How to Keep Food Hot With Infrared Heat Lamps

Written by natalie lyda
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How to Keep Food Hot With Infrared Heat Lamps
Devices like this one use the heat produced by infrared lamps to cook a wide variety of food items. (infrared oven with food image by Shirley Hirst from

Once food has been prepared, keeping it warm without sacrificing the moisture content or quality of a particular food item can pose a challenge. The use of infrared heat lamps is a common restaurant-industry method for maintaining a constant temperature of prepared items. Infrared light falls on a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum between visible and microwave wavelengths. "Far infrared waves," which are closer to microwave wavelengths on the scale are thermal and give off heat. Thus, lamps equipped with infrared light bulbs serve as a great way to keep prepared food hot.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Serving trays

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  1. 1

    Use a food service lamp, or lamps, intended for use in food preparation and storage. Make sure it has a 250-watt infrared light bulb in the lamp. An infrared bulb with a 250-watt rating is capable of producing wavelengths that generate heat up to 175 degrees Celsius, which will maintain prepared foods above the minimum food standard storage industry of 60 degrees C.

  2. 2

    Place the prepared, fully-cooked food on a serving dish or storage container, such as a carving block or baking dish. It may be whole or sliced.

  3. 3

    Set up the infrared heat lamp so that it directs heat evenly over as much of the prepared food as possible. Adjustable lamps allow the user to manipulate the height and direction of the infrared light in order to provide the appropriate amount of heat to the food item. Adjust the light so that the bulb is about 6 to 12 inches from the prepared food, depending on how hot you want to keep the particular item.

  4. 4

    Slide the food item underneath of the infrared lamp and serve as needed. Monitor the internal temperature of hot food items using a meat thermometer to ensure that the temperature does not drop below 60 degrees C. If food does begin to drop in temperature, place the heat lamp closer to the food item, or immediately refrigerate the item to reheat and serve at a later time.

Tips and warnings

  • Hot food items allowed to sit unrefrigerated at temperatures between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours should be immediately discarded due to the risk of illness from bacteria.

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