How to Keep a Chafing Dish Warm

Written by sommer leigh
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How to Keep a Chafing Dish Warm
Keep food warm at a special event with a chafing dish. (Steven Miric/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Chafing dishes, also called chafers, come in either fuelled or electrical models. Fuelled chafing dishes have four elements: a frame, water pan, food pan and cover. Electrical versions contain an electrical base, food pan and cover. Fuelled models use water to transfer heat from a canned cooking fuel while electrical models use a heated base, much like a crock pot works. Bachetti Brothers Gourmet Catering, a meat market and catering business in Wilmington, Delaware, advises heating food in the oven first and transferring it to the chafing dish to keep it warm; do not attempt to use a chafing dish to cook food as it doesn't reach temperatures high enough to cook food to a safe temperature.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Oven glove
  • Canned cooking fuel
  • Match

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    Fuelled Chafing Dish

  1. 1

    Place the chafing dish on a stable, level surface. Set the water pan securely in the frame.

  2. 2

    Fill the water pan with 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches of hot water.

  3. 3

    Place the food pan in the chafer.

  4. 4

    Remove the lid from the cans of cooking fuel and light both with a match.

  5. 5

    Set the cans of cooking fuel under the water pan. Close the lid.

    Electric Chafing Dish

  1. 1

    Place the chafing dish base on a stable, level surface.

  2. 2

    Place the chafing dish into the chafing dish base.

  3. 3

    Fill the chafing dish no more than 3/4 full of food.

  4. 4

    Turn the temperature control dial to medium -- approximately 60 degrees C -- or high -- approximately 70 degrees C. Adjust the heat as necessary if the food seems too cold or too hot.

Tips and warnings

  • Stir the food occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning and to facilitate even heating.
  • Canned cooking fuel will typically burn for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; replace as necessary.
  • Keep the lid on the chafer at all times when not serving food.
  • If the food seems too hot, switch to using only one can of cooking fuel.
  • If you hear a sizzle when you lift up an end of the chafing dish, add more water to the water pan.
  • Keep an oven glove next to the dish for others to use when serving themselves.
  • Do not leave the chafer unattended when the canned cooking fuel is lit.
  • Do not use fuel other than canned cooking fuel in the burner.
  • Do not use the chafing dish without water in the water pan.
  • Open the chafing dish carefully once the canned cooking fuel is lit; hot rising steam can burn.
  • Use tongs to remove cans of cooking fuel when they are exhausted.
  • Use an oven glove to lift the chafing dish when hot.
  • Always make sure the chafing dish has enough water to avoid burning the food or damaging the equipment.

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