Chafing dishes are essential to serving hot food at a buffet, banquet or catering event. Knowing how to use chafing dishes, also known as chafers, is important to ensure your food is being served at a safe temperature and out of the danger zone.

Using a chafing dish is very easy. Simply heat a water pan underneath the dish using a chafer fuel candle or electric source. Currently, induction chafers are also a popular, safe hit because they use induction heating eliminating the need for a water pan or fuel.

There are various styles and chafing dish sizes available on the market, making choosing the proper chafing dish somewhat difficult. Here, we breakdown each type of chafer eliminating the guesswork!

Chafing Dish Sizes and Types

There’s a reason for each chafer size and shape! Main dishes are usually served in larger oval or rectangular dishes, while you’ll find round chafers used for side dishes.

Rectangular Chafing Dishes: The most standard style of chafing dishes, commonly used for main entrees or a large quantity of sides. These commercial chafing dishes come in various sizes to accommodate your serving needs.

Round: Round chafers are also popular, but more commonly used for side dishes and desserts. Some food service operations use these to serve up sauces and appetizers as well.

Hubert 4 1/5 Qt Divided Round Porcelain Chafing Dish Food Pan


Features Include:

  • Dimensions: 3 7/10 4 1/5 Qt
  • Perfect for buffets and catering
  • Porcelain finish

Oval: Oval chafing dishes are also used for main entrees like rectangle chafers but give the dish a most stylish look. These come in different chafing dish sizes to suit your needs.

Vollrath 46504 Oval Food Pan Only, 6 Quart, High Mirror Finish


Features Include:

  • Oval Food Pan Only
  • 6 quart (5.7 L)
  • High mirror finish
  • Heavy-duty 18-8 stainless

Marmite/Soup: Marmite chafers, also known as soup chafers, are used to hold what you think – soup! You can also hold stews, sauces, gravies and other liquids in these.

Thunder Group SLRCF8307 Marmite Chafer, 7 Quart


Features Include:

  • Marmite Chafer
  • 7 quart
  • 13″ dia. x 13-1/2″H
  • Round
  • Welded frame

Square: Square chafing dishes are less common, but still used throughout the food service industry for sides and appetizers. We offer various chafing dish sizes in this style to fit your requirements.

Squared Roll Top Chafer – Black


Features Include:

  • Full-Size Rectangular Chafer
  • Stainless steel construction with a goldtone handle
  • Squared style frame

Coffee Chafer Urn: You’ve seen this chafing dish size before out on the buffet lines, and for good reason – they hold the holy grail of all hot beverages, coffee! You can also use these for other hot beverages such as tea.

Hubert 2.3 gal Stainless Coffee Urn


Features Include:

  • 13 19/50″L x 10 43/100″W x 22″H
  • Single-wall coffee urn
  • Polished finish

Chafing Dish Cover Types

One important factor when determining what type of lid you need to buy is knowing the crowd you’re serving. If you’re having a buffet where customers serve themselves, roll top lids are self-serve friendly and most likely the best chafing dish cover to use. Lift off covers are a better option if your food service operation will be dishing out the food to guests.

Lift Off and Dome Covers: This lid features a handle on top of the lid making it easy to remove completely from the chafer, even while hot. Chafing dishes with lids are essential in catering and other foodservice businesses to keep food hot and ready.

Roll Top Covers: If customers are serving themselves, this is the cover to get! Roll top covers retract completely and it holds itself up. The front handle is easy to use – flip the lid up and locks help keep the lid in place!

Hinged Covers: A hinged lid acts and looks like a lift off lid, but angles it at 45 or 90 degrees. This lessens the hassle of completely removed the lid and stays open for easing serving.

Glass Top Covers: Glass top lids allow you and your customers to see food without lifting the lid. Glass covers allow for heat to stay with the food because people won’t be lifting the lid to see what’s inside. They also create visual interest, and can be used for main and side dishes.

Chafing Dish Sizes

There are three standard sizes of chafing dishes: full-size, half-size and round. Full-size chafing dishes have an 8 to 9 quart capacity, half-size chafers have a 4 to 5 quart capacity and round chafers typically have a 4 to 7 quart capacity.


FAQs about Chafing Dishes

1. What are Chafing Dishes?

Chafing dishes are specialized food service equipment designed to keep hot foods at safe serving temperatures during events such as buffets, banquets, and catering functions. They consist of a pan for holding the food, a heat source, and a cover, which can come in various styles and types, including chafing dishes with lids.

Shop Best Chafing Dishes

2. How Do You Use Chafing Dishes?

Using commercial chafing dishes is quite straightforward. Place a water pan underneath the dish and heat it using a chafer fuel candle, electric source, or induction heating. This water bath gently warms the food, keeping it within the safe temperature range. To learn more about how to use chafing dishes, refer to this comprehensive guide above.


3. What Are the Best Chafing Dishes?

Determining the best chafing dishes depends on your specific needs. Chafing dish sizes and preferences can vary based on factors like the type of food you’ll be serving, the crowd size, and your presentation preferences. Explore different types and chafing dish sizes to find the best chafing dishes that align with your requirements.


4. Where Do You Buy Chafing Dishes?

You can find chafing dishes right here at Central Restaurant Products.


5. How Do You Set Up Chafing Dishes?

Setting up chafing dishes involves placing the chafer fuel candle or heat source beneath the water pan and ensuring it’s properly lit or heated. The food is then placed in the pan, and the cover is placed on top to retain heat. Detailed instructions on how to set up chafing dishes can be found in our guide above.


6. What Are the Types of Chafing Dishes?

Chafing dishes come in various types and styles to suit different serving needs. Some common types include rectangular chafing dishes, round chafing dishes, oval chafing dishes, marmite/soup chafers, square chafing dishes, and coffee chafer urns. Shop our best chafing dishes here.

Shop Central

Central has a wide variety of chafers that will fit your food service operation. If you’re looking for some new chafing dishes or other catering equipment for your restaurant and additional help, call one of our knowledgeable Product Consultants at 800-521-1277 or chat with them live!

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