It can be a daunting task if you do not know how to keep food warm for a party before any guests arrive. You really need to impress your guests, whether they are your friends or your boss. That’s why you need a table full of warm and delicious dishes.
Well, you don’t have to look anywhere else because I have the solutions you will ever need. Do you want to know a good way to warm food? I have a list here. Do you want to know what equipment you will need? I also have a list here.
So let’s not beat around the bush and have a little look, shall we?
Table of Contents
For a party, cold food can sometimes act as a good appetizer. But if you want something that will get the guests pumping, hot food will be a much better choice. Hot dishes can act as a good pick-me-up for the souls.
Aside from soothing people’s minds, many studies have also shown that hot food can be good for your body as well. According to a science journal published by Barry G. Green, heat enhances a person’s own sense of taste, especially with sweet food (1) .
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Hot food is far richer in nutrients compared to cold food. That is because heat will kill off some of the bad bacteria, leaving most of the nutrients intact. By warming up food, you are adding more energy and making your meals easier to digest as well.
Now that you know the advantages of warming up food, let me show you how to do it. Different types of parties will require different methods of keeping food warm.
For example, if you hold a party in a park or a picnic area, you will need to prepare a lot more. On the other hand, a simple house party will need no preparation since you can warm food with the appliances at home.
Here I have already compiled a list of which methods to use for you, have a look:
|Types Of Party||Methods||How Long It Will Keep Warm|
|Outdoor Party||Aluminum Foil|
Cooler With Hot Brick Or Hot Water Bottles
Cook In Large Quantity
|30 minutes |
Brick: 1-2 hours
Water Bottles: An hour
30-45 minutes based on quantity
Double Boiler (Water Bath)
|Does not have a time limit |
Does not have a time limit
Does not have a time limit
Does not have a time limit
Does not have a time limit
Does not have a time limit
If you plan on holding a party in outdoor places like a park, a picnic area, or a hiking trail, you will have to make sure your food stays warm during the whole trip there.
Although that might sound like a challenge, you will be able to serve your guest’s hot food with these tips below:
Aluminum foil was first created in the 1910s as a replacement for tin foil. However, some people nowadays also use the term “tinfoil” to refer to aluminum foil nowadays. Since its creation, aluminum foil has been an essential part of the kitchen as a cooking and preservative tool.
Thanks to its metallic nature, aluminum foil retains heat really well. That is why if you want food to stay hot, you only need to wrap aluminum foil around your food tightly:
Step 1: Put Foods Onto A Tray
You need to transfer food into a large enough dish or tray. A metal surface works best because aluminum will help to retain heat much better.
Step 2: Wrap Them Up Tightly
You can then wrap the food up tightly and make sure to not leave out any openings for heat to escape. The more you wrap, the more heat will stay inside.
Side note: It does not matter if you use the reflective or matte side because heat retention is the same for both.
Alright, you already wrap your food in foil to keep it warm, but what if the trip to your party venue takes too long and the food still gets cold? You will need a portable, light, and easy-to-clean-up heat source. Well, I just have the thing for you and it’s called candle warmers.
Candle warmers are mostly used alongside a food tray to keep food hot at the same time. Despite being called a candle warmer, the fuel is actually from either alcohol or gas instead of wax. The maximum length that candle warmers can keep food warm is around 2 hours.
They are also easy to use as well. Similar to most candles, you need to light up the top, where a wick is visible. The wick is usually made of cotton so it catches fire easily. Once you’re done, put it under your food tray. You might want to bring a lot of candle warmers as backups.
The history of the modern cooler is an unknown one, but people have been using insulated boxes since the 20th century. Coolers are able to keep the temperature inside from changing thanks to a combination of plastic and foam.
But did you know that coolers can also keep the heat in as well? It’s because the same principle of insulation is applied but in reverse. Here’s how:
Step 1: Choose Your Bricks Or Hot Water Bottles
Make sure you choose your bricks that are a little bit smaller than your cooler. The average width of a cooler is around 11 ⅝ inches (295.3 millimeters). You need at least 2 bricks to keep food warm enough.
For water bottles, you need to heat them up until the water is boiling hot. Then, carefully pour the water into a bottle (Protip: If you have a funnel, I highly request you to use it because hot water can be dangerous).
Step 2: Preheat Your Oven To 300ºF/150ºC
Turn on your oven and preheat it to 300ºF (150ºC) for 7 minutes. This step will make sure that the oven is hot enough before you put your bricks in.
This step is not required for the hot water bottles method.
Step 3: Heat Your Brick For 15-20 Minutes
Put your bricks inside of the over for around 15-20 minutes. Make sure to place the oven rack near the broiler so the brick will heat up much better.
This step is not required for the hot water bottles method.
Step 4: Line Your Cooler With Aluminum Foil
While your bricks are being heated up inside of the oven, you can use aluminum foil to line up the inside of the cooler. The step is to ensure that the heat will not escape the cooler
Step 5: Wrap A Towel Around The Brick And Put It Inside A Cooler
After 20 minutes, take the pricks out. Make sure to use a pair of tongs or protective gloves because the bricks will be extremely hot.
After this, you need to wrap the bricks with a towel to protect the inside of the cooler. Place the bricks along the width of the cooler.
If you’re using hot water bottles, there is no need to wrap the bottles. Just place them straight into the cooler.
Side note: This method can combine with the aluminum foil method for maximum heat retention. You wrap food tightly in aluminum foil before putting it in the cooler.
If you want to know more about the cooler warming method, this video tutorial can help you.
If you do not own a cooler, I also have a good replacement for you: a thermal bag. Externally, the thermal carrier bag looks similar to any other bag. However, the bag has an extra padding of cotton and vinyl to make it a lot thicker.
The inside of the thermal bag is usually made with either foil or some sort of protective film. The purpose is to keep the heat or cold inside for much longer.
The thermal bag is basically a portable mini cooler. That’s why it’s very popular in the food delivery industry. The thermal bag comes in various sizes so you can pick one out based on the number of your dishes. Just wrap your food tightly and put it inside the bag.
The thermos is also a portable way to keep food warm for a long period. It’s most suitable for dishes like soup, stew, or even hot drinks.
The original thermos was invented by Sir James Dewar in 1982. The thermos consists of two separate layers, one inside and one outside. In the middle of two layers, the air is sucked out to create a near-vacuum condition. This space in-between the two layers acts as an insulator.
Most modern thermos come in two different types: a lunch box and a bottle. The lunch box will be great for soup while the bottle is suitable for hot drinks. After you are done cooking, just pour the content into the thermos for maximum heat-trapping.
Protip: Make sure to write the names of the dish on the thermos so you can easily find them.
A Quick Tutorial On How To Keep Soup Warm Inside Of A Thermos
Alright, what would you do if you do not have either a cooler, a thermal bag, or a thermos with you? Don’t worry because I also have a solution to this dilemma as well.
Once you start cooking, make sure to turn your heat up a little bit more than what you usually use. For example, if your average cooking temperature is around 160°F (71°C), you can turn it to 175-180°F (79-82°C). This way is to make sure the food is heating up more.
Protip: If the food is boiling too much, turn down the heat and wait a minute before turning it back up again.
Once you are done, the food will be hot enough that when the party starts, you don’t have to worry about reheating everything again.
This last step is perfect if you plan on having a party with a lot of people. You can keep food warm by cooking a lot of it. It’s really simple thanks to something called the “theory of heat transfer”.
According to the theory, heat will move from a hot surface to a cold surface (2) . If that’s the case, you need to increase the number of hot surfaces to slow down the transfer. The “hot surface” here will be the food.
If you cook a lot of food, just make sure to store it in a big container. When you get to the party venue, the food will keep itself warm.
Unlike most outdoor parties, you will have an easier time keeping food warm inside of your house. Most of the kitchen appliances will be able to do this task, even a dishwasher.
That is why I have come up with a list of kitchen appliances that will help you with warming up food. Let’s take a look:
It is one of the oldest and most common kitchen appliances around the world. However, the earliest version of the modern oven first appeared in the 17th, patented by James Sharp.
The oven has many uses, including grilling, baking, and even searing. However, not many people know that an oven can be used to reheat food as well. And I’m here to show you how:
Step 1: Preheat The Oven For 10 Minutes At 200ºF/93ºC
First, you need to preheat the oven in preparation for the food. Ten minutes is usually the perfect time to wait.
Step 2: Put The Foods Inside A Tray
If your food is already in a tray, you only need to put a layer of aluminum foil on top of it to prevent the food from drying out in the oven.
Step 3: Warm The Foods Up For 15-20 Minutes At 160ºF/71ºC
Reduce the heat to around 160ºF/71ºC before putting your food in. You only need to warm it up for 15-20 minutes.
Step 4: Take The Foods Out
Once 15-20 minutes are up, take your food out before putting another batch in. Repeat step three again.
Once you’re done, take off the foil before serving the food to your guests.
This video tutorial has everything you need to know about warming food in an oven.
You may think that I might be joking, but no, the dishwasher can warm up your food. If you ever use this appliance, you know that it has both a cleaning and a drying option.
In 1886, Josephine Cochrane and George Butters invented the first commercially successful dishwasher. Instead of using electricity, people had to use a crank to power this device. Since then, the appliance has kept on evolving into what we know today.
The temperature inside a working dishwasher can reach around 180ºF (82ºC). That’s because a dishwasher needs to ensure that your dish is clean of bacteria. And that’s why it is also perfect to heat food up as well:
Step 1: Wrap The Foods Up In Multiple Foil Layers
First of all, put your food into a tray and wrap it tightly with multiple aluminum foil layers (recommended at three). This will prevent the water from getting into the food, making the food soggy.
Step 2: Put The Foods Inside A Dishwasher Rack
Next, you can put the food on a dishwater rack. The rack has multiple sections so you can place two to three trays at the same time.
Step 3: Close The Door And Set The Timer To 20 minutes
Once everything is inside, activate the dishwasher and choose the normal wash cycle for 20 minutes. If your machine does not have a timer, just pause the dishwasher after 20 minutes.
Step 4: Wait For 5 Minutes Before Taking The Foods Out
After 20 minutes are up, you need to wait 5 minutes before taking the food out. Remember to check if the food is still tightly wrapped.
If you are still doubtful, this video will demonstrate how a dishwasher can heat up food fast.
The microwave is possibly the most useful appliance when it comes to heating up food. It was first introduced to the public in 1946 by an American engineer named Percy Spencer. This device uses something called “electromagnetic radiation” to heat up food.
Thanks to the convenience of the microwave, it was quickly available in many homes. So if you’re still wondering about how to warm up food, this device is for you:
Step 1: Transfer Your Food Into Microwave-Friendly Containers
Since the microwave uses electromagnetic waves to heat up food, metal objects inside it can cause sparks. That’s why you need to put your food in a microwave-safe container. It includes materials such as glass and ceramic.
Step 2: Heat The Food Up For 4 Minutes
After you’re done setting the food onto a tray, put it inside of the microwave and set the timer for 4 minutes.
Step 3: Take Out, Stir A Bit And Continue To Heat For 3 Minutes
Once 4 minutes are up, you can take the food out and stir it for a bit. You need to be careful as the food might be hot. After stirring, put the food back inside and set a 3-minute timer.
Step 4: Take The Food Out
After 3 minutes, the food will be ready to serve to your guests.
Microwave is able to help you reheat food easily and fast too.
This method, also known as Bain-marie, uses heat and steam from the water to warm food up. The actual origin of this method was dated as far back as 400 BC.
The double boiler method is perfect for reheating soup, sauce, or chocolate for dessert. Let me show you how you can do it:
Step 1: Fill A Tray Or Pot Up With Water
For this method to work, you need to prepare the “water bath” component. Find a tray or pot big enough and fill it with water.
Step 2: Putting On Low Heat
The next step is to set the water bath on top of simmering heat. The temperature of the bath should never go over 212°F (100°C), or the boiling point of water.
Step 3: Place The Food On Top Of The Bath
Place your food on top of the bath and begin stirring at a constant pace. If you do it, it will prevent the food from heating up too much and ruining the overall flavor.
Step 4: Take The Food Out After Warming Up
Once the food reaches the necessary temperature, you can take it out of the bath and place the food on a tray.
A closer look at how you can warm food up with this double boiler technique.
Another simple method you can use to heat up food is to keep it in simmering heat for a long period of time. When the party starts, you will not have to worry about serving lukewarm food.
You just need to transfer the food into a pot or a pan. Keep the heat at around 150-160°F (65-71°C) and stir the food constantly to keep the food from boiling too much.
The simmering method is best suited for more liquid dishes such as stew, soup, or pasta sauce. This will ensure the dish can stay warm enough.
An indoor grill is also a good appliance if you want to heat up food really fast. Due to the grill having a high surface temperature at around 250°F (120°C), it’s advisable that you heat up food as fast as possible to prevent burning.
If your grill has both a direct and indirect fire option, put your food on the non-direct side and then use a lid to cover the food. After 1-2 minutes, flip the food before covering for another minute.
This reheating option is perfect for grilled meat or any stir-fried dishes.
I promised at the start that I would be giving you some advice about warming appliances. Most of the products below have different temperature settings and prices so you can pick out what suits your needs the most.
These are also very easy to find so they will help you solve your warm food problem. Well, no more wasting time, so here’s all the products you might be interested:
|Appliances||Minimum Temperature||Maximum Temperature|
|Portable Stove||200°F (93°C)||400°F (204°C)|
|Crock Pot||165°F (74°C)||199°F (93°C)|
|Hot Plate||150°F (65°C)||500°F (260°C)|
|Heat Lamp||120°F (49°C)||200°F (93°C)|
|Warming Tray||150°F (65°C)||175°F (79°C)|
|Heating Pad & Electric Blanket|| |
|Chafing Dish||118°F (47°C)||140°F (60°C)|
The portable stove is definitely one you need if you ever plan on holding a party outside. It’s very light, portable, and does not require many brain cells to set up. After all, it was made as a piece of essential equipment for campers.
Aside from being very portable, the gas stove also provides high heat so you can both warm and cook food at the same time. The maximum for an average stove is around 400°F (204°C).
The portable stove has two variants, electric (called induction) and gas. If your party venue does not have electricity, I would suggest getting a gas stove. The gas canister for the stove is sold separately.
However, since the gas stove uses gas, make sure you store it somewhere with ventilation and remember to take out the gas canister after each use. Don’t reuse depleted canisters.
An Extensive Tutorial On How You Can Use A Portable Stove.
The crockpot is a slow cooker that can cook a dish for a long period of time. Instead of using high heat like many others, the crockpot uses simmering heat to make sure the food is tender and juicy.
The crockpot first gained its popularity in America in the 1940s, with housewives everywhere using it to cook food early in the morning. You can put everything into the pot, go to work and then come home with everything finished.
If you are holding a party at home then the crockpot is such a good investment. Not only will food stay inside of the pot longer, but you also don’t have to worry about burning the food. That’s because the maximum temperature of the crockpot is only 199°F (93°C).
You don’t know how to use a crockpot? Don’t worry and watch this tutorial
Also known as a portable induction stove, the hot plate is a variant of a portable gas stove. But unlike a gas stove, it requires electricity to run. This means you can only use it at house parties, but it’s also somewhat safer compared to a gas stove.
The modern version of a hot plate was introduced during the early 1970s by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation. The plate uses a scientific process called “induction heating” to quickly increase surface temperature (3). The maximum of a hot plate can reach 500°F (260°C).
So if you ever find yourself looking for a portable and reliable stove for parties, the hot plate can be your perfect solution.
If you want to find a warming appliance that seems a bit more professional, then let me introduce to you the heat lamp. This product is widely used by restaurants everywhere to keep their food warm. You only need to plug in to use this product.
The way a heat lamp heats up food is by using infrared light directly on top of the food. That’s why it can also be called an infrared lamp as well. The lamp has a maximum temperature of 200°F (93°C).
In case you want to find a warming tool for your food, getting a heat lamp is a good choice. It’s rather safe and easy to use.
A warming tray is a type of food warmer that most restaurants and hotels use. The warming tray either uses a direct or indirect heat source to warm up the food.
With the direct version, a small gas stove is lit under the tray to provide the heat. On the other hand, the indirect heat version uses steam to warm the food. There has also been an electric version that utilizes induction to heat food up.
One of the best things about the warming tray is that you can warm multiple dishes at the same time, thus saving you a lot of time and money.
A heating pad or an electric blanket acts somewhat similar to an induction stove. They provide a smooth surface to heat up your dish. The temperature is also low enough that it won’t overheat the food.
In the US and Canada, the heating pad was first created as a way to help people relieve tensions in their muscles. However, modern usage also includes warming up food because the pad provides low and constant heat. The pad has a maximum temperature of 180°F (82°C).
On the other hand, an electric blanket is most commonly found in the UK and Commonwealth countries. You can put this blanket under the sheet of most beds. Since it can be heated up, people have been using it to keep their food warm as well.
That’s why, if you want something even more portable than the induction stove then get either a heating pad or an electric blanket.
The chafing dish is another type of food warmer that does not require any electricity, especially the aluminum foil type. The dish is mostly used for catering services that require a reliable and light container.
Similar to the warming tray, the chafing dish has a direct heat option to warm up food for a long period. The aluminum version is very popular with street vendors and party throwers because it can be found in almost any supermarket.
So look no further than the chafing dish in case you throw a party next time and want to find a good food warmer.
You can see this video to know more:
In this section, I will be answering some commonly asked questions related to keeping food warm at a party. After reading this, I hope you will be able to create a great party with warm food:
With most of the techniques and products above, I can assure you that you will not have to worry about your party being badly received. After all, with warm food, good friends, and even a good environment, you and all of your guests will have the best time of their night.
Of course, if you like what you read and want others to know about my helpful tips, please make sure to leave a like, as well as share this on your social media accounts. As always, have a great party, friends!
- ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. 1993. Heat as a Factor in the Perception of Taste, Smell, and Oral Sensation.
- vlab.amrita.edu. 2011. Heat transfer by Conduction.
- gh-ia.com. 2021. The Induction Heating Guide.