How Do Chafing Dishes Work?

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What is a Chafing Dish?

  • Chafing dishes were designed to suit two purposes: gently cooking food of a delicate nature and keeping food warm for long durations of time without overcooking it.

    Early chafing dishes were made in a similar style to that of modern day outdoor grills, with slats or holes cut into the surface of the dish to assist with cooking. Chafing dishes, today, however, come in various shapes, sizes and types.

Types of Chafing Dishes

  • Chafing dishes can be made from a variety of materials, including ceramic, clay, stainless steel and other metals. The most commonly used chafing dishes are made of stainless steel or aluminum and are often used by caterers or restaurants to keep buffets of food warm.

    Chafing dishes that are used in the home can range from small pots, such as a fondue chafing dish, to a larger roasting pan that may be used to keep meat warm when entertaining. Because of their size and infrequent use in the home, chafing dishes are most often rented for in-home use rather than purchased.

How Chafing Dishes Work

  • Regardless of what style of chafing dish is used, there are two common ways they are heated. The first is through direct heat. Underneath the chafing dish is placed a small canister filled with kitchen fuel. When lit, the canister will provide a heat source to the bottom of the chafing dish. The heat is then transferred through the metal or ceramic, which heats the food.

    For foods that are more susceptible to overcooking, such as fish, a water bath is used. Instead of the canister heating the chaffing dish directly, the chafing dish is nested into a matching pan of water. The heat from the canister heats the water, which in turn heats the chafing dish, keeping food warm at an even lower temperature.

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