Buffets, caterers, or anyone who needs to keep food hot in an attractive display can benefit from chafing dishes. They have become one of the essential tools that every foodservice professional has in their arsenal. However, for the home cook or the professional caterer, chafing dishes can prove to be versatile kitchen accessories. Chafing dishes, also known as chafers, can be used for a temporary buffet spread, permanent banquet hall setup, or backyard barbeques.
While chafers aren’t used for cooking food, they can keep food warm at appropriate safe temperatures for several hours. Electric chafers and induction chafers are perfect for more permanent installations while dishes that use gel or liquid chafing fuel are best for temporary setups. No matter what type of heat source you use, however, all chafers use a water pan as the medium for heating and maintaining even, consistent temperatures.
Selecting the right chafing dish for your situation will depend on your needs and the type of food you are preparing and serving. There are a few things to consider, from size and construction to heat source and shape. Let’s take a closer look at some keys for choosing the best chafing trays.
As discussed, chafing dishes offer a variety of heating sources. Electric heated chafers or induction heated chafers might be the best option if you have regular access to electrical outlets. While they are ideal for more permanent uses, they are easier to set up and use in any situation. Once they are ready to go, you only need to plug them in, and the heating element will take care of the rest. If you need more flexibility and don’t mind an open flame, standard chafers are a little less expensive but require chafing fuel that will need to be monitored. Dishes that require a fuel source can be used in any setting or venue.
As with most products, different chafers are designed for various uses. While all types serve the purpose of keeping food warm, some are designed for high-end uses while others are better for economical usage. In general, all chafing dishes are made from stainless steel and constructed to be durable. Economy chafers are made from 18/8 lightweight steel, which resists corrosion. Higher-end dishes are made from heavier-duty steel with a more substantial look that fits well with upscale or luxury settings.
When selecting the best chafing dish for your situation, you will also want to consider the shape of the equipment. Dishes come in various shapes, including oval, circular, rectangular, and square. The choice of shape will generally come down to what you are serving and the decorative aesthetic you want. Different shapes will bring various looks and variations to your setup.
Choosing the correct size and capacity of your chafing dishes will depend on how much food you need to serve at once. When choosing dishes, you have to keep your situation and needs in mind. While smaller chafing dishes come as small as 1.75 quarts, others are available in 5-quart sizes. You can also find full-size dishes that can hold as much as 9 quarts. You should probably consider selecting several sizes to provide for different situations.
The most important considerations when selecting chafing dishes are your situation and needs. If you are a caterer, you need to think about the size of your events and the number of people you are serving. Additionally, you will want to consider the atmosphere or aesthetic you want to create. However, if you are a home cook, your holiday party or backyard barbeque needs might be different. With some thought and consideration, you can get the perfect chafing dishes for your situation.