You’ve come across chafing dishes in buffets, restaurants, and all kinds of functions, but probably never had one in your own organized party and you are missing out big time! A good chafing dish (Our top pick for the best chafing dish is Tiger Chef Chafer w/ 3 1/3 pans, buy on Amazon) is an excellent help when organizing any kind of event where you want to serve hot food.
Our top picks from each category
- Overall best chafing dish – Tiger Chef Chafer w/ 3 1/3 pans (buy on Amazon)
- Best electric chafing dish – Oster Buffet Server Warming Tray (buy on Amazon)
- Best large chafing dish – Nova Microdermabrasion chafer (buy on Amazon)
- Best small chafing dish – Cuisinart 7BSR-28 Buffet Server (buy on Amazon)
In this article, we want to share our extensive research (so you don’t need to spend hours doing it yourself) about chafing dishes. We’ll provide you with information on what features to look for in a good chafing dish, our picks for best chafing dishes, and also some helpful information on how to use, set up, and maintain them.
What is a chafing dish?
A chafing dish, also called chafer, is a service plate that is heated by indirect heat from heating fuel, electricity or induction plate. A Chafer is essential in buffets and all kinds of events to keep the food in it warm for, usually, 2-6 hours depending on the heat source.
The name chafing dish or chafer comes from French term chauffer which means to heat up or to warm up and that is exactly what this piece of equipment does.
Chafing dishes are used to make event services easier. They are arranged on the tables so the guests can serve themselves however much they want and whenever they want. Chafers are a great way to make service easier and smoother.
It’s easy to set up, use, and most importantly eliminates the need for a chef/server (most likely You!) to stand by and serve food to your guests. We highly advise picking one up for your next event, party, or a get-together.
Top 10 Best Chafing Dish reviews
Nova Microdermabrasion Stainless Steel 8 quart chafing dish
We are looking at Nova Microdermabrasion two full-sized chafing dishes that are ideal for buffets, hotels, brunches and other catering events.
This chafing dish is what we would call a perfect standard chafer. It does not look very fancy, with no golden trims or nice accessories. However, stainless steel body with a mirror finish looks elegant simple and allows to blend it in any decorations or accessories you have for your event.
A single Nova Dermabrasion chafer is constructed from a stainless steel frame, water pan, full-sized pan, lid, and two fuel holders (which are needed to keep the whole full-sized pan warm). These chafers are sold in sets of 2,4,6, and 8 chafers. If you are looking for a single chafer for a small event these might be too big for you.
The design is really simple yet very convenient. It is easy to set up with just a few parts as mentioned above. The frame has a handle on each side if you need to safely move the chafer during service. Adding to that, the frame can hold the lid in an upright position to have the chafer open so people don’t need to constantly take it off and put it back on.
After your service, the clean chafers can be stacked onto each other saving you space.
Overall, it is an amazing chafing dish because of its high-quality and sturdiness. Simple design and looks allow to use it for any occasion, but since it doesn’t have a split pan we think it’s better for larger events.
Having in mind that it also costs below average Nova Microdermabrasion chafer is the best large chafing dish on our list.
P.S. their customer service is amazing as well!
- Simple elegant look
- Convenient design
- Large size
- Big enough for all kind of meals
- 2 fuel holders keep the whole pan warm
- Sturdy and long-lasting
- Great customer service
- Need to buy a set of at least 2 dishes
- Serving pan not split for multiple dishes
Super Deal Upgraded 5 Quart Stainless Steel chafing dish
SuperDealUSA is an American company based in California that has a variety of products under its name including this 5 quart upgraded stainless steel chafing dish.
SuperDeal Upgraded chafer is a bit bigger than half-sized chafer and is great if you want to have a variety of meals in different chafer for a small or medium-sized party.
This chafing dish is made from corrosion-resistant 18/8 stainless steel. While still being light-weight this heavy commercial grade stainless steel provides long-lasting durability and sturdiness for the chafer.
SuperDeal chafer is constructed from a heavy-duty stand, water pan, food pan, cover, and fuel holder.
The round shape with a mirror finish makes this a very elegant chafing dish. Sturdy broad legs keep it stable on the surface and the handles on the sides allow for safe transportation.
The only disadvantage from the design perspective is that there is no lid holder, meaning guests will have to take it off and on every time they want to serve themselves.
- Sturdy and durable
- Long-lasting heavy-duty 18/8 stainless steel
- Elegant look
- Perfect for small to medium-sized events
- Handles for easy transportation
- No lid holder
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ROVSUN 8 Qt 4 Pack Full Size Stainless Steel Chafing Dishes
Rovsun produces a number of high-quality products in different niches (fridges, blades, dishes). They pride in making long lasting durable equipment. Most of their products seem to have stainless steel, it’s their focus and they do it really well. If you can do something really well put 100% in it!
Obviously their chafing dishes will have heavy-duty upgraded stainless steel. The 2mm food-grade stainless steel is tested to ensure durability and longevity.
The Rovsun chafing dish is a full-sized 8-quart dish that can hold large quantities of food. If you are holding a smaller event or an event where you want to serve a bigger variety of dishes in smaller quantities you need to look for a chafer with split serving pans.
We really loved the engineering of the dish. It has a hollow handle to prevent it from getting too hot and burning your hand if the food in the chafing dish is really hot.
Along with that, there are 2 sturdy hooks that can hold the polished cover while people serve themselves, instead of placing the cover on the tablecloth.
All in all, one of the best chafing dishes for larger events at an affordable price without losing out on quality.
- Sturdy build
- Good quality stainless steel
- Hollow handle to prevent scald
- 2 hooks to hold chafer cover
- Company well know for their quality stainless steel products
- Serving pan not split for multiple dishes
Tiger Chef 8 Quart chafer with 3 1/3 food pans
TigerChef is a kitchen equipment manufacturer from the USA that provides good quality kitchen equipment for a very affordable price.
Their 8-quart chafing dish is excellent for any event because of its versatility. The full-sized pan is divided into 3 1/3 serving pans so you can have different mains or sides in the same chafer.
By the way, you can buy a set that has 2 1/2 sized pans or just 1 regular full-sized pan, and even a set that has fuel and utensils in it.
TigerChef chafing dishes and buffet warmers are made from durable stainless steel. This particular set has a mirror satin finish and is NFS certified.
It is also important to note that it saves quite a lot of space since it has collapsible legs, however, since the collapsible legs are made much thinner steel it might feel a little wobbly until you properly lock then in position.
There are a few more engineering bits that make this chafer a bit superior to others. The cool-touch handle provides safe service even when the food inside is really hot and the 2 hooks in the folding frame will allow to easily hold the cover open for service.
Having good quality stainless steel, great versatility with different size food pans and great engineering while being priced reasonably cheap makes Tigerchef the best overall chafing dish on our list.
- Good quality build
- Cool-touch handle
- 2 hooks in the frame to keep cover open
- Versatile food pan sizes
- Great price
- Folding frame a bit wobbly
Oster Buffet Server Warming Tray
Oster 3 2.5-quart chafer is the best electric chafing dish on our list because it is versatile, perfect for small events or family dinners, and is long-lasting.
This chafing dish has a 20 x 13 inches heating surface that keeps all 3 pans warm up to your liking (there is a knob to set either low or high temperature). The domed glass lids also help retain the temperature and moisture.
We suggest using this electric chafer for smaller events or family occasions since it has multiple smaller food pans to fit mains and sides in the same chafer.
You definitely can use it for larger events, nobody is holding from buying multiple chafers, just make sure you have enough power sources to connect them all.
In addition to having multiple smaller food pans, you can use your own serving dishes. You can take off the food pans and just put your serving dishes on the warming plate.
If you want to move Oster chafer you can do it while it’s on since the sides have heat resistant handles.
- Great for smaller events or family dinners
- Reasonably priced
- Can use your own serving dishes
- 2 temperature settings
- Not very suitable for big events
Cuisinart 7BSR-28 Stainless 11-Inch Round Buffet Server
We definitely had to include the Cuisinart buffet warmer on this list. This 11-inch, 2.5-quart chafer is the best elegant chafing dish on our list for a very affordable price.
The interior and exterior of this chafer are made from 18/10 stainless steel for great looks and durability. The aluminum encapsulated bottom allows for quick and even heat distribution.
Being stainless steel the buffet pan and glass lid are dishwasher safe!
The heating source for Cuisinart buffet warmers is a bit different. You will need to use small candle lights instead of fuel packets like most other chafers.
Another reason why Cuisinart chafer is excellent for small events or just family use is that you can use the pan to cook food in it on a stove, oven, or even induction stovetop and then just transfer it to the frame to keep it warm. This feature makes Cuisinart 7BSR-28 as the best induction chafing dish.
Finally, probably the biggest reason why Cuisinart chafer is the best small chafing dish on our list is because of its looks!
This dish looks so elegant and cute! It will be an eye-catcher in any event.
With all the advantages there are a couple of disadvantages as well. The stainless steel frame is not foldable, therefore it is much sturdier, but takes a lot more storage space, especially if you have a couple of them.
2.5-quart pan is a really small size for almost any event, so most likely you will need to have a few or more of these pans.
- Very sturdy
- Very elegant and good looking
- Pan and lid dishwasher safe
- Can use the pan to cook food
- Great for family or small events
- Takes quite a bit space
- Small pan size
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Winware Madison 8qt Full-size Chafer
The best chafer list would not be complete with a high-end pick like Winware Madison full-sized chafer with rolltop.
This 8-quart buffet warmer has a stainless steel mirror finish cover that rolls 90 degrees for easy service. It’s great to know that Winware Madison properly engineered the rolltop. There are a bunch of holes on each side which, along with tight construction, reducing the residual water when the top is open.
Being a full-sized chafer it is great for small and big events for functions. Having a nice design and mirror finish it looks very elegant.
Having a quite high rolltop it is a big buffet warmer, make sure you have enough space for service and especially storing.
A couple of disadvantages would be that this chafer is pretty heavy and if you are using it for home use you need to have quite a lot of storage space since parts don’t fold or stack.
Other than that, It is priced a bit higher, however, if you want quality, easy use, and awesome looks Winware Madison chafer is the best large chafing dish on our list.
- Great quality
- Very sturdy
- Amazing looks
- Great design
- Rolltop for easy service
- Really heavy
- Needs a lot of storage space
- A bit more expensive
Sterno 70222 24 Piece Disposable Party Chafing Set
We feel like we probably need to have at least one disposable chafing dish on our list as well. Sterno &0222 23 piece kit is a simple, cheap, and easy way to serve food for your event if you don’t want to deal with cleaning or storing chafers afterward.
This buffet warmer set has 3 wire racks, 3 water pans, 6 food pans, 6 cans of Sterno Green Canned Heat, 3 serving spoons and 3 serving forks. The only thing we thought of that this chafer kit is missing is probably just the pan covers.
If you don’t have time, budget, or, honestly, desire to create a fancy buffet this chafer set is a great option as our best disposable chafer.
It will take you just a couple minutes to set everything, fill the pans with food and its ready to serve.
If you are having an event outside it is a great option especially when you are further from home like by the lake or in the woods.
It is quick to set up, however, we need to remember that we also waste quite a lot with disposable items.
- A great option if you don’t have time or budget for better chafers
- Has enough pans for small to medium event
- Has fuel cans included
- Easy to set up and throw away
- No food pan lids
Frequently Asked Questions about chafers
How is a chafing dish constructed?
Chafing dish construction is pretty simple. Almost all chafers have a stand except for electric chafing dishes and induction chafers. Between the stand you will have fuel holder(s) with a damper(s) that heat up the water pan above it.
On top of the water, pan will be your food pan where you will keep your food and obviously a cover to keep the temperature inside.
How does a chafer work?
Chafer keeps the food warm in the pan with the help of heat source heating the water pan. Heated water emits steam that heats the food pan. This is called indirect heating because the heat source itself does not heat the food pan.
The steam heat is not high enough to cook any food in the pan, however, is great to keep food warm for a long time without burning it.
For a quick explanation on how to set up a chafing dish scroll to the bottom of this article.
How to set up a chafing dish
Here are a few tips on how to set up your chafing dishes for your buffet service.
- Make sure to set up your frame where your buffet chafer will be located during the service. This will eliminate the need to carry the whole chafer after it is set up and also is safer.
- Put the chafing fuel holders into their places.
- Put the fuel cans into the holders. Make sure you are using long enough fuel canisters (2,4,6 hour long) to last for your service. Changing fuel cans during service is quite complicated, not too safe and should be avoided if possible.
- Stick the water pan onto the frame and pour hot water (3/4 to and 1 1/2 inch) into the pan.
Be sure to add hot water to the water pan (from a coffee/tea hotpot) prior to use. If you use cold water it might take 10-20 minutes to heat up the water and thus waste time and fuel cans.
- Light up the fuel cans with a stick lighter (buy on Amazon) or a long match stick (buy on Amazon).
- Now we can put the already cooked food in the food pans and put the food pans onto the water pan.
- Put the chafer lid on until your service starts and you are done!
Do chafers dry out food?
Chafers do not dry out food because they are indirectly heated by the water pan below it. The food pan is not scortched by direct heat so it does not get hot, just warm enough to keep food warm.
However, if you keep food in the chafer for a prolonged period of time (6-10 hours), especially with chafer lids being open all the time the moisture escapes or just evaporates.
When you put already cooked food into your chafers usually it will stay fresh and moist (of course depending on the food) for around 2-3 hours.
Food staying longer than that will inevitably start losing moisture slowly.
What chafing fuel should you use?
Honestly, any chafing fuel works either gel or stick fuel. Usually, the main thing you should be worried about is the fuel burn time (usually the cans are 2,4 or 6 hour-long ones) and maybe picking a more environment-friendly ones.
What’s the difference between gel fuel and liquid fuel?
Gel fuel is much thicker than the liquid fuel and usually produces a bit shorter flame than the liquid ones, especially liquid cans with a wick. If you have a chafing dish with a water pan quite high from the fuel can holders you might think about using the liquid fuel.
Some liquid fuel cans might be re-used while gel fuel cannot be resealed.