Steam table pans go by a variety of monikers: food pans, hotel pans, and are even known by their size like "sixth pan" or "third pan." This intrinsically simple, highly versatile product is ubiquitous in commercial kitchens worldwide. Whether you operate a restaurant, hotel, or you're a caterer who specializes in offsite events, steam table pans are a necessity. Used for prep, serving, transporting food and more, these little devils (actually, they can get pretty big) come in a variety of convenient sizes. Luckily for you, most are standardized to make replacing one easy and hassle free. If you're here, odds are you need steam table pans, and we definitely have plenty of steam table pans from the industry's leading brands like Vollrath, Update International, Winco and more.
Plastic or Stainless Steel Steam Table Pans?
Steam table pans are made in a variety of materials, but the most common are made from stainless steel and plastic. Plastic steam pans are best used for cold tables, however some food pans made by Cambro are designed for high heat applications. These often translucent (polypropylene) steam pans are great for prep items simply for the reason that you can view the contents within the food pan at a quick glance—for example, do your sliced tomatoes need to be drained? With clear steam pans you can adjust as necessary (and perhaps add a perforated pan to your tomato slices).
Though plastic food pans are lighter and less expensive than their metal counterparts, metal is known to maintain temperature better. Not only do metal pans conduct heat better, they can also get cold (like really cold). Stainless steel steam table pans are your best bet for longevity, since stainless steel does not rust and is considered highly durable. Thick metal steam pans are resistant against denting and warping, making them a sturdy long-lasting option, but it'll cost you some more up front too.
Commercial Steam Table Pan Sizes
Steam table pans come in a variety of sizes that you can configure to suit your needs. Though third and sixth sizes of commercial steam pans are highly popular, you may find that full size (also referred to as hotel pans) are commonly used for large banquets and other catered events. Depths also vary for pans, typically ranging anywhere from two to six inches.
For cold tables, you'll want to utilize four-inch deep plastic steam pans. Resist the urge to size up, which could be a threat to your food safety goals. Any food pan higher than six inches affects your cold air circulation, leaving the food at the top of the pan warmer than the food on the bottom (and you can guess where that health inspector is going to stick the thermometer).
Only use metal steam pans or those plastic steam pans rated for high heat in hot steam tables. You may find that you have an extra slot in your steam table pan configuration; in these cases, an empty steam pan is all you need to fill the space and prevent a flow of escaping steam (important to the integrity of your food and the performance of your equipment).