The Definitive Chafing Dish Buying Guide

chafing dish rothschild collection

A chafing dish, also known as a chafer, is a serveware piece that is used to keep food at the ideal serving temperature while allowing one to serve themselves easily. Chafing dishes are popular in the catering industry but have recently become common for at home use as well. In this guide, we delve into the variety of chafing dishes, covers, and other necessary information to know when shopping for chafers.

Chafing Dishes Shapes & Sizes


chafing dish folding frame

  • Favored by caterers and food trucks
  • 8-9 quart capacity
  • Ideal for serving entrees but can be used to serve appetizers and side dishes
  • Is the most versatile when pairing steam pans

chafing dish Monarch 8 Qt. Full-Size Stainless Steel

  • Least standard chafing dish shape
  • 4 to 8-quart capacity
  • Typically only used for serving appetizers and sides

chafing dish rothschild 6 quart round

  • Popular among hotels and upscale restaurants
  • 4 to 6-quart capacity
  • Most commonly used for side dishes, sauces, and desserts
  • Provides the evenest heating, as all sides are equidistant from the central heat source

chafing dish oval

  • Elegant and contemporary appearance
  • 4-7 quart capacity
  • Usually used for serving entrees
  • Better serves smaller events due to its 6-quart capacity

Chafing Dish Covers

Lift Off and Dome Covers

chafing dish dome

  • Completely removable from the chafing dish
  • Features a handle located on the top of the lid
  • Most chafers have a cover holder that is built into the unit for convenience
  • Allows for easy storage
Roll Top Cover

chafing dish roll top

  • Built into the chafer, cannot be removed
  • Ideal for buffet displays because customers do not need to hold the lid
  • Usually, has a front handle for easy use
Hinged Cover Hinged Cover

chafing dish hinged cover

  • Offers the look of a lift off unit without the hassle of having to remove and replace the lid completely
  • Double-sided allows customers to open one side at a time when serving themselves

Fuel vs. Electric Chafing Dishes

Gel Chafing Fuel

chafing dish fuel can

  • 2, 4, or 6 hour burn times
  • Strong heating performance
  • Allows for safe use, the flame will not spread if knocked over

chafing dish electric

  • Ideal for outdoor events - especially during windy weather whereas chafing fuels might get blown out
  • Requires access to an electric outlet
  • Commonly used in restaurants/fast food service


  • For optimum utilization, fill the water pan half way with hot water, 140 ℉ or warmer. Chafing dishes are supposed to keep food at its ideal serving temperature, not to cook it.
  • Never put cold food in the pans and heat it up in the chafing dish. 
  • Whenever possible, bake the dish in the steam pan before serving it in the chafing dish for convenience. Most steam pans are oven safe up to 500 ℉.
  • Keep a few 2 hour burn time chafing fuels on hand when the event is unexpectedly extended opposed to wasting another 6 hour burn time chafing fuel.
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