A chafing dish is a dual tray mounted on a frame, and usually made of stainless steel.
It has a fuel below that keeps the dish warm. It is ideal for buffets if you are having a large gathering at home. It is also available for rent if you do not want to buy it.
The first tray holds the water while the second tray on top of the first tray holds the food.
I have been noticing that the chafing dish is not used for cooking, only for warming.
The sturdy metal chafing dish made me wonder if they can be used to bake food inside the oven.
Can Chafing Dishes Go In The Oven?
Yes, you can put the inner tray of a chafing dish in the oven and even bake food in it. Make sure it’s made of stainless steel, and only put the inner tray in the oven.
Some foods tend to lose water and get too dried up if left inside the oven. This is where your chafing dish comes to the rescue.
Once the food is cooked in the inner chafing tray, remove it from the oven and place it on the outer tray.
Your food will remain warm and will not dry out by the time guests arrive.
Just make sure the dimensions fit your oven size.
How to Use a Chafing Dish Inside the Oven
Take out the inner tray. Wash it with warm soapy water. Use a sponge to scrape away any leftovers, and rinse dry. Wipe off with a kitchen towel.
- Grease your tray by either brushing oil/ cooking spray/ or sprinkling little flour if you are baking. Greasing will prevent your food from sticking to the inner part of your chafing dish.
- Use the chafing dish to bake your choice of appetizers like mashed potatoes and casseroles like lasagna.
- Fill up your dish starting from the bottom and layer accordingly until you reach the top. For example, if you are making lasagna, line the bottom of the chafing dish with meat gravy, next go in noodles and top it with cheese. Keep repeating the layers until your chafing dish is filled up to the brim.
- Preheat the oven according to recipe requirements and then place your chafing tray inside. Set the preferred time and temperature and let it cook.
- Once done, use mitts to remove from the oven. You can cover up the food with a foil if you wish to keep it hot. Place the chafing dish on one side.
- Place hot water (about one and a half to three-quarters of total depth) inside the outer chafing dish that is on the frame. Now put your inner chafing tray on top of the outer tray.
- Cover it up with foil and place the lid on top for trapping heat. Light your fuel. Make sure the foil isn’t covering the entire frame else the fuel will burn out due to lack of oxygen supply.
Let us now understand how food heats up inside a chafing dish.
How Do Chafing Dishes Remain Warm?
Chafing dishes are also called steam pans. They are just large serving dishes that are available in a wide range of sizes.
The large outer tray holds the water while the inner tray holds the food. It also has a lid to keep the heat locked in.
There is a fuel that is kept inside the holder in the rack frame below the dish. One frame will typically have two fuel holders, one near each corner.
The most common fuel is Sterno cans.
They can last anywhere from two to six hours. Some chafing dishes have electric fuel as well and some can just be placed on the induction for warming.
Primarily, the heat from the fuel heats the water present inside the outer dish. The inner pans are also called inserts.
The water, in turn, heats the inserts. Watch the video below to get more clarity.
Different Types of Chafing Dish
Chafing dishes are available in online marketplaces (such as Amazon), you can also rent them, or buy disposable chafing dishes for a one-time affair from local stores.
The Renting costs will be different in different cities but purchase cost is more or less the same everywhere.
There are three types of chafing dishes depending on the material and the fuel.
- Standard stainless steel chafing dish
- Disposable aluminum chafing dish
- Electric fueled chafing dish.
The Stainless Steel Chafing Dish
A standard stainless steel chafing dish approximately 20*12 in dimensions. The depth is usually three to four inches. It is mostly rectangular.
However, the sizes and shapes vary. They can also be square or round. At restaurants, these are most common. The inserts can be single or two halves.
ALPHA LIVING Stainless Steel Chafer Complete Set
Alpha Living is an example of a good-quality stainless steel chafing dish set. This four-pack chafing dish is ideal if you love to party frequently.
It is made up of heavy-duty stainless steel material making it sturdy enough for you to reuse it for years.
The rack has foldable thick steel legs lending solid and effective support to your food.
The Disposable Aluminum Chafing Dish
The disposable chafing dishes are mostly aluminum and rectangular. The sizes vary depending on the full size (20*12), half-size (10*12 inches), or one-third size (12*6 inches).
The inner chafing dish can be a single insert or two half inserts.
You can buy a set or buy each component separately. If you want to purchase for a one-time affair, I would recommend going for the disposable chafing dish set.
HeroFiber Disposable Chafing Dish Buffet Set
The chafing dish buffet set is a great disposable set for a one-time serving. It is a complete kit including chafing fuel, wire racks, and serving cookware.
The cost of 33 disposable pieces including the fuel is a mere 54 dollars, making it cost-effective.
It comes with three aluminum water pans and six oven-safe aluminum serving pans with lids.
The Electric Chafing Dish
An electric chafing dish is a good option for indoor settings. You can do away with the flame fuel and just plug it in.
This chafing dish is slightly bulky but solid and will serve you for years. You can regulate the temperature precisely in this according to your preference.
Tiger Chef Food Warmer (Electric)
Tiger chef food warmer features in Amazon’s choice for commercial food warmers. If you like to party frequently, this sturdy piece is for you.
This chafing dish is fueled by an electric steam table. It is energy-efficient, needing a normal home 120V 60Hz Voltage requirement.
A simple dial on the side helps you to manipulate the heat according to your preference. It has three settings – low 140° F, medium 170°F, and high 200°F.
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers
How Much Water Is Needed Inside the Chafing Dish?
The water content depends on the depth of your tray.
Typically it should be anywhere from half full to three quarters filled up with water.
Keep checking for water content and make sure it hasn’t evaporated. Refill your pan when necessary with hot water.
What is Sterno?
Sterno is a brand name for chafing fuel. It consists of denatured alcohol, jelly, and water.
The Sterno’s are small can-shaped fuels and are easily found in supply stores.
It usually has a wick that needs to be lighted and the fuel starts to burn from the can.
A small can (about 7 oz) burns for about 2 and half hours while a large can takes about 4-6 hours depending on the size.
Some other brands of fuel are Power heat, Winco Pure heart
How Much Time Does It Take To Heat Food in a Chafing Dish?
It can take anywhere from one to one and half hours.
If you want quick heating, cover your dish with tin foil and put the lid on top.
On the bottom, increase one more can of Sterno fuel and remove it once the preferred temperature is reached.
Tips For Using Chafing Dishes Efficiently
- You can use a chafing dish to keep the food cold as well. Fill the water pan with ice or chilled water and don’t use any fuel underneath your dish.
- Never leave the open flame unattended to prevent accidental fires and overcooking
- The lid on top of the fuel can be used to reduce and extinguish the flame.
- You can keep more than two cans for food that need to be hot like soups.
- Make sure the temperature of the food remains at a safe zone of 140 degrees F (60C). This will prevent bacterial growth and food poisoning.
- Do not go beyond 160 degrees or else you might finish the water quickly resulting in overcooked or dry food.
- The USDA advises on not holding food for more than eight hours in a chafing dish at a temperature of 135 degrees. It is better to be cautious and not let it stay more than six hours in a chafing dish.
- Never place the chafing dish on an open flame on the stovetop.
- The manufacturers recommend cleaning the inside of the chafing dish with warm soapy water to remove any chance of factory chemicals.
- It is a good idea to keep the crispy food lid open and the moist food lid closed for better heat. A closed lid will also keep the moisture sealed inside the chafing dish.
Chafing dishes are your best friend at a party as they leave you free to mingle with your friends.
Although the chafing dish is meant to heat and keep your food warm, you can certainly use the inner tray for oven cooking.
You can cook tasty frozen food and different appetizers in the oven in the chafing pan, and then place it over the water chafing pan just before the guests arrive.
Additionally, you can also bake sweets and make casseroles in the chafing dish. Just make sure the dimensions fit your oven size.
Be careful while handling the chafing dish to and fro from the oven to the chafing frameset. Happy cheffing!
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