If you're hosting a party and want to serve up a warm meal or some warm snacks you want to work out how to keep them warm for everyone to enjoy.
You don't want to have your food get cold before your guests are able to eat it. Luckily, there are a lot of different ways that you can keep food warm for a party, with or without electricity.
But how exactly do you keep food warm for a party? What are the best techniques to use and what do I recommend?
There are lots of different methods for keeping hot food hot and even great ways put food on display whilst still keep it hot for your guest to enojy.
Depending on what kind of food you're serving, what kind of part you're having, how you want to display it and what tools you have available to you then one or more of the methods below might suit you.
1. Use Aluminum Foil and Towels
One of the simplest and easiest ways to keep food hot at a party is to place the food in a container and wrap it in aluminum foil and then wrap it in a towel.
The container and aluminum foil traps steam, which helps to reduce heat loss, but it's also great at reflecting his radiation. This was a trap heat in your food for longer. Use multiple layers of aluminum foil to get extra insulation.
Wrapping your food in a towel also protects it from heat loss due to conduction. Use 1 to 2 towels to completely wrap your food and this will keep it hotter longer than if you don't use any towels at all.
You can use aluminum foil or towels separately but using it combined tends to get the best results.
When it comes time to serve your food simply take your food out of the towel and foil and serve quickly.
2. Use a Cooler
Well coolers are usually use to keep things cold the insulation in the coolers can actually be used to trap heat inside a cooler keeping your food hot.
When your cooler is full of hot food the insulation stops the heat escaping and so your food stays hot for longer.
I would still recommend you wrap your food in aluminum foil and maybe even consider adding some hot water bottles or hot bricks to your cooler to keep your food even hotter, but we'll talk more about those in a bit.
Also it's a good idea to get rid of any empty air space in your cooler and this will cool down your food. Fill this empty space with towels.
You do need to be careful not to melt the plastic in your cooler. Click here to learn how to effectively use a cooler to keep things hot.
When it comes time to serve your food get it out of the cooler and your guests will be enjoying a hot meal.
3. Keep In The Oven On Low
If your party is happening inside and you have access to an oven then placing that oven on low and leaving your food inside can be a great way to keep it warm.
You want to make sure that your oven is set to 140°F (60ºC) or higher as this will stop any bacteria growth from happening and you can leave the food in there safely for hours at a time.
It's also a good idea to put some aluminum foil over the top of your food while it sits in the oven. This will stop moisture escaping and your food drying out.
If you don't have access to an oven or electricity don't worry there are lots of ways to keep food hot without electricity.
4. Chafing Dishes
Chafing dishes are a great way to keep food warm at a party because they can be used to actively heat the food even without electricity.
They are usually made from stainless steel pans that you put your food in. The food then sits on top of another stainless steel pan that is filled shallowly with hot water.
You then use chafing fuel containers which are lit underneath and the fire keeps the water hot which in turn keeps your food hot without burning it or over cooking it.
Chafing fuel containers usually last around six hours or more which is generally more than enough time to keep your food warm at a party.
Chafing dishes don't have to be expensive either. They start as low as $30-$50 and the chafing fuel canisters are also extremely affordable.
5. Use a Slow Cooker
Slow cookers are designed to use a low level of heat to either cook food or to keep it warm for an extended period of time.
Slow cookers will keep your food hot without drying it out as the lid is designed to trap in most moisture.
Slow cookers will also keep your food above 140°F (60ºC) which is the safe zone we are bacteria is unable to grow.
So you can leave your party food in a slow cooker for hours at a time without having to worry about it going off.
6. Store Food In a Thermal Cooker
A thermal cooker is usually designed to slow cook meals without any electricity but it can also be used to keep food hot on the go.
It works in the same way as a thermos, using vacuum insulation to trap heat inside keeping your food hot.
The benefit of a thermal cooker over a thermos is they are so much larger so you can store full meals in there. Plus the extra thermal mass of larger meals means they can stay hot for hours and hours at a time.
If food is starting out around boiling temperature then a thermal cooker can keep it hot for up to eight hours or even longer.
6. Use The Grill/BBQ
If you're having a backyard party and you want to keep some food hot you may want to consider using your grill/barbecue.
Place your dishes inside the barbecue in foil trays or oven proof containers and turn on one of the side burners on low and close the lid of your grill.
You don't want to have your food directly under the burner as this can overcook it. But the burner will keep the inside of the grill hot much like an oven would and will keep your food hot in the process.
7. Use (or Create) a Double Boiler
For more delicate dishes like mashed potato all gravy a double boiler can be a great way to keep that food warm at a party.
You can purchase double boilers or you can makeshift them your self with a pot full of boiling water and another stainless steel bowl or pot on top.
Fill up the bottom pot with water and put your stove on low and the hot water underneath will keep the food on top warm.
8. Use an Insulated Thermos
For small amounts of food at a party or if you're bringing food your self to a party then an insulated thermos can be a good way to keep little bits of food warm.
9. Trap The Steam
You may not realize it but one of the major ways that heat escapes your food is through the steam that comes out of it.
Steam is escaping water vapor but as the water vapor escapes it takes a lot of heat with it cooling down your food quite quickly.
Bites trapping the steam using containers or using something like aluminum foil you can help to keep your food hotter for longer at your parties.
Just take off the lid when it's time to serve the food.
10. Use Hot Water Bottles or Hot Bricks
Hot water bottles or hot brakes are a great way to add external thermal mass to keep your food hot.
This means you don't just have to rely on the heat that is in the food you've got an external heat source
You can add these into a cooler to keep your food hot or you can even put down hot bricks on a table and put your serving tray on top of them.
11. Pre-Heat Your Cooler
If you're trying to keep food warm in your cooler it can often be a good idea to preheat your cooler. This is especially true if you have a high-end cooler like a Yeti.
The thick insulation can absorb a lot of heat so if you're putting hot food into a cold cooler it will quickly take the heat away from your food.
To preheat your cooler fill it up with warm water from the tap and leave for 30 to 60 minutes before discarding the water.
This will allow enough time for the insulation to absorb the majority of the heat and when you put your hot food in it will help to keep it warm for longer.
However, don't put boiling water in your cooler as you can melt the plastic.
12. Start With The Food Extra Hot
When making hot food for a party remember that the food is going to cool down a bit between when you cook it and when you serve it.
Instead of making it to the perfect eating temperature it can be a good idea to make the food extra hot. Too hot to eat even.
It's OK that it's too hot at first because over time it's going to cool down and ideally it'll still be a nice hot temperature when it comes time to serving it at your party.
13. Use a Heating Pad or Electric Blanket
For white food like bread that isn't very good at keeping its self hot consider using a heating pad or electric blanket to provide an external heat source.
Who doesn't love warm rolls at a party?
In fact you could use an electric blanket for all of the meals at your party to keep them all hot for longer.
14. Use Your Dishwasher
Well this is a bit of a strange suggestion it can actually work quite well.
If you've ever open the dishwasher at the end of a cycle and had that heat blow out into your face you know what I'm talking about.
Some dishwashers allow you to do just a drying cycle without actually a washing cycle.
Dishwashers have their own heating elements and the inside can get quite hot.
It's kind of similar to keeping your food in the oven when the oven is on low.
This is definitely something you should test first because the last thing you want is to have your cooking completely ruined when the dishwasher accidentally soaks everything.
15. Reheat Food As You Need It
Lastly, rather than trying to keep food hot at a party why not create food that you can store cold and reheat it as you need it.
This might mean pre-cooked foods that you can place in the oven on low so it warms up ready for your guests when they arrive.
Or it could be food that you can warm up in the microwave or guests could individually warm up their own food if required.