Chafing dishes, also known as chafers, are an important tool for buffets. They make it easy for food businesses to offer customers large amounts of food for taking at their own leisure, with a minimal number of employees constantly dealing with serving the food, and without sacrificing on temperature. Caterers and hotel buffets may be the biggest users of chafers, but even restaurants and college dining services offering catering for special events may choose to use chafers for convenience. Whereas service counters in venues with permanent buffet stations have a more permanent and usually less fancy feel, chafers can be set up in any location to give the buffet service a higher-class feel. Though well-maintained chafers can give events a classy vibe, without proper care chafers can be irreversibly damaged. Since appearance is one of the most defining factors in diners’ perceptions of events, having attractive chafers can help create good reputation for the food preparation services by making the event feel classy and clean.
The Dos of Caring for Chafers
Do purchase good quality chafers, which will generally look better and last longer than cheap alternatives. Good quality chafers are made with materials which require minimal maintenance, or can be aesthetically rejuvenated with simple maintenance, and are resilient to rough use over time. The quality of a chafer is not based solely on the type of material, rather also the quality of the material. Even stainless steel chafers come in different qualities. Therefore, before purchasing chafing dishes, it is recommended that businesses read reviews about the product to ensure satisfaction.
Do make sure your chafer has water in the water-bath section at all times. Lack of water can lead to burnt food and ruined chafers. To estimate the water level quickly, lift the pan and listen for a boil or sizzle, which are both signs that the water level is too low. This recommendation applies to bain marie style chafers. If an induction chafer is being used, cooks should occasionally check to make sure the temperature is not set too high in order to prevent food from getting burned.
Do stir food when it is in the chafer to prevent it from sticking to the bottom and/or getting burnt. If diners and cooks need to fight with the food to get it out of the chafer, there is a higher chance of the chafer getting scratched by spatulas and other food serving tools. Stirring the food will also help ensure even heating, since the heat source of the chafer is usually on the bottom and sides.
The Don’ts of Caring for Chafers
Don’t leave chafers unattended for a long period of time. Being attentive will help prevent unhappy customers with cold food after the heating element has burned out. It will also prevent burnt chafers and food. Keeping an eye on the chafing dishes can also ensure that staff is aware when it is time to refill them. Making sure that there is a constant supply of food can help buffet services run smoothly during large events.
Don’t let your chafers become tarnished. Not only will this lower the level of food service at the event aesthetically, it will also damage the heat transfer to the food. Cleaning the chafer and keeping it dry when not in use will prevent tarnishing for the most part. Some types of chafers, such as those which are plated with gold and silver, may occasionally require some extra attention for polishing to ensure that they keep their shine.
Don’t let chafing dishes wear out their welcome. It is important to be willing to retire chafers which no longer distribute heat well and which are unfit for presentation. These retirees can be used to keep food warm in the kitchen, where cooks can keep a constant eye on the food to prevent burning and where diners’ experiences at the event will not be influenced negatively.
Chafing dishes make buffets possible without sacrificing on hot food. They provide food businesses with a way to provide a lot of food, without the need for staff to be constantly working on that specific dish. However, chafing dishes must be maintained in order to function properly. Properly functioning chafers will minimize the risk of food getting burned, or the chafing dish getting ruined. The appearance of chafers is important to the food service as well, helping mold diners’ impressions of the catering service. By following the dos and don’ts listed above, food businesses can help ensure that their chafing dishes are kept functioning and looking like they should.
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