert pans just when they’re needed.
All of the components are sold separately and come in a range of sizes. Amazon carries not only disposable chafing dishes but also excellent stainless steel chafing dishes because they have everything.
Unless a Party City is right around the corner, Amazon is probably your best chance for chafing dishes. Keep in mind, though, that chafing dishes can be rented from local party supply businesses. When my wife and I got married, we did that because the caterer only delivered the meal and wasn’t responsible for setting up.
So, suppose you’re having a luxury event, and a disposable metal chafing dish isn’t quite nice enough. In that case, renting could be the way to go.
Which chafing dish is the best?
For those searching for a more permanent chafing dish than disposables, TigerChef makes some of the best heavy-duty chafing dishes available. Best, on the other hand, is a subjective term. It’ll also make a difference if you’re looking for function, aesthetics, or value.
TigerChef provides an electric industrial steam table chafer at a terrific price, with excellent reviews if you want something a little nicer that’s reusable and won’t break the bank. There’s also no delivery charge!
What is the cost of renting chafing dishes?
For a one-day event, you may anticipate paying $25 per full-sized chafing dish rented. Disposable chafing dish sets from Party City, on the other hand, cost just over $12 each. Then you may reuse them over and over.
Of course, renting anything in a city like New York or San Francisco is not the same as renting in Boise.
As a result, you’ll need to contact around and see if any local party supply stores rent out equipment in your region. You may need 2-6 chafing dishes or more, depending on how much food you have and how many people you plan to serve. The majority of the dinner parties my wife and I like throwing have between 15-20 attendees. We’ve found that using two large chafing dishes and two tiny insert pans is sufficient, and this permits us to keep four different foods hot at the same time.
In a chafing dish, how much water do you use?
Most chafing dishes require 1-3 inches of water. So. Fill the steam pan halfway with water and up to 3/4 filled with water, depending on the depth of your steam pan and the depth of your food insert pans. When you set an empty food pan into a steam pan with water, keep in mind that it will float.
As a result, you may wish to check the fullness of the pan before the party to make sure you haven’t overfilled it. When you insert the food pan, if there is too much water in the pan, the water will overflow over the borders of the steam pan.
However, if there isn’t enough water, it will all evaporate. Throughout the party, you may find yourself having to refill the water. Because you’ll have to remove the hot cooking plates and transport the water in a pitcher, this can be a bit of a pain. Fill the steam pan with either hot or cold tap water. Using hot may somewhat speed up the warming process, but it won’t make a significant impact.
What exactly is Sterno?
Sterno is a brand of alcohol that has been denatured and jellied.
You snap the lid off and light the gel inside with a lighter because it’s designed to be burned straight from the can. It will burn until the gel fuel is depleted or the lid is replaced, extinguishing the flame. Sterno Products owns the Sterno brand and trademark, which is derived from the original manufacturer, S. Sternau & Co.
In the late 1800s, Sterno was created. Ethanol, methanol, water, and a gelling agent are used to make it. It may also contain a pink dye to give it a pink tint. Because of its denaturing effect, methanol is used. It’s also too toxic to eat because of the denaturing.
A 7oz. can burn for approximately 2 hours. Because a full-sized chafing dish contains two cans, you may need as many as four fuel cans for one chafing dish.
Drinking Sterno, which was squeezed through a sieve or cloth to collect the liquid, became popular during the prohibition era. However, because the alcohol in Sterno has been denatured, it is deadly and should not be consumed under any circumstances.
Because Sterno is a brand name, there are different chafing dish fuel brands available. However, like Kleenex, Crock-Pot, and Chapstick, the brand name has become a generic description for any brand that performs the same function.
Winco Pure Heat, Power Heat, and other chafing dish fuel brands are available. Some cans, like candles, have a wick, although classic gel cans are designed to be lighted immediately.
I’m not sure how many chafing dishes I’ll need.
I can fit four food items in each half pan if we place two half pans in each. Even yet, I can see how having four chafers, and eight food selections would be beneficial. If you’re hosting a massive event with more than 100 people, you’ll almost certainly need to hire chafing dishes. I would recommend having five full-size chafing dish frames and steam tables for your buffet line for that huge group.
After that, I’d have four full-sized food pans for each of the five (total of 20 food pans). Of course, preparing and heating so much food would necessitate an extensive facility, as well as renting a cambro to keep the remaining pans of food warm. At the same time, they waited their time in the buffet line.
Is it possible to bake chafing dishes?
Yes, your food insert pan, which is usually constructed of aluminum or stainless steel, can be used in the oven. For example, if you were preparing lasagna, you could bake it in the insert pan and then remove it and place it in the water pan in your chafing dish to keep it warm. Enchiladas are another excellent application for a chafing dish, as they can be transferred directly from the oven to the chafer. By not frying the tortillas for your enchiladas, you can save some calories.
Keep in mind that the chafer is just meant to keep food warm, not to cook it. As a result, always fully prepare your food before using the chafer to keep it warm.
Is it true that chafing dishes keep meals warm?
Chafing dishes are used to keep food that has already been cooked and heated warm, and they aren’t meant to be used for cooking or reheating meals. Always keep hot foods in chafing dishes to keep them within the safe temperature range. A chafing dish, as previously stated, is not designed to cook food, and it’s not even meant to take cold prepared food and reheat it (although it will do that slightly).
As a result, the optimum purpose for a chafing dish is to keep food that has been cooked entirely and food that’s hot while maintaining the temperature of the food.
Chafing dishes work by heating a large, shallow pan of water (called a steam pan) with a fuel source (usually Sterno). The steam pan then heats a pan of food that is placed on top of it, and the food in the pan is kept heated.
Because the food is not heated directly, as it would be in an oven or on a cooktop, it does not scorch or adhere to the bottom of the pan, and the steam pan’s moisture keeps the food from drying out. Make sure the water in the steam pan doesn’t run out over extended serves, and replenish your Sterno cans every 2 hours or so.
In a chafing dish, how long can you keep food warm?
After your food has finished cooking, keep it warm in a chafing dish for up to 6 hours. The longer it sits in the chafing dish, the less fresh it becomes, and some foods last longer than others. To keep food safe, it must be kept at a temperature above 140° Fahrenheit at all times.
When food is between 41° and 140° Fahrenheit, it is said to be in the danger zone. Food is more susceptible to bacteria in this risk zone, which can lead to foodborne diseases. Keep in mind that leaving food in the risk zone for up to 2 hours is typically deemed safe. There is, however, a risk of food poisoning.
Foods that are particularly susceptible to germs in the danger zone include:
- Beef, poultry, pork, and shellfish are all options.
- Dairy products or eggs
- Sprouts of beans
- Non-acidic sauces
So, what exactly are they?
You Probably Didn’t Know These 9 Uses for a Chafing Dish
1. Sauces for pasta
If you have prepared pasta, toss it with extra virgin olive oil and keep it warm in one of the chafing pans.
It will break down more quickly if you toss it in the sauce before putting it on the chafer. It’s also an excellent idea to undercook the pasta just a smidge, so it has a lovely firm bite and holds up well on the chafer.
Then, in additional chafers, place two or more sauces and allow guests to choose whatever sauce they want and how much of it they want.
A delicious tomato sauce holds up well in a chafer, but alfredo or pesto will also do the trick.
2. Bread or buns that are still warm
If you’re serving chopped beef or pulled pork in a chafer, treat your visitors to a half-pan of bread and buns to accompany it. Is there anything more reassuring than freshly baked bread? No, that is not the response you were searching for, and it’s one of the best uses for a chafing dish.
3. Meats with sauce
While a chafing dish won’t dry out food as much as an oven would, it will continue to dry out the longer it sits. The more surface area exposed to air, the higher the risk of bacteria growth. As a result, one of the best uses for a chafing dish is sauced meats. For example, steak, chicken, or pork in barbecue sauce, and fajita beef strips in salsa or meatballs in pasta sauce.
4. Lasagna or other casserole-like dishes
This is a no-brainer for chafing dishes because anything that can be prepared in the pan and then transferred to the chafer is so quick and straightforward. As a result, any casserole, particularly lasagnas, is one of the ideal uses for a chafing dish.
5. Crab or spinach dip
A chafing dish can also be used to make dips (although they also work well in crockpots). If you’re using one of the chafers for warm bread, as I described in #2, they can also be used for the dips.
6. Holiday feasts, such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas
Holiday feasts become a lot easier, and a chafing dish is still one of the best tools in the kitchen. Many foods can be prepared in half pans and then transferred to chafing dishes, freeing up oven space.
Stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and wine-braised beef brisket are all excellent options. Also, saving one-half pan for warm challah would be fantastic!
7. Baked Appetizers
At our place, we’ve hosted a number of parties with delicious homemade food. But here’s the kicker: We don’t always have the time, energy, or desire to cook from scratch.
So we stock up on frozen appetizers like taquitos, mini quiche, and mini spanikopita.
Then we bake them and place them in a half-pan to keep them warm. You may easily blend various ones in the same pan because you aren’t sautéing them.
8. Fondue de chocolate
A good dinner party isn’t complete without dessert, and chocolate fondue in a chafing dish is quick and easy to make. Place a plate of chopped fruit on skewers alongside the chafer, and you’re ready to go.
It’s insanely simple to create chocolate fondue. Simply melt semisweet milk chocolate pieces in a double boiler with milk, a little butter, and vanilla essence, along with a pinch of salt, and stir until smooth. Pour into the chafer and keep warm until ready to serve.
Chili is a fantastic cold-weather crowd-pleaser because it’s simple to make and keep warm in a chafing dish. It’s also incredibly adaptable, as you can use it with or without beans, as well as beef, turkey, or other meat (or no meat). And because it’s one of those foods that gets better with age, the flavors will naturally blend the longer it rests in the chafer.
Have we covered all of the possible uses for a chafing dish?
In this post, we did a deep dive into the world of the chafing dish in this post. We looked into the history of chafing dishes and how they function, and their many styles. We answered all of the most often asked questions. We looked at some of the best uses for a chafing dish, in particular. So your next party or gathering will be a smash hit!