What is a chafing dish?
A chafing dish is very useful for keeping small amounts of food warm. It consists of a stand, a dish for holding hot water, a dish (or dishes) for holding the food to be kept warm, two fuel holders and a lid. These can be electric or heated using special chafing fuel. Commonly, it is made from stainless steel or polycarbonate, although other materials may be used, including Pyrex (especially for the lid). They are ideal for use when you don't have enough food to be kept warm in a Hostess trolley, thereby saving fuel costs and avoiding the inconvenience of moving a trolley about.
In the EU, chafing dishes are measured in millimetres and a full sized one (325mm x 530mm) is equal to 1 Gastronorm (GN), although sometimes you can buy double sized ones which equal 2 Gastronorms. When choosing the dishes in which to place the food, you need to ensure that the total of the dishes used add up to 1 or 2 Gastronorms, depending on whether your chafing dish is full or double sized. Here is a list of the different sized food dishes which are available:
- 1/1 325 x 530 mm – (Standard dish)
- 1/2 325 x 265 mm
- 1/3 176 x 325 mm
- 1/4 162 x 265 mm
- 1/6 162 x 176 mm
- 1/9 108 x 176 mm
- 2/1 650 x 530 mm - (Double sized dish only)
- 2/3 354 x 325 mm
- 2/4 530 x 162 mm
- 2/8 325 x 132 mm
- 1/12 88 x 162 mm
- 1/18 88 x 108 mm
- 2/24 132 x 132 mm
So for example, you could choose 9 x 1/9 dishes, 4 x 1/4 dishes or a combination of 2 x 1/9, 1 x 1/6 and 2 x 2/3. It doesn't matter so long as they add up exactly to the capacity of your chafing dish. Bear in mind though, that it is advisable to stick to the same make for all your food dishes, because the exact shape of the edging varies between manufacturers.
Chafing fuel is an ethanol based gel in a tin and each tin (which is placed under the water container on the stand) burns for approximately 2 hours.
Please note that unlike a bain-Marie, chafing dishes are not designed for the cooking of food.