The 10 Best Chafing Dishes

Updated October 17, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

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We spent 44 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Whether you are a restaurateur, a caterer, or are simply planning a large buffet-style dinner party, one of these chafing dishes will ensure your food stays warm while keeping it on elegant display for your guests. Our selection includes a variety of styles to match just about any occasion, at prices suitable for home or professional use. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best chafing dish on Amazon.

10. Artisan Stainless Steel Round

The Artisan Stainless Steel Round is priced low enough that it's a sensible choice for the family that will probably only use it once or twice a year, but will still be glad to have it on hand to keep food hot for their guests on those special occasions.
  • vented lid prevents steam buildup
  • convenient rack holds lid when open
  • construction feels a bit cheap
Brand Artisan
Model 8508A
Weight 7 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

9. Winware Round Roll Top

If you're only going to have one of these in your life, the six-quart Winware Round Roll Top is a great-looking and reliable choice, though it is a bit expensive. It's good for hotel buffets as guests can easily slide its lid open and closed themselves.
  • locks in place at 90 and 180 degrees
  • elegant mirrored finish
  • doesn't allow for steam ventilation
Brand Winware
Model 602
Weight 18.3 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

8. Winco 708 Round Crown

The Winco 708 Round Crown will either be the most beloved serving dish of the event, or will look rather overwrought and out of place, depending on the context. That being said, as long as your decor is up to par, this luxury option serves its purpose well.
  • elegant molded cover handle
  • stay-cool wooden grips
  • doesn't have a lid holder
Brand Winco
Model 708
Weight 8.8 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

7. Pinch CHFEF-8

The Pinch CHFEF-8 is easy to set up in a matter of seconds and folds away for storage when the dinner party or barbecue is over and done with. It has a massive eight-quart capacity, great for serving entrees or for high volume events.
  • base holds 2 fuel cans for even heat
  • frame collapses fully flat
  • finish is somewhat dull
Brand Pinch
Model CHFEF-8
Weight 10.9 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

6. Old Dutch 838 Round

For a splash of whimsical style on your buffet, consider the Old Dutch 838 Round. Though it's a bit expensive considering it only holds 1.75 quarts of food, its hammered antique copper finish and curlicue feet might just make it worth the price.
  • lacquered to prevent tarnishing
  • popular choice at indian buffets
  • doesn't hold standard fuel cans
Brand Old Dutch
Model 838
Weight 7.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. Party Essentials UPK-33

For those looking for a one-time solution that they can easily dispose of (and hopefully recycle) after an event, the Party Essentials UPK-33 has you covered. Its 33-pieces include everything you need to serve up to six different dishes at once.
  • comes with six cans of fuel
  • great for outdoor events
  • aluminum is fairly thin
Brand Party Essentials
Model UPK-33
Weight 9.2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Tiger Chef 3-Pack

What's a buffet with only one dish? The Tiger Chef 3-Pack ensures you'll be able to serve a variety of options at your event, and each piece is accented with gold coloring, giving it an elegant look perfect for weddings and other special occasions.
  • also available as a single unit
  • includes three sets of tongs
  • pans and covers are dishwasher safe
Brand Tiger Chef
Model gold chafing dish
Weight 21.6 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. Oster Buffet Server

The Oster Buffet Server and warming tray lets you keep three different foods hot at once, perfect for separating meat and vegetarian options or creating a breakfast buffet. Its variable heat control knob maintains whatever temperature you need to make your guests happy.
  • can be used without included pans
  • holds over 7 quarts of food
  • doesn't require disposable fuel cans
Brand Oster
Weight 12 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Giantex Stainless Steel Rectangular

The Giantex Stainless Steel Rectangular comes as a pack of two 8-quart units, making it a great value. It's a good option to consider if you plan to serve multiple entrees or several hot courses at your dinner party, or for any catered event.
  • water pans won't drip
  • insulated design won't burn food
  • built-in hooks hold covers
Brand Giantex
Model C-3080B-A
Weight 13.9 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Excellanté Roll Top

The stainless steel Excellanté Roll Top is durable enough for frequent use by a restaurant or catering service. Its design is great for a self-serve cafeteria or a buffet line as it can be easily slid open and closed with one hand.
  • elegant contrasting handles
  • attractive minimalist style
  • full-length fuel plate
Brand Excellanté
Model SLRCF0171G
Weight 24 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

Isn’t Chafing A Bad Thing?

When a marathon runner finds his shirt has begun to create friction with sensitive areas on his chest, chafing is a bad thing. When a pair of underwear is too big, but the pants on top of it are too small, chafing is a bad thing. When you need to keep food heated to a pleasant temperature without continuing to cook it or dry it out, however, there is nothing like a good bit of chafe — a good chafing dish, anyway.

There are a number of different products on the market, in addition to the chafing dish, that are designed to help keep food warm. Among the most well-known of these is the heat lamp, a hot, red, incandescent nightmare of an invention that you may have seen in your local Applebee’s (as if you needed another reason not to eat there). These warming devices are notorious for drying out food very quickly, but as long as there’s a wait staff there to remove the food from its heated staging area before this happens, all is well.

In a buffet setting, however, where there are large quantities of foods made and served to large numbers of people, heat lamps would only allow the first few people on the food line to actually enjoy whatever was up for grabs. Everybody else would be left with a dry, overcooked dinner.

Another option would be to simply serve the food as is and hope it doesn’t get too cold. That poses a number of problems, however. Most notably, food left out at cool temperatures quickly becomes a hotbed for bacteria. The last person on that line (or the glutton who goes back for thirds 90 minutes later) could easily fall ill, and lawsuits would likely be imminent.

Some establishments and events will use warming trays, which are tremendously similar to chafing dishes, but with one key difference. A warming try positions a tray of hot food over a dry heat source. There is no intermediary between this heat source and the tray of food, causing particularly sensitive dishes like fish to slowly, but surely overcook. As the party wears on, even less sensitive dishes may begin to dry out.

By comparison, a chafing dish — at least in most cases — is synonymous with a bain-marie, more commonly known as a water bath or double boiler. In these devices, the heat source beneath the dish heats up a bath of water in which the tray of food sits. Acting as an intermediary, the water transfers the heat to the dish more evenly than a direct flame or hot plate would. Furthermore, by not designing the tray to create a very tight seal, small amounts of steam filter up into the main compartment, keeping food moist, as well as safely warm.

How To Choose The Right Chafing Dish For Your Needs

Most occasions that require a chafing dish are attended by pretty large numbers of people. As such, these occasions often necessitate a great deal of different types of food, and, by extension, more than one chafing dish. The knowledge of your crowd size, and of the amount and types of food you intend to serve, will likely be the first information that narrows down our list for you. Some of the chafing dishes we’ve ranked here come in sets, allowing you to serve multiple dishes to many people. Others come as single dishes, and you’d have to buy extra to fill any additional need.

For the most part, the chafing dishes that come as single units tend to be of a slightly higher caliber. Their materials are often more durable and better for heat retention. That’s not to say that multiple dish deals aren’t available with high-quality components; it’s just less likely that you’ll find them there.

The next thing to consider when evaluating your options is the style of use you think your new chafing dish will see. If you’re purchasing this dish for professional use, it’s worth asking what class of diner you usually serve. If they aren’t as particular about the quality of their food or the look of their event, it might not be a bad idea to save some business expense and go with disposable dishes. A customer with more aesthetic sense, but perhaps a less discerning pallet will appreciate non-disposable dishes, but they don’t need to see copper or gold anywhere. Basic steel will suit them fine. The highest class of diner will demand nothing but the best, both for the look of their event and for the quality of the food the dish contains.

You might want a chafing dish just for yourself, however, and non-professionals certainly find a lot of uses for the units. If, for example, you have a lot of people in your immediate family who all keep hectic schedules (two working parents, teens in high school, college students who commute from home, etc.), it would save you a lot of trouble cooking to meet their tiny time windows. With a chafing dish in your home, you could make a big meal, set it up to stay safely and delightfully warm, and go about your day.

A Brief History Of The Chafing Dish

The earliest ancestors of the modern chafing dish appear to have developed some time during the Medieval period in England. Even the word chafe is a term from 15th century English meaning, “to warm up.” These ceramic dishes sat atop charcoal braziers, and, as such, were nowhere near as portable as today’s models.

Over the next couple of centuries, chafing dishes were mentioned in a variety of settings, from royal courts to the American colonies. By the late 19th century, after a wave of chafing dish suppers bolstered the popularity of the tool, specialized cookbooks written for chafing dishes began to appear.

In the modern era, the chafing dish has become less common in households, where similar devices like warming trays and crockpots vie for valuable counter space. Some savvy customers make good use of the tools, however, whether keeping dinner warm for a family member running late or poaching a breakfast’s worth of eggs.

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Last updated on October 17, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

Ezra is a writer, photographer, creative producer, designer, and record label-operator from New York City. He's traveled around the world and ended up back where he started, though he's constantly threatening to leave again.

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