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How to Keep Food Warm With Hot Holding

How to Keep Food Warm With Hot Holding

America’s best buffet restaurants and food trucks have mastered how to keep food warm while serving lots of patrons at an affordable price – and fast! Your award-winning BBQ pulled pork (160 degrees) and smothered chicken (165 degrees) is unfit to be served if it’s not maintained at the proper temperature. Thank goodness for hot holding!

Restaurant steam tables allow establishments to showcase how to keep food hot for hours. You can find this equipment up front in fast-casual settings, or in the back at fine dining establishments. One eatery places its daily dose of deliciousness up front for patrons to select, and the other utilizes restaurant steam tables as hot holding for sides and sauces, kept in the back of the house. Food trucks utilize hot holding to preserve their many savory treats. 

When utilized correctly, hot holding is an alternative to cooked-to-order. Remember: While restaurant steam tables hold food at intended temperatures, they do not cook food or bring cold foods up to serving temperatures. Also, they are not intended to steam foods like a steamer.

Benefits of Using a Restaurant Steam Table

  • Abundance of ready-to-serve food
  • Keeps food at optimal serving temperatures
  • Durable
  • Easy to clean

Most Popular Customer Favorites Include:

Model Voltage Wattage Dimensions Certifications

Hot/Cold Well
120/208 5832 74”W x 66-3/4”D x 72”H UL Listed

3 Well Electric
Steam Table
208 500 or 750 48"W x 22-1/2"D x 35"H UL Listed

4 Well Mobile Hot
Food Steam Table
120 525 per well 60"W
x 39-1/2"D x 35"H
UL Listed

5 Well Electric Hot Food
Table w/ Cutting Board
120 3500 76"W x 32"D x 34"H NSF, UL Listed

Jumbo Buffet Warming
Cart w/ clear roll tops
120 600 52
3/4"W x 18 1/2"D x 45 1/2"H
UL Listed


Using a Steam Table

Steam tables have bottom wells where water is heated to create steam. Food pans are placed on top of the water well, allowing hot steam to heat the food pans. This hot holding concept maintains the temperature as food is served.

Types of Steam Tables

Sealed Wells
Sealed wells steam tables drain water, eliminating the need for spillage pans. This feature makes it a favorite in the restaurant industry.

Open Wells
Open well steam tables have removable pans for water drainage that are removed and dumped after usage.

Gas steam tables cost less to operate, heat up faster and utilize less energy than electrical models. The downside? Utilizing it off-site can be burdensome; it requires propane gas, an added cost.

An electric steam table requires more energy, but most have wheels, making them mobile and ideal for catering events. Also, electric steam tables can run wet or dry, unlike gas steam tables which require hot water for operation.

Portable vs Stationary
Portable steam tables provide flexibility for off-site hot holding needs. Stationary steam tables are great for permanent banquet style facilities.

Steam tables can be used in the front and back of the house. It’s perfect for buffets as they hold and display menu items for easy access. Steam tables are also great for food trucks.

Food Maintenance
Steam-table maintenance involves cleaning the table, stirring foods regularly and keeping water at appropriate levels. To minimize/eliminate cross contamination, use different small wares for each pan. Pair with an instant-read digital thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of foods.

Questions about how to keep food warm with hot holding? Stop by our showroom in Norcross, Ga., or visit our restaurant steam tables page


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Tags: Steam, Catering
Related Categories: Steam Tables & Salad Bars