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Dec 9, 2004 07:04 PM

Tips on using disposable chafing dish

  • b

I just purchased a disposable chafing dish at a party store. I plan to use it for a party we are having this weekend. Does anyone have any tips on using this? I have never used one before. It has a large aluminum tray to put water in and then two smaller aluminum pans to put food in. Two sterno candles go under the food. Any helpful hints would be appreciated. Just wondering also: how long does the water last--a couple of hours before evaporating? There are warnings not to use the sterno without water.

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  1. I have used them many times and the water has never completely evaporated. I don't think the heat is high enough to do that, but I guess theoretically it could if you left it burning a really long time. Make sure you use enough water, but not too much where it will seep up to the upper disposable pans.

    I put hot food straight in the pans and the sterno heats the water gently enough where the food stays very warm with no further cooking.

    It is pretty straight forward to use. I find them to be a great alternative to the expensive standard chafing dishes. We have three racks and Costco sells the disposable trays and sternos very cheap, so they are fantastic for entertaining a bigger crowd.

    1. Here's what I've learned: Use boiling water in the large pan - the Sterno will be able to keep the water warm but not to heat it from cold. Also have your food hot when it goes into the small pans. Keep it covered for as long as possible.

      2 Replies
      1. re: TomSwift

        and don't overfill the bottom pan. Put in up to your thumb knuckle - you can add more later.
        Also if you put in too much water then the pans float (not good) and it can even get dangerous - steam burns, splashes, etc. - remember there is a flame under there and we try to use boiling water if possible.

        I agree with all of "tom swift" hints too.

        Just one more to add. The half pans can sometimes fall into the water a bit in the middle - try to squeeze the bottom pan tight in the middle to prevent this. You can also use a full sized disposable pan but make sure it's not as deep as the bottom pan (need room for that water)

        GOOD LUCK!

        1. re: tigerwoman

          I would like to add my two cents regarding the boiling water.

          You should boil the water in a pan or kettle and add it to the chafing dish where it will be set up. Don't try to put the boiling water in the chafing dish pan in the kitchen and carry it to another room. It's too unstable and prone to waves and splashing.

      2. Hi,

        Excellent points in the replies. The metal non-disposable units have a can with a lid that can control the amount of flame from the sterno type heat sources. If you can find those your set-up should work fine.

        Mele Kalikimaka a Haouli Makahiki hou...


        1. If I am ordering large trays of food, do I just put this in a large empty tray with a little water or do I need to break my food into 2 smaller pans?

          5 Replies
          1. re: lillotis

            No reason to divide the food. The two smaller inserts just allow you to keep two different foods hot in the same chafing dish frame, But you can certainly put the food in one large insert. The under pan with hot water is essential.

            1. re: Amy Mintzer

              Chiming in late here, but I borrowed chafing trays that are the same size as the pasta pans I will be ordering from caterer. Will I need to put my pasta in smaller pans, and if so how much smaller? The chafing trays are 21 x 13 and so are the pasta pans. Thank you!

              1. re: foody410

                You can certainly use full-size pans for the food. We usually use a total of three pans for this process -- two for the heat so there are no hot spots and one for the food. You can put a thin layer of water between the two bottom pans but you don't have to.

                1. re: acgold7

                  I thought water had to be used in bottom steam pan for burners. I am just wondering how the pasta pan will fit inside steam pan if they are same size with water in bottom. Do I just use a little hot water?

                  1. re: foody410

                    Did you ever figure this out? im in the same situation!