How to Keep Your Hot Food Warm Before Serving

Written in 2024
by Adam

    When you are hosting a big dinner party, and you don't want to be rushing last minute to get your food ready. If you are cooking different dishes you will realise some foods, like a stir-fry, will get ready within a few minutes while others like barbecue, stews will take hours to get done.

    Reheating large dishes can be a challenging task, so it's advisable you keep all the food warm before serving it to the guests. There are many ways you can do this, here are a few suggestions which may help you out.

    Keep in mind that when keeping hot foods or beverages for long periods of time, they should be kept between 60 °C and 65 °C so as not to cause any health issues like food poisoning.

    11 Ways To Keep Your Hot Food Warm Before Serving

    1. Slow Cookers

    To keep food warm in a slow cooker, all you need to do is turn it onto low heat and keep the lid closed. This is a great way to reheat dishes as they will come out fresh and hot every time.

    Ideal for stews, soups, hot vegetables, sauces, and dips, a slow cooker is perfect for keeping food warm before serving. It's great to use if you are cooking more than one type of dish, as it can help keep ingredients separate while still providing heat at the same time.

    However, keep in mind that if you plan to keep the food warm for more than an hour, it will keep on cooking. So it's recommended for foods that you don't mind overcooking.

    2. Hot Ovens And Stoves

    Using your oven is another great way to keep food warm before serving. Simply preheat an oven to 100 °C for around 15 minutes, select the warm setting or set a lower temperature of around 70 °C, transfer the dish to a product that can withstand high temperatures and place it on the top shelf of the oven where there are no racks.

    You will need to check it every once in a while so that its temperature doesn't drop too low or burn up.

    Not all dishes are good candidates for heating up in an oven, though- they need to have some liquid content, otherwise, they will dry out too much while being warm before serving. This method works well with foods like lasagna, stews and pasta.

    To prevent foods from drying out in case you want to keep them warm for longer than 30 minutes, wrap them in aluminium foil, this will preserve the moisture and prevent them from drying out.

    3. Stovetop

    If you don't have a slow cooker, then the next best thing is to use your stove. To keep food warm on your gas or electric cooktop, simply turn it onto low heat and cover it with suitable lids.

    It's important that you make sure all the burners are at an even temperature before covering, as this will help keep all the food warm.

    4. Chafing Dishes/ Electric Skillets

    If you don't have enough space on your stove or in your oven, warming trays and buffet servers may be just what you need. These appliances give off an even supply of heat that will hold your dishes hot through mealtime, so they stay fresh during dinner service.

    They are also good for hosting parties with large numbers because they allow guests to serve themselves, which helps avoid congestion around the kitchen area and makes sure everyone has access to their favourite foods too much wait-time between courses.

    5. Aluminium foil

    This is another way to keep food warm before serving when using your oven or stove. Just wrap the food in aluminium foil.

    This method is best for roasts, steaks or a whole chicken as they also require resting time to allow the juices to evenly distribute in the oven. This method will keep the food warm for about 30 minutes. 

    Grilled steaks, roasts should not be tightly wrapped as they will sweat, lose moisture and become dry.

    For other dishes in pots like stews, you can use aluminium foil to trap the steam and prevent heat from escaping. Just cover the top of the pot tightly with aluminium foil.

    6. Cooler

    The cooler is thermally insulated, this prevents heat transfer, and it can maintain both hot and cold temperatures.

    To go about it, you need to preheat your cooler by pouring warm water, cover and letting it sit for about 30 minutes to 2 hours. After wiping down and place your food inside. This method is popularly known as the Faux Cambro. The Cambro 300UPC-110 Black is a pricey commercial food warmer.  

    A less messy way is to use hot water bottles or hot bricks. Place a towel at the bottom, put your hot water bottles inside, and then allow the same time for the cooler to warm up before putting your food inside.

    7. Steam Based Cookers

    A steam-based cooker, like a rice cooker, couscous maker or steam oven, is another way to keep food warm before serving.

    Once you are done cooking, open the lid and allow some steam and heat to escape. This will prevent overcooking. If you are using an electric steamer, you can keep it hot for longer by turning on the warm setting after about 30 minutes.

    8. Warming Plates

    Keeping your plates warm is another way to keep food warm before serving. This method only keeps food warm for an extra 30 minutes.

    You can warm the plates using an electric plate warmer.

    To keep your plates warm manually, put them in an oven that has been preheated to a low temperature of about 65 °C for about 30-45 minutes before serving or until ready to use. Make sure you don't place cold food on a hot plate as this will cause the heat transfer too quickly and make it drop below 60 °C within 20 seconds which might cause some plates, especially glass plates, to crack.

    9. Thermal Insulated Bags

    This is best for keeping small portions of food warm for a short time. They come in smaller sizes ideal for carrying one meal like a sandwich, can be used to carry hot drinks too.

    To keep the food warmer for longer you can place it in an aluminium foil when hot to prevent the heat from escaping, then place it inside your insulated thermal bag.

    10. Commercial Food Warmer

    They are portable and keep large amounts of foods warmer for hours.

    The commercial food warmer is a bit expensive and impractical for the home. However, if you frequently host large numbers of guests, then it's a worthy investment.

    This is a device that provides both thermal and physical insulation to your food. It prevents heat transfer from the outside while trapping in the hot air inside for a longer duration.

    The non-electric food warmer is less pricey and keeps food warmer for a shorter time compared to the electric version.

    11. Insulated Thermos

    Insulated Thermoses are great because of their double-wall insulation, which will keep drinks cold for up to 24 hours! Plus, if it's a small one, these thermoses fit easily into most lunch bags without any trouble.

    These work well when trying to maintain either warm or cold temperatures, depending on what type of foods you want inside them before the serving time comes along.

    If it is only going to be kept warm for shorter periods of time, then an insulated thermos is probably more than enough due to its lower price point compared with commercial food warmers. But make sure you preheat the insides by adding boiling water before you put your food inside to keep it warmer longer.

    Important Tips To Keeping Your Food Warmer For Longer

    Keep It Covered

    Regardless of the method, you choose to keep your food warm, the most important thing is to keep the food covered. This prevents moisture loss and reduces the risk of contamination.

    Make sure the food is covered tightly with either plastic wrap or foil, to prevent heat escape, before placing it in an insulated heat source like a thermal bag to keep your food warmer for longer periods of time.

    Never leave electric plates unattended while turned on as part of making sure no one gets hurt due to accidents happening when around appliances with open heating elements.

    Place The Food When Extra Hot

    Keep in mind that more heat is lost the longer it takes for your food to get served. If you want your food to remain warmer for longer, make sure you place it when it's still extra hot.

    Don't Leave Food Unattended

    You will want to check if the heat is escaping or the temperature has gone too low, or maybe the food has begun to dry up or overcook. So constant monitoring is recommended to make sure you serve a perfectly warm dish.

    More Food Keeps Warmer For Longer

    The larger the amount of food you start with, the longer it will stay hot since it has more overall thermal energy.

    For instance, a large crockpot of stew will keep warmer for longer compared to a small pot of stew, even if they are kept warm using the same method and at the same temperatures.

    When packing hot food, make sure to fill up your container, so there is no air left inside. This will help prevent heat loss through the sides of your container which are not being heated up by any means necessary since air acts as an insulator too.

    In Conclusion

    If you're looking for a way to keep your hot food warm without worrying about it spoiling, consider these methods that are tried and true. You'll be able to serve the best-tasting dishes at all of your parties!  

    To help you decide which method is best for your specific situation, consider the amount of food, the type of food and how long you want it to keep warm.

    Have you used similar methods or have suggestions for more ways to keep food warm? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Comment below.

    Possible FAQs

    How do you keep food warm without drying it out?

    The best way would be to wrap it tightly with either plastic or foil before placing it in an insulated heat source like a thermal bag.

    What oven setting keeps food warm?

    The warm setting will be the best way to keep your food at a safe temperature. If this is not available, set the temperature to around 70 °C.

    Written by Adam

    Adam is the creator of the SmokeGuys website, running it since 2016. Hater of coriander, lover of all things meat... Adam currently works in marketing with a dream of being able to make food his full-time 'job' in the longer term.

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