Food warmers are useful when making large amounts of food for crowds. They're especially helpful if you're serving a lot of food at a party or catered meal. They help you serve fresh and keep your food at safe temperatures to your guests while also making sure your staff operates more efficiently. In this article, we talk about how to keep your food warm and at the optimum temperature as well as how to choose the best type for your type of business.
Why Use Food Warmers?
Food warmers are used to keep food temperatures above the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point (HACCP) danger zone. The HACCP Danger Zone is identified as 41 degrees Fahrenheit to 135 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature at which most pathogens will grow in foods. Between 70°F (21°C) and 125°F (52°C), pathogens grow. Since the food that is held at temperatures above 41°F and below 135°F may be unsafe for guests, food must not be left out at these temperatures for long periods of time.
Types of Food Warmers
You might be surprised by just how many different types of food warmers there are out there. You can't rely on the same design for keeping soups, bread, meat, and full meals warm. Hot dog stands usually consist of a small countertop unit where you place your order and then wait for your hot dog to be cooked. However, there are larger models that keep hot foods warm for large numbers of people. Here is a quick rundown of the different types of food warmers
- Food warmer
- Countertop food warmers
- Heat lamps
- Specialty warmers
- Soup Warmers
- Baine Marie
It holds foods that are already heated to the correct serving temperature and have a wide variety of types that can hold different types of food including veggies, pasta, hotdogs, eggs, and bacon. Here are reasons why you may need them for your business.
- Ideal for concessions, buffets, catering, fast foods, and any business that periodically needs to keep its meals warm and ready-to-eat for several days.
- Great for self-service applications.
- It’s also great for holding prepared foods, which helps save space in the kitchen and improve ticket times.
- Available in a variety of sizes to fit a wide range of requirements.
Countertop Food Warmers
The countertop food warmers are a favorite of convenience stores. These warming trays are designed to keep food warm while making it look good for guests. These units allow for delicious foods such as juicy hot dogs to be displayed in full view for impulse purchases. They include warmers for pizzas, pretzels, nachos, soups, and huge displays.
Featured Model: Vollrath 40843
They're designed to hold hot foods briefly and aren't intended for long-term storage, as the concentrated heat sources can dry out and cannot continue cooking the foods. They're either permanently installed above the food or they hang from a frame that hangs on the kitchen counter and is usually portable. Pendant-style lamps are best suited for small areas, whereas strip-style lamps are better suited for large areas.
Featured Model: Omcan USA 41787
These specialty warmers are designed for holding food items that have been preheated to the correct temperature. Here are reasons why it may be a good idea to invest in one for your food business.
- Best suited for liquids like soups, stew, sauce, and gravy.
- Round edges keep content from sticking out into the corners.
- Best for any food establishment that regularly needs to maintain soups or any liquid food at an elevated temperature for several hours.
- Great for soups and salads.
- It’s also great for food prep in holding prepared meals, which saves kitchen storage and improves restaurant service time.
Model Featured: Winco ESW-66
They are used to reheat food or thaw frozen foods to a safe serving temperature. With rethermalizers, you wouldn't need to thaw or defrost foods anymore, and they're safe to carry through dangerous zones. They are helpful in the kitchen for a number of reasons:
- It is ideal for kitchens that thaw and cook large amounts of food at once.
- Best used for frozen prepared foods like soups, sauce, and vegetables.
- You can use it to thaw frozen meat packages.
- Both countertop and floor models are available.
Model featured: Pitco CRTE Solstice Rethermalizer
It is a container used to keep food warm and even cook delicate delicacies such as custards and crème Brulee. A Commercial Bain Marie works like a typical double-boiler wherein water is placed in a utensil and heated. Another small container is then placed inside the first one which is warmed by the hot water. This prepares delicacies and keeps the item warm over time.
Model Featured: Hatco FR-4B
Which One do I Get for My Business?
Size and Capacity
When choosing a food warmer, capacity is the most important thing to consider. Before buying a unit, check its capacity to see if it can meet your needs. Soup Kettle or Soup warmer sizes vary from 4 quarts to 22 quarts, while countertop warmers are usually classified by their size and number of pots they hold.
Depths and Pan Configurations
Countertop warmers can be used for multiple sizes of pans and insets. It’s useful for restaurants that need to keep certain items together so they can be served easily or because there aren't enough spaces to store them separately. You can use any size pans you want to create a layout that fits your kitchen best.
Pro-tip: Pan sizes range from 3/4” to 8” or more. To figure out how deep your pans need to be, look at their depth. Leave at least an inch of space between them so they don't touch each other.
Food warmers usually include two types of controls: infinite and thermostatically controlled.
- Infinite Control: The knob ranges from "Low" to "High". Although it may take time to find the right setting, heat output would be more customizable since you can adjust it based on time.
- Thermostatic Control: It has individual settings for specific temperatures and cycles on and off based on the temperature which allows for maintaining a specific holding temperature It also comes in manual knob and digital options but the heat output would be less customizable
Depending on the kind of food you serve, you may need to use different heat settings. Food warmers equipped with thermostats allow for precise temperature control, varying from 80 to 200 degrees. Being able to select the specific temperature results in higher quality for your customers.
Different food warmers have different temperature settings and may offer a more limited temperature range. Keep in mind what foods you will be keeping warm and how warm they need to be stored when making your decision.
Be mindful of what type of food warmer can fit in your kitchen. Make sure that it is appropriate and would not take up the whole space of your floor.
Types of food
As mentioned, there are many types of food warmer based on the type of food that you will be serving. If your menu includes soup, you might want to invest in soup kettles/ warmers. If you plan to display your food, make sure to choose the right one. For example, you may want to showcase the roasted duck in a catering setting using a food lamp instead of putting it behind glass on a countertop food warmer. Consider the setting and the type of each food that you have before getting a unit.
If you're cooking for a large group, you might need to deal with multiple food warmers at once. If this is the situation, then perhaps a food warmer with a glass front would be best for you, so you can see what is inside and how well it is preserved.