Do you worry about cooked food spoiling if left out too long before being eaten? Or is it just that you don’t like eating something that has turned cold but doesn’t reheat well in the microwave? Maybe you want to finish cooking ahead of your dinner party but struggle to churn out warm food for all your guests? You can solve all these problems if you just get yourself an electric warming tray that keeps the food hot for hours at a time. But which is the best warming tray for food that will suit your needs? We’ve done the research and have picked our favorites based on size.
Also, if you don’t want to serve food in the utensils that you cook your food in, you might want to consider buffet servers that come with warming trays underneath. These have warming pans for food that are heated by warming trays but you can remove the pans and only use the trays whenever you want to serve straight from cooking pots. However, these are more difficult to transport and store and cost more, so you have to decide between them and these warming trays.
If you’re looking for a way to cook and serve warm dips and sauces, then a connected set of small crockpots is what you should look at.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Food Warming Trays
- 2 Chafing Dish Vs Warming Tray
- 3 How to Use Warming Trays
- 4 How to Choose an Electric Warming Tray for Food
- 5 Best Electric Warming Trays for Buffets
- 6 Heating Trays for Parties
- 7 Cordless Warming Tray
Best Food Warming Trays
MyHotMat Connect - 2-Dish Foldable Silicone Warming Tray
Bleu Jamais Electric Food Warmer Plate
Chefman Electric Warming Tray with Adjustable Temperature Control
Chafing Dish Vs Warming Tray
A chafing dish, also known as a buffet server, is very similar to warming trays and pretty much do the same job. The most significant difference between these two appliances is that warming trays are often flat surfaces used to hold pots, pans, dishes, etc. while chafing dishes are food containers that sit on a warming tray, and the food is placed inside the container with a clear lid covering the top.
Chafing dishes are often seen in hotels or buffet lines because the food can be set out on display, staying warm, but without being exposed to the elements that come along with heavy crowds. Warming trays can be used as-is to hold dry canapes at a warm temperature, or they can keep your own dishes of food warm when they’re placed on top.
Both appliances are a great way to keep your dishes warm in all types of settings, and the best quality options are easy to use, easy to clean, and will never burn the bottom of your food.
How to Use Warming Trays
Nothing is worse than bringing a delicious dish to a dinner party and having it go cold right away. Warming trays are used for the sole purpose of keeping cooked food warm for long periods of time, saving you from an uncomfortable conversation.
The appliances are often used for large parties or events where people host a large number of guests and want the food to stay warm throughout the event.
Most of these trays are very versatile and are compatible with just about any cookware out there. Once your food is ready to be served, keep it in the same pot or pan you cooked it in and set it on the food warming tray to keep it at the perfect serving temperature.
If the food is dry hors d’oeuvres, then they can be placed directly on the warming tray surface.
How to Choose an Electric Warming Tray for Food
Before you buy an electric food warmer tray, there are a few things to keep in mind. Most modern models look good enough to be used at the dinner table for parties or even kept permanently on the kitchen counter.
The top is often made of tempered glass or brushed steel that can handle hot dishes being placed directly on it. The rest of the unit is often in a neutral but sleek stainless steel or colored casing that looks good in the kitchen. All surfaces must be easy to clean because nothing can be washed under a tap or in a dishwasher.
When it comes to safety, cool-touch handles are a must for transportation between the kitchen and dining room. The cord should be long enough to reach a power outlet unless the model is a cordless one. Nonslip feet make it safer to use around children.
Lastly, to ensure that the food stays at an ideal temperature whenever it is being served, some of the best food warmers, but not all, will have adjustable temperature controls and preferably a thermostat indicator light to tell you when that temperature is reached.
Now that you know what to look for, please continue on to our warming tray reviews to pick the best one for your needs.
Best Electric Warming Trays for Buffets
Chefmans Electric Warming Trays
Chefmans electric warming trays are a great option when hosting a party or catering an event. These trays are all made with a durable stainless steel frame and utilize a glass top surface to keep your food hot for hours.
The Chefman Electric Warming Tray with Adjustable Temperature Control has a large 21” x 16” glass top surface with a 400 watts power rating, making it perfect for holiday get-togethers or large family events. With its sleek design, you can keep it out without causing an eyesore in your kitchen.
This warming tray is perfect for buffets and would be great for weekend events as it can stay on without any safety concerns for up to 72-hours. If you want food to stay warm for a long time, you can choose a lower temperature setting, while a higher one would be ideal if you have to quickly heat up some appetizers for hungry guests.
The Chefman Compact Glasstop Warming Tray with Adjustable Temperature Control is similar to the one above but is a small warming tray with surface dimensions of 15” x 12” that is ideal for traveling, small events, or home-cooked dinners for two. Its power wattage is 200. This small warming tray keeps food at even temperatures for long periods of time without drying anything out or burning it and you can set the temperature using the dial.
The Chefman Long Electric Warming Plate Heating Element will be the talk of the party. This product is durable and easy to transport with its cool touch handles. Its long and slim design makes it ideal for countertops and provides plenty of space for a few different dishes. It’s also easy to find space for it in storage.
This model is a more energy-efficient silicone heating system model while its maximum power rating is 700 watts. There is no temperature control but is very simple to use. Just an ON/OFF switch is provided and the glass surface temperature will reach a maximum of 260 F before automatically shutting off to prevent overheating. It will again turn on once the temperature drops too low.
NutriChef Portable Electric Food Hot Plate
This warming tray from NutriChef comes in a 22.4 by 6.7 inch size, which is ideal for keeping several dishes warm side by side. The non-stick, heat-tempered glass is suited for almost all types of metal, ceramic, and glass bakeware, and the smooth design without ridges lets you place larger dishes on it easily.
If you’re looking for a sleek and thin warmer to avoid clutter on a buffet table, this hot plate with a tempered glass top helps save space with a small but powerful heating element that reaches up to 203 degrees Fahrenheit. This tray comes with one preset temperature that is enough to keep food hot but not high enough to cook it. The on and off switch is located in the back of the tray, and operation involves a simple toggling of the switch. It’s almost identical to the long and slim Chefmans model above but this slightly lower maximum temperature may be better if you don’t want to risk overheating your food. It is also a much lower power-rated unit at 150 watts.
When you need to transport this warming tray, you won’t need to fuss with potholders because the specially constructed handles stay cool to the touch.
When you use this warming tray, be advised that all food must be in a heat-resistant dish; food should not be placed directly on the warmer. However, if there are any spills, the non-stick glass makes cleanup easy. The tray comes with a 40-inch power cord that can be plugged into a 110V or 120V outlet. It heats up in about 5 minutes and maintains food at a perfectly warm temperature for as long as you need it.
Bleu Jamais Electric Food Warmer Plate
This Bleu Jamais electric food warmer plate is 18.1″ x 9.8″ and a little over 9lbs. It is thin and sleek with a unique design that has a very modern-day look. The product is large enough to keep an entire family dinner as warm as you want, with plenty of space for all your meal options and the versatility to heat food items from 100-250°F. If you are unsure of the best temperature for specific foods, there are eight pre-set options available.
Scroll through the selections and the timer with the touch panel, emphasizing the advanced design of this device.
This food warmer comes with a 5-foot power cable cord, giving you plenty of length when trying to find a convenient place to set it. This makes a big difference; some heating trays for food have smaller cords, not giving you many options for placement and often not having the ability to make it to the kitchen table without an extension cord.
The aluminum body and cool touch handles make transporting the tray simple and heat safe, with only the tempered glass top of the appliance actually getting hot. When the top is ready for warming your items, everything is kept at an even temperature throughout the dish.
MyHotMat Classic 4-Dish and Connect Modular Foldable Silicone Warming Trays
There are two models to consider here. The MyHotMat Classic Foldable Silicone Warming Tray is a fantastic product and one of the most uniquely designed warming tray options we have seen so far.
It has four separate warming trays with two “hot” trays and two “warm” trays, each with its own two-way switch to set the temperature to a low or high setting. You can keep dishes warm all day.
This compact food warmer is made from a silicone material, allowing it to be foldable and easy to manage while still being able to reach 212 degrees for warming and 302 degrees for heating and not affecting the heat-proof body. This product comes in red or gray, allowing you to match it up with your kitchen decor. It weighs 5.5 lbs.
The MyHotMat Connect model is also quite unique and is the only modular warming tray on the market at this time. You can buy one or more double hot mat trays and connect them to each other with the included connector to make a maximum of 5 trays with 10 mats.
Each mat measures 9″ by 9″ and each modular tray weighs about 4 lbs and comes with one power cord and one connector, so you can plug each into a separate power outlet around a party hall or connect them all together and plug the whole thing into a single outlet. So this appliance is versatile, perfect for multiple buffet options, and attractive. It can also fold up perfectly with one tray on top of the other when it is not in use, making storage a breeze.
If you plan on going away this holiday season or looking for a way to keep your BBQ warm right off the grill, traveling with a warming tray has never been easier. These are foldable and very lightweight with built-in cool-touch aluminum handles for easy transportation.
Heating Trays for Parties
These are a bit bigger than the previous models, which makes them better suited for dinner parties.
Broil King NWT Professional Warming Tray
If you want a warming tray on which to directly place food, such as small appetizers, the Broil King warmers may be the best warming trays for you. There are 3 sizes of trays, so you can pick the size that best meets your needs. The trays measure approximately 15 inches in width and 26, 32.5, and 46 inches in length which is large enough for any size of party. The smallest one weighs about 9 pounds for safe and simple transport. The extra large warming tray has a maximum warming power of 600 watts, while the other two are rated at 300 watts.
Its best feature is an adjustable thermostat that ranges from 155 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can set the temperature that’s best for your needs. It heats to the selected temperature and then turns off until it needs to reheat to maintain that temperature.
Food can safely be served directly on the tray, as it’s made from stainless steel that is food safe and easy to clean.
This warming tray comes with cool-touch handles and plastic feet, and the indicator light and adjustable knob are located on the front of the tray for ease of use. The power cord measures 43 inches.
Although this warming tray is energy efficient, it is designed to keep food warm rather than heat up cold food, as a microwave would be much faster for that.
Giantex Electric Warming Tray
The stainless steel construction of the Giantex Electric Warming Tray provides fast heat production as well as easy maintenance. You get three heat options from low, medium, and high, which heats up to 266°F.
It is a very sturdy product and won’t wiggle or wobble around as long as it is set on top of a flat surface. The stainless steel material also creates a scratch and impact-resistant surface as well as an easy-to-clean appliance. Once you are finished using the tray, wipe it down with a soapy washcloth, dry it off and easily stash it away.
This is a go-to for many office lunch buffets, special events, and holidays because it gets warm and stays warm quickly with plenty of space on the 21″ x 16″ top to hold up to two 13 x 9 inch casserole dishes at a time.
Many customers love the fact that the tray warms up enough to re-heat leftovers, requiring less microwaving big dishes. Using this product will make left-over Wednesday easier to prepare.
The Giantex electric warming tray is well constructed and made to last. If taken care of properly, you can pull this product out year after year for holiday gathers and so much more.
Cordless Warming Tray
Cordless warming trays for food are convenient for camping or backyard parties, however, they will usually work for a limited amount of time after being charged.
Salton Cordless Warming Tray
This Salton Cordless Warming Tray is unique on this list because of its cordless design. The four-plate size measures 23.7 by 11.7 inches of warming surface. An 1000-watt power supply heats food in about 8 minutes, according to the manufacturer, and then you can detach the cord for another hour of cordless heat.
This tray is ideal for use at a potluck or gathering; simply heat up the tray in the kitchen for a few minutes and set your dishes on display for an hour with no cord to keep plugged in. You can also leave the tray plugged in if you have a power source close enough. The unit will just cycle on and off to keep the temperature at the right warming level. You can keep it going all day long; great for restaurants and hotels that leave buffet breakfasts and lunches out for long periods of time.
The heating surface is made of stainless steel for even heating and easy cleanup. Be sure to use flat plates and serving dishes to keep food hot rather than warm. The handles are designed to act as elevated feet for the warming tray. The unusual shape of the feet means that this tray is harder to store than completely flat trays, but the design is attractive enough to leave on display when not in use.
This model does not feature an on and off switch; it operates by being plugged in. An indicator light on the front will glow red when it’s plugged in and green when it’s sufficiently heated. Automatic temperature control doesn’t let you control the heat level, but it will protect the tray from getting too hot.