With our New York City staff manning a midtown corporate event today, it reminded us of a few chafing dish basics that we'd like to share:
Chafing dishes, sometimes called steam pans, are simply large serving dishes in which food is kept hot or warm. There are different types of chafing dishes but all consist of a frame or wire rack, a water pan, a food pan and a cover. Water in the pan is used to conduct the heat which maintains the food at a proper serving temperature. The heat source is sterno or an electrical heating element placed underneath the water pan.
Stainless steel chafing dishes can be round, oval, square, rectangular and can also be ornately decorated. The size of these dishes vary widely. They sit on a steel or metal platform or rack and use an accompanying heating element or sterno.
HOW TO USE
Food must first be at the proper temperature before adding to the pan.
The water pan should be checked periodically to make sure the water level is maintained and the food should be stirred occasionally to evenly distribute the heat and prevent scorching.
Using a lid or cover will keep food moist.
Chafing dishes will also keep cold foods cold!
Fill the water pan with cold water and/or ice and of course, don't light the fuel.
Sterno fuel is a formulation of denatured alcohol, water and gel and is perfectly safe when used as directed. The sterno wick is lit and placed underneath the water pan. A full-sized water pan may require two sterno cans placed at opposite ends, particularly if the food is dense (such as pasta and cheese). The flame is blue in color and an 8-oz. can burns for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The fuel can be extinguished and re-lit.
- DO NOT LEAVE AN OPEN FLAME UNATTENDED.
- Open the pan cover carefully, to avoid burns from the escaping steam.
- Do not use anything but sterno-type fuel in the burner.
- Properly working dishes keep hot food at a safe temperature of 140 degrees or above to avoid bacterial growth. Ideally, temperature should not exceed 160 degrees to avoid overcooking.