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One of the most crucial parts of serving for a group is keeping your food at the ideal temperature, no one likes eating cold food! There are a few things to look at when it comes to keeping food warm.
When cooking for a crowd, there are quite a few ways to keep food warm. Using specially insulated dishes, your oven, managing prep time, heating your serving plates, and cooking food fresh are all great methods. These will all help keep your food warm, and ready to be served.
Cooking for a large group is already stressful, and there’s a lot to think about and keep up with. Making
Insulated dishes are one of the best ways to keep food warm. It allows you to transfer your food into its dish, without losing heat. Known by the name of Chafing dishes, they’re popularly used by caterers.
They’re portable pans and dishes that are raised above heated water or small flames. They hold enough heat to not only keep food at a great temperature but to even heat up cold food. You can buy different types of dishes, in different types of material, and at really great prices!
Stainless steel is the most popular, and very durable. One thing to note is that you’ll need to purchase the dishes, and the heating pallets separately. As the dishes don’t frequently come with their own heat source.
8 Qt. Full Size Stainless Steel Chafer
- This chafing dish holds 8 quarts and has a collapsable stand that it sits on top of. It comes with a lid and a divider in case you want to use one dish for two separate meals. It can be bought for the price of $19.95
Proctor Silex Server & Food Buffets Food Warmer
- On the fancier side, this dish holds up to three meals at once each 2.2 quarts large. Lids included, and an electric warmer included that allows for a variety of temperatures! The dishes are also removable, which makes for an easier clean up time. It’s sell price is $59.99
Another great way to keep food warm, without having to buy anything extra, is your oven! When you have a dish that’s finished and ready for serving, put it in your oven! The small containment area will allow for the heat to be trapped within the oven walls!
On top of this, most ovens have a “warming” option, to keep your food warm without cooking it even more. Leaving your dish within the oven is a great option. The oven drawer is also a great place to put things like pies and casseroles so that they stay warm while you’re cooking other meals in the main oven.
Prepping is crucial to the temperature of a meal, and while cooking for a large group can be hard, it doesn’t have to be impossible. Cooking meals that will take longer, first, and shorter meals, last will allow for them all to be finished around the same time. This helps with temperature.
Preparing meals so that they will all be finished around the time guests arrive, allow for warm, ready-to-eat-meals to be provided. This way you really don’t have to go out of your way to keep the meals warm to begin with. They’re ready to serve, and the guests are ready to eat!
Depending on how many people you’re planning on feeding, one great trick is to warm up the plates they’re being served on.
This particular trick won’t work if you happen to be using disposable plates, but any glass plate should do.
This is a handy trick that lots of restaurants use, they store their dishes either in a large dishwasher with a drying setting turned on, or in the oven! Having the plates you’re serving your food on be warm, will allow for the heat within the foods to be maintained even while eating!
When in doubt, you can always cook and serve as people are arriving. Get small a team together to help you prep, and serve. This will allow for the food to be fresh and warm as you’re serving. This tends not to be the route people want, however, if all else fails there’s nothing like having freshly served food for your guests.
Cooking the food fresh also allows for you to register about how much food you’ll need. One issue with prepping food before is you may run out of something, in this situation, you’ll know how much to cook on top of the heat retaining in the meal.
Other Tips and Tricks
Use a Slow Cooker or Crock Pot
If you have a CrockPot or a slow cooker, there are going to be great for keeping meals warm. Whether you cook it in the actual pot, you are able to transfer your meal into the cooker, there are multiple settings that allow for you to keep your meal warm!
Not only do they have very low cooking settings, that allow for it to be kept warm, but the dishes are also incredibly well insulated. They can also often be removed from the cooker, and are able to use for serving.
Use a Cooler
Despite its misleading name, a cooler is a great option for keeping food warm especially if you aren’t ready to serve it yet. If you’ve got food that you’re not ready to serve, or that you don’t want to have out in the open until servings get low, put it in a cooler!
Coolers are very well insulated, it’s why they can keep things so cold. This insulation doesn’t just work for cold things though, it also works for warm meals! Putting a dish in a cooler will allow for the heat to be maintained no matter where you bring it.
Cooking for large groups can be difficult, and there are lots of things that you might not think of, like how to keep it all warm. Hopefully, with these tips and tricks, you’re able to keep food just as you want it, warm, and ready to eat!