How to Keep Food Warm at an Outdoor Party

Written by zora hughes
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How to Keep Food Warm at an Outdoor Party
Hamburgers that won't be eaten right away should go in chafing dishes to stay hot. (hamburgers image by berean from

Preparing for an outdoor party requires careful planning, especially the food. Any hot foods that you are serving need to remain hot. According to the Food and Drug Administration, hot foods needs to be kept at or above 60 degrees Celsius for safe consumption. Using chafing dishes with gel burners makes serving hot food outdoors easy. A traditional metal chafing dish consists of a metal holder with a bottom water pan and a top pan for the food. An aluminium foil chafing set includes a wire holder with an aluminium water pan.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Metal or aluminium chafing dishes
  • Chafing fuel

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  1. 1

    Fill the bottom pan of the chafing dish with water. This prevents the food from burning and keeps it warm using the water bath method. Some pans will come with a line marking how far you should fill the water to. If your chafing dishes do not have that, fill the pan with about 3/4" to 1 1/2" of water, according to Bachetti Bros. Gourmet Catering.

  2. 2

    Open the gel fuel by using a flat screw driver or knife to pry open the top. Light the gel fuel with a lighter or a match.

  3. 3

    Carefully place the lit gel fuel in the designated fuel space underneath the water bath. Whether using a traditional metal chafing dish or an aluminium dish with a wire holder, there is typically a designated spot for the gel fuel.

  4. 4

    Fill the top chafing dish with the hot food. Place it on top of the water bath. You can place two half sized pans in one chafing set, or you can use one large chafing dish pan.

  5. 5

    Check the temperature of the food periodically to ensure that the food remains at or above 60 degrees C. Stir the food occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning. Have backup gel fuel ready in case they burn out.

Tips and warnings

  • Wrap aluminium foil around three sides of the chafing dish holder to keep the wind from blowing out the flame.
  • If you run out of fuel, do not let your food sit outside for more than two hours, or more than one hour if the temperature outside is over 32.2 degrees C. Otherwise, you risk dangerous bacteria growing on the food, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

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