It’s time to host a dinner party but you dread the work it takes to bring out hot food to every single guest. It’s not quite the enjoyable evening that you’d like to have if you have to keep running back and forth between the kitchen and table. That’s why with the help of the best buffet server and warming tray you can cook the food, place it all in servers that are kept at a constant low temperature so that the food is kept warm throughout the party. With this buffet style, anyone can eat at any time and they won’t have to eat anything that has turned cold because it has been sitting out for too long.
The most practical kind of buffet server for home use is an electric one because it’s safe to use anywhere. Buffet food warmers usually come with 2 or 3 serving dishes in a row, each with its own lids. They sit on a base that’s plugged in and heated and when the party is over, they are removable from the base for easy cleaning. The base doubles as a warming tray that can be used separately if you only have an hors deouvres party and need to keep the canapes warm. If you prefer to use your own serving dishes, then consider getting just an electric warming tray, which will cost less and take up less storage space.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Choose the Best Buffet Food Warmer for Parties
- 2 How to Use a Buffet Server Warming Tray
- 3 Best Food Warmers for a Buffet
- 3.1 Oster Buffet Server Warming Tray
- 3.2 Elite Gourmet Elite Platinum Maxi-Matic 7.5 Quart Triple Buffet Server
- 3.3 Proctor Silex Server & Food Buffets Food Warmer
- 3.4 Chefman Electric Buffet Server + Warming Tray
- 3.5 Nutrichef Electric Slow Cooker and Crock Pot Food Warmer
- 3.6 Betty Crocker Buffet Server and Warming Tray
- 4 Mini Buffet Server and Warming Tray
Elite Gourmet Elite Platinum Maxi-Matic Triple Buffet Server
Oster Buffet Server Warming Tray
Budget mini warmer
Ovente Electric Triple Buffet Server & Food Warmer Station
How to Choose the Best Buffet Food Warmer for Parties
Just ensure that the electric cord is long enough to reach whichever plug point you intend to use. While you want to have individual buffet pans that are big enough to hold an adequate amount of food, the entire buffet server with warming tray should be compact enough that it doesn’t take up all the space on the table.
It’s best if you have the ability to set the desired temperature of the heated buffet servers using a dial. A few warming trays for buffets are powerful enough to allow you to reheat food straight from the fridge and then keep it warm once it has reached a safe-to-eat temperature. An indicator light to let you know when the power is on is useful.
While the warming tray is best for keeping hot canapes warm and fresh throughout, some models feature a tray that can also be used to make breakfast items like pancakes, so it’s not just an appliance that gets used for parties.
Now that you know what kind of warming plates for buffets you can get on the market, let’s take a look at the ones that are most highly rated by customers. These food warmers for parties are lifesavers!
How to Use a Buffet Server Warming Tray
Although the exact instructions for using a buffet server warming tray differ from product to product, most have the same basic design. Begin by plugging in the warming tray, turning it on, and then selecting the ideal temperature range. While the warming tray is heating up, cook your food.
Once the food is finished, place it inside the buffet server warming tray to stay warm for up to 8 hours. Note that you shouldn’t really keep food out for longer than 3-5 hours, as it will start to dry out and may even start to spoil if all the food isn’t kept at the right temperature.
If you need the party food warmer only for keeping canapes warm, you may be able to remove the warming pans and only use the warming tray to place the canapes directly on.
After you’re finished using the tray and servers, remove the food and allow each compartment to cool completely. After it is completely cooled, clean it out and let it air dry before boxing it back up for storage.
Do you Put Water in a Buffet Warmer?
Some buffet warmers require you to put a little water underneath the warming pans in order to quicken the heating process and prevent the food from drying out. Not all buffet warmers will require this step, though, and there may not be any space for it anyway. Only some models require you to put water inside the water pan, such as in chafing dishes. Read the instructions to your buffet warmer to learn if it requires water.
Can you Cook on a Buffet Warmer?
Most buffet warmers are not designed to cook food. Instead, they stay at relatively low temperatures to keep already heated food warm without over-drying it. If you try to cook on most buffet warmers, your food will not reach a high enough temperature to fully cook through. The only exception is buffet warmers that can double as slow cookers.
Best Food Warmers for a Buffet
Oster Buffet Server Warming Tray
The Oster CKSTBSTW00 is a warming tray that comes with three separate serving pans, which makes it more than adequate to host or entertain your friends. Each of the pans are made from a durable, stainless steel surface that will retain the heat and help keep your dishes warm for a longer period of time.
Each pan of this electric chafing dish holds 2.5 quarts of food, which is adequate for large family gatherings. It will not be able to heat your food, but it can keep it warm for as long as you need. An added benefit is that the buffet pans are oven-safe, so you can cook a dish in the oven and transfer it straight away to the buffet server to keep warm. No need to use extra baking pans! The base of the serving tray, which is 20 inches by 13 inches, also doubles as a stand-alone warmer that can be used for side dishes or smaller items that need to be kept warm.
The lids are designed in the shape of a dome, which helps to keep the heat and the moisture inside the dish. The lid also has indented handles that make it easy to grab. The handles on the actual warmer feature a stay cool design as well so that you do not burn yourself.
This buffet server utilizes 300 watts of power, and it has a high and low setting so that you can adjust the heat. Unfortunately, there is not an on and off switch, so if you need to turn off the heat, simply unplug the three-foot power cord. There is a large power indicator on the front of the device, so you can easily see when it is powered on.
Elite Gourmet Elite Platinum Maxi-Matic 7.5 Quart Triple Buffet Server
The Elite Gourmet Elite Platinum Maxi-Matic Triple Buffet Server just may be the best chafing dish for home use and can be broken down into three different functional units of food warmers for parties. The first is the base, which is 25 inches by 14.5 inches. It can be used as a warming tray if you’d like; in fact, it is perfect for keeping finger foods or even your own serving dishes warm for your guests.
The second aspect of the device is the large stainless steel pan that is able to hold 7.5 quarts of food. It is an oven-safe container, and it has silicone handles to protect your hands from the heat. The base also has the same type of handles, which gives you an easy way to carry the entire warmer.
The last part of the device is the three stainless steel individual 2.5 quart trays with a non-stick enamel coating. These sit inside the larger pan and you can insert one, two or all three of the trays into the pan. For example, you can insert one buffet tray filled with a side dish into one end of the pan, and fill the rest of the pan with the main dish. You set the entire pan on the warming tray. This way, you can have 2.5 quarts of one dish and 5 quarts of another dish kept nice and warm.
The buffet tray domed lids are plastic and there are little cutouts in them so that you have a place to put your spoons.
Insofar as power, using 200 watts of energy, you can adjust the temperature with the small knob on the front of the warmer. It has an off, a low, a medium, and a high setting that you can use, and when the device is turned on, there is an indicator light next to the control knob.
While the large serving pan can go in an oven up to 350 degrees, the individual buffet trays are not oven-proof.
Proctor Silex Server & Food Buffets Food Warmer
One of the best food warmers for a buffet is the Proctor Silex Server & Food Buffet Warmer. The product comes with three 2.2-quart stainless steel chafing dishes, and two of them are oven-safe. This allows you to serve up to three dishes and even cook two of the items inside the provided dishes.
What allows this food warmer to stand out from the rest is that it is highly convenient. For example, the fact that two of the three dishes are oven safe means that you can cook the items inside the same dishes they are served in, thus cutting down the number of dishes you have to clean.
Something else that is convenient about this food warmer is that it is easy to clean. The stainless steel pans are all easily removed from the warming tray and are dishwasher safe. Although the lids are not dishwasher safe, they are easy to wipe down.
The last convenient feature of the Procter Silex Silver & Food Buffets is the lid rests. The lid rests allow you to place the lids upward so that you can have a contact-less serve. Unfortunately, there are a few complaints that these lids did not come with the purchase, but most users reported the addition. This seems to suggest some sort of quality control issue.
All around, the Procter Silex Silver & Food Buffets is a highly convenient product that will keep your food warm without causing a hassle. Whether you already have too many dishes to wash or are worried about your guests having to pick up the lid, this warmer makes the entire process easy.
Chefman Electric Buffet Server + Warming Tray
The Chefman Electric Buffet Server + Warming Tray is a fantastic product for keeping a lot of food warm at once. With a 14 X 14 inch hot plate surface, you can heat multiple appetizers, side dishes, and/or main dishes with ease.
The product itself comes with three warming pans. Two have a 1.2-quart capacity, whereas the other has a 2.5-quart capacity. The 2.5-quart pan is perfect for main dishes or sides that require a bit more space than the other two pans.
Better yet, you can actually use your own bakeware in this buffet server if you prefer. As long as your bakeware is heat safe, you can simply remove the pans that come with the tray and place your own over the heating surface. This allows you to minimize the number of pots and pans needed to be washed.
Surprisingly, this excellent warming tray can get hot enough to cook some appetizers, specifically those that are liquid-based. All the while, it comes with numerous safety features, such as cool-touch handles, to ensure no accidents happen. Of course, you can always keep the product at a lower temperature for warming purposes only.
There are a few drawbacks to be aware of. For starters, numerous customers complain that there is virtually no customer support. Another common complaint is that this serving tray is not as large as some others. If you need a product for large gatherings, you might want to carefully consider the dimensions before purchase.
As long as you are only using this product to serve three to five people and are gentle with it, you’ll more than likely be happy with the purchase.
Nutrichef Electric Slow Cooker and Crock Pot Food Warmer
Unlike most other food warmers, the Nutrichef Electric Slow Cooker and Food Warmer allows you to cook food and keep it warm, all in the same dish. How it works is that it is technically a slow cooker, with both cooking and warming features. Each cooker can separately go up to a maximum temperature of 210 °Fahrenheit at a power rating of 360 watts.
According to customer reviews, this product is great at both cooking and warming. Though some users were afraid that it would be better at one function than the other, they were happy to report that the slow cooker did a great job at both.
Instead of worrying about dirtying up all the dishes in your pantry, you can cook and serve some of your food all in this product. Not only does this lead to fewer dishes to clean, but you don’t have to worry about accidentally spilling any of the food during the transfer process.
Unlike most slow cookers, the size of this model is perfect for transportation too. It has two removable 2.6-quart ceramic pots with glass lids, making them the perfect size for cooking and traveling with your food. In other words, this is the perfect product for soup on a cold day or travel cooker at your next get-together. If you’re more interested in a small crock pot warming server only for dips and fondues, we have a selection of those too.
As for drawbacks, there are a few complaints that the model is not the most durable, but these complaints are not reported frequently. Needless to say, just remember to be gentle with your Nutrichef Electric Slow Cooker and Food Warmer and it will likely exceed your expectations.
Betty Crocker Buffet Server and Warming Tray
Betty Crocker is a name that is familiar to most kitchens, and the Betty Crocker buffet server is a stainless steel warming tray that is perfect for your hosting needs. It is a 3 section buffet server warming tray, each with a 2.5 quart capacity, which is why it is the perfect size for most family gatherings. The bottom portion of the device or the warming tray is about 27 by 16.3 inches.
These pans are not designed to cook your food nor to warm up food from the fridge. They are not oven-safe. They are meant for keeping already hot food warm. However, they are dishwasher safe, which makes them really simple to clean. The lids should be washed by hand.
The plastic lids are designed to be see-through so that you can see what quantity of food is left in the tray. These lids are designed with a slot for the spoon so that you can conveniently keep the spoons in the trays. The handles on the lids and the warmer tray are cool to the touch to prevent burns from occurring, and there is even a way to stand the lids upright by the side of the trays so that they can simply be lifted from the food rather than completely removed.
On the front of the warmer, there is a red indicator light to let you know when the device is in use, and there is an adjustable temperature control knob directly next to the indicator, which lets you set it to a range between Low, Medium and High. You cannot set a timer but the unit will shut off after three hours if left plugged in. You can restart the automatic timer by unplugging and plugging it back in to reactivate it. In the event you forget to turn the unit off, this fuse safety feature will prevent an accidental fire from happening.
Mini Buffet Server and Warming Tray
Ovente Electric Triple Buffet Server & Food Warmer Station
If you are on a budget, you may like the Ovente Electric Triple Buffet Server & Food Warmer Station. In comparison to the other top food warmers on this list, this one is notably cheaper because it’s meant for fewer people, but it still offers great warming capabilities and features to ensure you have the most convenient eating experience.
The product comes with three 1.5-quart pans. This capacity is ideal for families and small parties. All three pans are powered with 200 watts, which is just the right amount of power for keeping food warm to hot. You can adjust the temperature minutely via the control dial, although the range is quite small. The LED indicator light doesn’t stay on the whole time it’s on but turns off when the desired temperature is reached.
Despite being highly affordable, the Ovente Triple Buffet Server is surprisingly durable too and is the best buffet warmer for a small gathering. The manufacturers themselves claim that durability is the main feature of this model, and most customers report the same. Given that durability is a problem for many warmers, this is a major plus, especially for a budget find.
The biggest drawback of this warmer is its heat function. When you turn it on and set the temperature, it quickly gets very hot and stays that way for a while before lowering to a constant temperature for warming. This could burn the bottom of your food if you’re not careful but won’t be a problem if you wait for a few minutes before adding food to the pans.
Likewise, the temperature between warm and hot does not have a large range, which means you need to pay attention to your food more carefully, or else your food could easily dry out before everyone has had a chance to eat.
If you are careful in how you use this product, the Ovente Food Warmer Station makes a great budget buy, nevertheless.
NutriChef Food Warmer Buffet Server Warming Tray Hot Plate
Next, we will be looking at the NutriChef Food Warmer and Buffet Server. It is an appliance that is designed to serve two purposes. The first utilizes the stainless steel base, which serves as a hot plate that can be used to reheat your dry food items. The best part is that this stainless steel material gives you a professional look that is easy to clean.
It has a maximum temperature of 175 degrees, so it is not going to quickly sear your steak tips or crisp your chicken, but it can be used to saute veggies or fry up some eggs quickly. However, we would suggest an electric griddle with a warming tray for that.
The second part of this device is the buffet warmer, which is separated into three trays that hold 3.5 quarts total. This is more than enough space to feed a large family; in fact, the tray is about 25 inches by 15 inches and can easily hold one large pan of your own if you don’t want to use the 3 pans that this model comes with.
The lids are clear so that you can see into the warmer to make sure that the food is not drying out too much under the heat. In addition, the lid has an indented top so that you can lift the lid off with ease. If you want to adjust the heat of the warmer, there is a temperature knob on the right side of the base that lets you go progressively from a low to high temperature and back. Unfortunately, there is not a power switch with this model, so if you need to determine whether the heating element is on, there is a red indicator light.
MegaChef MC-1103 Round Triple 1.5 Quart Slow Cooker and Buffet Server
The MegaChef MC-1103 Triple Slow Cooker and Buffet Server really is a one-of-a-kind product. It is most similar to the slow cooker option mentioned above. The main difference is that each pot comes with its own control nob, allowing you to change the temperature depending on the food being cooked.
This buffet cooker is circular instead of square. Inside the circle, there are three pots, each having a 2-quart capacity. Every pot functions as both a slow cooker and a warmer. Just as the above slow cooker and warmer duo, the design of this model means that you can cook and serve the food in the same dish, thus requiring fewer dishes.
At the same time, the fact that each pot comes with its own control knobs means that your food is cooked to perfection, but they’re not labeled to their corresponding pots. This feature may come in handy if one dish has to cook for an hour longer than another or some other similar scenario. There’s a lid holder in the center, however, it’s not the easiest to use.
Despite these drawbacks, the MegaChef MC-1103 Round Triple 1.5 Quart Slow Cooker and Buffet Server is a great purchase if you want a highly usable slow cooker and warmer duo. Its individual knobs and large capacity make it perfect for just about any get-together.