Are you about buying catering tools & supplies? If YES, here are 10 catering equipment that keep food hot, their uses and how much they cost. Some professionals have issues about showing up at work with incomplete set of tools. Caterers have issues too with showing up to an event without adequate equipment.

As a caterer you have to be extremely organized to successfully handle any type of function, be it a large reception or a simple business luncheon. Many key items can be overlooked in the rush to get out the door, such as salt and pepper shakers, cocktail napkins—and yes, even steak knives or forks.

Also, in the catering business, temperatures tend to be very important for both quality and safety. To preserve flavour and limit the risk of food poisoning, hot food are expected to be kept hot and cold food should be kept cold. As a caterer, maintaining the appropriate temperature of food can be a daunting task. However, there are tools and supplies that can help, but it’s pertinent to understand the appropriate holding temperatures for hot and cold items.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), hot foods must be maintained at 135 °F or above. When the temperature dips below 135 °F, bacteria can grow rapidly. The temperature “danger zone” for food is between 41 °F and 135 °F. Note that the most rapid bacteria growth occurs between 70 °F and 125 °F. It means that the longer a food is allowed to sit in the “danger zone,” the greater the risk of bacteria growth and spoilage.

Caterers have a duty to make sure that all of their food is held at a safe temperature. When serving hot dishes, it’s crucial to remember that hot holding equipment is not designed to reheat dishes. Rather, it’s designed to keep already-hot items at 140 °F or higher.

You spend hours preparing food and because of poor planning, end up serving cold lasagna to your guests. But thankfully, something like this can genuinely be avoided! With the right equipment, proper tools, and some thought-out planning, you will be ready to welcome your guests, wine in hand, anxiety free.

Caterers have a number of different tools and equipment at their disposal to keep foods at just the right temperature. These tools and equipment include;

List of Catering Equipment to Keep Food Hot, Their Uses and How Much They Cost

1. Warming Oven – $40 – $2,760

Warming ovens, or holding cabinets, are found in most restaurant kitchens and catering setups. These ovens play an important role in keeping extra food product warm until it’s ready to be moved to a steam table or a customer’s plate. Normally any type of food can be held in a warming oven, from rice to vegetables and meat.

2. Steam Tables – $360 – $2,000

Steam tables are mostly used for front-of-house warming. These tables are similar to holding cabinets in that they hold pre-cooked at safe temperatures. Note that they are not used to cook food or to bring temperatures back up to safe levels. These tables have heated serving trays, and are typically used for self-service or buffet stations. They may have one of two types of wells: open or sealed.

Sealed wells have a covered heat source and built-in drain system. With this type of well, there’s no need for a spillage pan, so cleanup is much quicker and easier. However, one disadvantage is that these steam tables only offer moist heat, which isn’t ideal for crispy items. In addition, open wells can be used for both moist and dry heating, so it’s a versatile option. Nonetheless, you will need spillage pans for moist heating.

3. Catering Warmers – $900 – $2,100

This equipment is also known as tabletop warmer, catering warmers are designed to be portable and normally use chafing dish fuel to keep food warm. Also have it in mind that they are also food warmers for parties that are portable versions of steam tables. They have heated trays with electronic temperature controls.

4. Bain Marie – $900 – $1,400

A Bain Marie, or double boiler, is a French term for “a piece of equipment used to keep materials warm over a period of time,” which is exactly what the Bain Marie cabinets do. It is simply a type of ‘heated bath’ or piece of equipment that can gradually heat or maintain temperature for food for cooking purposes, it can also be used within a variety of different scenarios unrelated to cooking.

Commercial Bain Marie are a renowned product within the catering business – highly popular and leveraged by a variety of dealers, restaurants and cafes. This piece of equipment provides the ideal choice for busy caterers needing to either melt ingredients, maintain temperature for their food, or requiring a slower cooking process for a specialised meal.

5. Chafing Dish – $25 – $1,200

Chafing dishes are known to use chafing fuel to heat a pan of water, which heats a pan of food placed above – the water acts as a medium for heat and temperature transfer. Note that these appliances are usually used for open food displays, especially at buffets and dinners.

Chafing dishes are usually much more affordable, convenient and easier to use in comparison to Bain Marie, howbeit they can’t be used for cooking food or meals, only maintaining temperature and heat. Also note that all chafing dishes feature a frame, water pan and a cover/lid and are basic – so there needs to be a consideration whether an investment in a chafing dish is worth the expense.

6. Round Warmers – $890

This equipment is also known as soup warmers. These food warmers are ideal for keeping liquids at safe temperatures. Although they’re mainly used for soup, they can also be used to melt cheese for nachos.

7. Rethermalizer – $1,200 – $1,690

Most warmers are designed to keep already-hot foods at safe temperatures. A rethermalizer is actually designed to bring cold food up to a safe warming temperature and keep it out of the danger zone. In the United States, caterers love rethermalizers because they can quickly heat foods, saving them time on preparation.

8. Drawer Warmer – $900 – $1700

This piece of equipment is quite versatile and can keep dishes hot and ready for serving. They’re commonly used for dinner rolls, baked potatoes and tortillas. Also note that they come in both single and multi-drawer options. Most will also allow you to control the temperature as well as moisture level.

9. Thermal Cookers – $490 – $1,100

Thermos’ are great for keeping food warm for hours without doing anything. Perfect for soups, stews or sauces. Best of all, they pour easily so they’re ready to serve! Thermal cookers are amazing. To use one, you don’t even need any electricity.

It uses the insulated heat and keeps your food hot for many hours. You can keep food safely warm in a cooler for 4-6 hours if you take the proper steps to turn your cooler into a ‘hot box’. What you want to do is heat water up in a large pot on the stove. Then add the water to an empty cooler and let it sit for at least 5 minutes.

Note that this will bring the cooler’s internal temperature up so when you place the food in, it won’t need to steal heat from the food to warm itself up. Pour out the water when you’re ready to start insulating. To insulate, line the cooler with heavy duty aluminium foil followed by a few towels.

This will add extra insulation to the cooler. Then wrap your containers or dishes fully with more aluminium foil and a towel and place inside neatly with extra towels snuggled around the food so it does not shift or allow air flow.

10. Insulated Bags and Heat Lamps – $25 – $300

Insulated bags are easier to carry than large coolers and they do a great job of insulating food. It lets you wrap your lasagna, vegetables, meat, etc. in a few casseroles dishes and wrap in tin foil. Stack them on top of each other and place them inside a bag.

In addition, heat lamps are used in all caterers! Once the food is ready, chefs will place it under a heat lamp until the server comes to take it away. It does a great job at keeping food warm especially food that is meant to stay crispy! It is really great for appetizers.

If you’re serious about your catering business, you should invest in some of the heating equipment mentioned above. Buffets are a big part of your business and you can’t take a chance with hot plates or other unreliable types of heating equipment. Without some of this equipment, your carefully prepared dishes can end up being dried-out, over-heated, or completely ruined.

Joy Nwokoro