Chafing pans, also widely known as chafers, are great utensils that keep your food warm for a dinner party that you’re hosting for close friends and family.
Professional catering services also take advantage of these pans, especially when they’re serving buffet-style meals.
But before you can consider investing in a chafing pan, you should learn how to use it.
Using a Chafing Pan
There are many uses of a chafing pan, such as preventing food from drying out too quickly, keeping it warm and appetizing, and protecting it from the growth of bacteria.
They keep your food at just the right temperature for everyone to enjoy it, regardless of how long it takes for them to get to the end of the buffet line.
Chafing pans are essentially metal pans that are placed into metal stands with lids. They are available in various depths and sizes for all kinds of meals and come with a large steam pan that’s meant to hold water.
The lids are necessary to lock in the heat and moisture to ensure the food stays fresh and warm.
How to Set Up a Chafing Pan
Let’s take a look at how you should set up a chafing pan before serving food:
Place the Water and Food Pans on the Stand
Most chafing pans include four primary components: a stand, food pan, water pan, and lid. The first thing you need to do is put the water pan on the chafing pan and then place the food pan on top of it.
You can use the lid once you’ve added the food to keep it from going cold, there’s no need for it now.
Since chafing pans can get extremely hot, you should set them up exactly where you need them to be to avoid having to carry them over and putting yourself at risk for injuries.
Make sure you’re not placing it on anything that’s flammable like a plastic tablecloth or you’ll end up causing a fire.
Use Aluminum Foil to Keep the Flame Burning
If you’re serving food outside on a windy day, a sudden gust of wind can easily blow out the flame and cause your food to go cold.
It’s advisable to cover three sides of the chafing pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil to keep the flame burning and your food at the desired temperature.
Add Hot Water to the Water Pan
Once you’ve set up your chafing pan on a flat and stable surface, you can pour hot water into the water pan. Make sure it’s hot enough to scald but not boiling hot.
Pour about 1 to 3 inches inside the base, depending on the instruction manual of your chafing pan.
Add Burner Fuel into the Openings
Since most chafing pans are powered by gas, you need to open the fuel openings that are marked on the pan and add the instructed amount of burner fuel into it.
Remember to refer to the instruction manual to avoid adding the wrong kind of fuel.
Do not add fuel to a burner that’s ignited. People traditionally use disposable Sterno cans as the heat source, but you can opt for electric chafing pans as well if you fear to handle burner fuel.
Light the Burners
It’s important to check for drips or leakages before you can light the burners. This procedure varies from model to model.
Some people only have to flip a switch to ignite it, whereas others have to use a lighter or match. Consult the manual for lighting instructions.
Be extremely cautious when you’re lighting the burner and make sure you’ve washed your hands both before and after lighting the burner.
Cover the Chafing Pan with a Lid
Wait until your chafing pan has heated all the way through before adding the food. This is important, especially if the food you’re serving needs to be hot and not just warm.
Cover the chafing pan with a lid for around ten minutes to lock in the moisture and heat before serving.
Instructions for Serving Food in a Chafing Pan
Here are some instructions you need to follow before adding food into the chafing pans:
Heat Up Your Food Before Adding It
You need to heat up the food to the right temperature before serving it in the chafing pan. Chafing pans are only meant to regulate the temperature, not cook food.
Make sure all foods are cooked completely through before serving them. The whole purpose of chafing pans is to keep your food at the temperature it was when it was done cooking.
You can also use a thermometer to monitor the temperature about every 25 to 30 minutes of the food to make sure it stays hot for as long as it’s being served.
Use Oven Mitts to Lower the Food Pans into the Slot
It’s advisable that you cook the food in the removable pans that come with the chafing pan.
Once the food has been cooked and you’re ready to place them over the stand, make sure you’re wearing oven mitts. Lower them carefully into the pan slot to avoid burning your hands.
Stir the Food Every 10 to 20 Minutes
It’s also important to check up on the food every 10 to 20 minutes to make sure it doesn’t become too damp or tasteless.
Stir it around with a spoon to make sure everything is heated evenly and every bite tastes appetizing and fresh.
Don’t Keep the Food Open for Too Long
If you keep the food exposed under open air for too long, it will dry out faster and become stale.
When you’re intending to keep the food inside a chafing pan for around an hour before serving it, make sure you’ve closed the lid to help it retain moisture.
Add Water If the Food is Drying Out
If your food starts showing signs of drying, you can try adding some more water to the water pan to help restore moisture and maintain the flavor.
The amount of water you add really depends on the amount of food you’re serving in the chafing pan. Start with just a tablespoon or two and increase the quantity if it doesn’t make a difference.
Disassemble the Pan Before Transporting It Elsewhere
If you need to carry your chafing pan to another area, make sure you disassemble it first to avoid spillage.
Don’t forget to blow out the flame before transporting it to prevent injuries.
Safety Precautions to Keep in Mind
Even though chafing pans are quite efficient and practical, they involve using scalding water and open flames. You need to keep these safety precautions in mind when you’re handling these types of pans:
- Make sure the fuel you’ve purchased has plenty of burn time. This will eliminate the need to constantly change the canisters during the event.
- Keep fuels inside a holder before lighting them. Use a long lighter to avoid burning your hands.
- Once you’ve added the water into the pan, let it cool before disposing of the content. Don’t transfer the water pan when the water is hot. (This applies to electric chafing pans as well).
- Make sure the canisters have cooled down completely before taking them out of their holders.
- Remember to store the chafing fuel in a cool and dry place that’s not exposed to direct sunlight.
- Supervise your staff if it’s their first time assembling the components and lighting the chafing pan to avoid any issues.
Cleaning a Chafing Pan
Cleaning a chafing pan can be a challenge, especially if the food you used it to heat up has become caked on.
Here are some tips you should keep in mind when you’re cleaning these pans:
- To remove any tough grime or build-up, it’s recommended that you try to soak the chafing pan in lukewarm water mixed with mild dish detergent.
- You can also use a soft cloth to loosen the caked-on food particles and get rid of the residue. Try not to use harsh abrasives or scouring pads as they can leave scratches and damage the shiny coating.
- You can pre-rinse and clean chafing pans in a commercial dishwasher. Since most food pans are made with stainless steel, try not to keep them submerged in water for a long amount of time.
- Avoid using chemicals to clean or polish the food pan. If you wish to improve the appearance of the rest of the chafing pan, consider using a stainless-steel cleaner and a microfiber cloth to get the job done.
Now that you’ve learned all about using chafing pans, you may consider investing in chafers of different shapes and sizes. They are the perfect option for you if you wish to serve food that looks and tastes equally appetizing.
Make sure there are no flammable clothing or paper products nearby when you’re lighting the chafing dish.
If you serve buffet-style food quite often, you should definitely get your hands on these chafers to make sure your food stays fresh and warm for as long it’s being served.
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