This term Food Warmer is somewhat of a misnomer. Why do we make this statement? Generally food warmers do not heat up food, they are intended to keep food warm. If they do heat up food, they are referred to as a re-thermalizer. That said, the rule is hot to hot, or hot food going into the warmer to keep it warm. When making a selection of a Counter Food Warmer, one should pay attention to the wattage or kW, for the higher the wattage the faster recovery in terms of heat.
Many food operators opt for free standing Hot Food Tables, which is essentially a food warming well that is in a cabinet from two to five wells. This type of Hot Food Table is much more expensive to purchase and are somewhat inflexible. Why is it inflexible? From our experience, we find that when hot food wells are required, once the food warming cabinet is placed, there is no way anyone can relocate the cabinet due to its size. What happens if landing space is required on the left or right side? What happens if you make a menu change and a hot food warmer is needed for another area? The point is that it is very difficult to determine how the flow of production will go. That is when the Counter Food Warmer is a very good choice. The operator can move them around without creating havoc within the chef’s area; the trick to this is having electrical receptacles in strategic areas.
The food warmer (also known as a food well) can be operated wet or dry. When using the dry method, one needs to keep in mind that the temperature can rise to 450 degrees, which can burn your food product, therefore most tend to operate the warmers with water in the food well or the wet method. The wet method should have a 1/8” to 1/4” level of water in the well. The heat from the food well will heat the water and create hot water vapor that will rise and surround the food pan. This method will assure that the food will not scorch because water, at its hottest point, is 212 degrees. The issue at hand is to make sure that your kitchen staff does not put high levels of water within the well because it will take a very long time to heat up. So with very little water one can achieve their goal. This is something that must be taught, and one must know that water will need to be replenished within the well, otherwise the food will go dry.