When hosting an event and serving hot food there is a catering standard for keeping food hot and we thought sharing the process with all of you might be helpful.

Get to know your equipment

Your chafer set up has three main pieces: the rack, a water pan, and the Sterno* fuel cans.

The rack is a stand that will be the base of the chafer.

The Sterno are cans of fuel designed to burn directly in the can. The substance inside is a mixture of denatured and jellied alcohol.

The water pan is a deep metal pan designed to fit inside the rack. This will go between the flame and your food so the food does not come in direct contact with the flame.

The last piece of the puzzle is your food. This is the pan that is holding Dolce & Clemente’s food.

How to set up your chafer

  1. Place the rack on a sturdy, flat surface where you would like to serve your food.
  2. Place aluminum foil under the racks flat on the table, like you would a table runner.
  3. Place the water pan inside the rack and fill with about 3/4 of an inch - 1 inch of hot water. Do not over-fill. The water will evaporate while the food is warming.
  4. Open the Sterno. The easiest way to do this is to use a can opener, a metal spatula, or the edge of another Sterno can.
  5. Place two Sterno cans in the base of the rack below the water pan. Light the Sterno cans. Do not light the Sterno before filling the water in the water pan.
  6. Place the food pan on top of the water pan. Be very careful! Once the flames have been lit the water will start steaming and the steam will be very hot.
  7. Serve your food directly from the rack while being aware of the hot pan edges.

*Sterno is flammable and must be handled very carefully. Keep the flame clear of any flammable objects and do not leave unattended.

How to clean up after your meal

  1. Before you begin, make sure the Sterno cans are no longer lit. They will go out on their own when they run out of fuel - usually a little over two hours. If you would like to clean up before then, you can extinguish the Sterno by covering the flame with a non-flammable metal object, such as a metal spatula that is wider than the flame opening. Give the Sterno cans plenty of time to cool down before you touch them directly.
  2. Discard the food. Make sure it’s cool to the touch before you move it, keeping in mind that the underside of the pan may be hotter than the edges.
  3. Discard the rest of the water from the water pan. Don’t forget that the water and the water pan may be very hot.

How long will it take to heat food on the chafer

The denser the tray of food, the longer it will take to heat up.

Lasagna, baked ziti, and eggplant parmigiana will have your longest heating times. At least 1 hour and 20 minutes on the chafer.

Pasta with sauce, chicken, vegetables, veal, and beef items generally take about 1 hour.

Seafood is anywhere from between 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Instructions for heating food in the oven

All items except seafood should be heated at 350°, and seafood should be heated at 325°.

Preheat oven to 400° for 10 minutes.

Place items in oven and lower temperature to desired setting.

All food should be heated under supervision. Do not put food in the oven and leave it attended. Home ovens vary in temperature and cooking capability. These are guidelines.

Denser items such as lasagna will take longer, around 55 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

All other items take anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes.

If heating multiple items simultaneously, you may need to increase heating time.