If you frequently host holidays or events, you know it can be a challenge to bring your recipes out at the same time. Not to mention, it’s nearly impossible to keep food at a delicious (and safe) serving temperature, especially if you’re entertaining outdoors or for an entire afternoon. The best warming trays offer a convenient alternative to holding food on the stove or in the oven, are easy to operate, and are large enough to fit your needs. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop for a warming tray.
Warming trays free up precious space in the kitchen if you’re cooking other items, and can be placed anywhere that has access to an outlet. Wherever you plan to keep your warming tray, make sure there’s some clearance around it so it stays out of reach of small hands and isn’t too close to other objects.
For the most versatility, look for a warming tray that’s large enough to hold a standard lasagna pan or several dishes, so you’ll have enough space to serve multiple items, or one large spread. An adjustable temperature dial is also nice to have and will allow you to customize the warmth of your dishes, whether you’re serving a warm dip or reheating soup.
The best warming trays function as more than an extra burner or oven rack. They provide a simple and effective way to serve hot food for hours at a time. Below are the top three picks.
1. The Best Warming Tray
- Cooking surface dimensions: 21 by 16 inches (length by width)
Chefman’s 21-by-16-inch warming tray can hold several dishes or a large casserole, and it’s compatible with a variety of heat-safe materials, including aluminum, glass, stoneware, and stove-top pots and pans. The tray’s tempered glass surface is durable and easy to clean, and its temperature is controlled by an adjustable dial with low, medium, and high settings. A built-in fuse safety feature prevents the Chefman from overheating, so it can be used at all-day events or holidays for stress-free entertaining. It weighs just under 8 pounds, and has two cool-touch, aluminum handles that make it easy to move or transport between rooms.
Helpful review: “Finally; a generous sized hot tray! This warms up quickly and holds two large dinner plates without having any overlap. More than enough room to accommodate smaller plates/bowls at the same time. Plenty of room to handle 2 casserole dishes. And it gets hot enough to keep food hot. Can’t wait to use it when entertaining this holiday season. I already enjoy using it on a daily basis. It looks snazzy too.”
2. The Runner-Up
- Cooking surface dimensions: 25.5 by 14.5 inches (length by width)
Depending on how much versatility you’re looking for in a warming tray, this roomy option from Elite Gourmet can also function as a buffet server. In addition to the 25.5-by-14.5-inch stainless steel warming surface, three removable 2.5-quart stainless steel trays are included for serving different dishes side-by-side. Each tray has its own clear lid with a cutout for a utensil, so guests can serve themselves without making a mess. As a standalone warming tray, the Elite Gourmet can hold several dishes, casseroles, or sauce pans, and it’s controlled by a simple adjustable temperature dial. If you only need a basic warming tray, the Elite Gourmet might be overkill, but it’s a versatile choice for serving and presenting dishes in a uniform, organized manner. One note: In part because of the extra serving dishes, this warming tray is the heaviest on this list and weighs 9.2 pounds.
Helpful review: “Purchased this for a party I was holding at my house. I needed to keep a few dishes warm for a buffet style meal for 14 people. This was exactly what I needed, and actually kept the food much warmer than I expected. I’m looking forward to using it again at thanksgiving! I would definitely purchase this again.”
3. The Best Value: A $30 Warming Tray
- Cooking surface dimensions: 17 by 9.6 inches (length by width)
If you have limited space but need a warming tray that can hold several small dishes or a casserole, Ovente’s 17-by-9.6-inch model is a compact and affordable option. The space-saving design can still hold a 13-by-9-inch lasagna pan, or several smaller pots or dishes, and the stainless steel surface heats evenly via an adjustable dial, whether you choose to gently warm or reheat your recipe. Weighing just under 4 pounds, the Ovente is lightweight and has safety features that make it easy to move, like a ready/on light to let the user know it’s hot, as well as cool-touch handles.
Helpful review: “We throw a lot of parties with a large number of family and friends. Keeping food warm has been a concern and these were perfect. I could fit two aluminum containers on each tray. They heated up quickly and kept our food hot.”