The 10 Best Steam Tables
This wiki has been updated 17 times since it was first published in January of 2019. Hot food is the number 1 priority in nearly every restaurant, and you'll need the right tools to ensure that it stays that way. In fact, when serving meals to large groups, it's of utmost importance to keep everything out of the "danger zone," which exists between 41 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. One of these steam tables will help you do so without scorching anything in the process. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
January 22, 2021:
If you're talking about steam tables, it's generally considered that you're talking about something suitable for commercial use. If all you need is a warming tray, there are also plenty of those worth choosing.
For professional establishments, the Vollrath Signature and Advance Tabco B4 are some of the top customer-facing self-serve options. The Advance can even function as a cold salad bar by turning it off and using ice instead of hot water. The Vollrath Enclosed is also guest-facing, but not for self-serve use. The Adcraft 2-Bay, Adcraft ST-240, and especially the Vollrath ServeWell are great choices for use in the back of house, while the Vevor Buffet Bain is an efficient and affordable countertop model.
January 17, 2019:
The right serving temperature ensures food has great flavor and texture, but more importantly, it prevents the spread of bacteria responsible for foodborne illness. In the US, food must be held outside of 41-140 degrees Fahrenheit, and quality culinary craftsmen take this very seriously. So it's really important to get a reliable steam table, at least, if you want to keep your restaurant open. Alternately, nobody wants to be the uncle who made everybody at the family reunion sick that one year. In the former case, if you're running a buffet where the guests get their own food, the Advance Tabco is the way to go. It's really expensive, but it has an (often legally required) sneeze guard on top, and it's easily rolled around the dining room for cleaning purposes. Its wells can even be filled with ice, transforming it into a salad bar. Vollrath makes quite a few different self-service options, and we've included a couple that see widespread use in professional break rooms and cafeterias. Of course, many steam tables produced end up going in the kitchen, where dedicated cooks slave over them for hours on end. Those cooks are usually all too familiar with the back-of-house Vollrath models, as the brand is so ubiquitous that it's liable to show up in a lead line cook's nightmares after enough 60-hour work weeks. The Adcrafts are similarly industrial-grade, and though they don't use a sealed-element design, they're quite reliable, and some are offered with an integrated cutting board on the front, which can be incredibly helpful. Remember to de-scale these bad boys every now and then, keep food out of the bottom as much as possible, and don't hurt yourself; they are, after all, pretty hot. But, if you've ever worked extensively with anything like this, you know that after a while you won't really feel it as the edges of the hotel pan slowly sear your fingertips. Who needs fingerprints, anyway?