Food Holding Equipment – When and What to Use

Food Holding Equipment – When and What to Use


Whether you are catering an event and need to prep and keep lot of food warm for a long period of time, you are frying fries and need to keep them warm and hold their crispness for ample time, or you need a solution for keeping your to-go orders in prime condition before they reach customers, food holding equipment is essential.

The list of food holding equipment is vast.  In this post we will talk about a select few and the benefits to each.

Holding Cabinets

Holding cabinets allow you to prepare food in advance and hold it at a certain temperature until you are ready to serve.  Caterers, or establishments who prefer to prepare food in the afternoon for the dinner rush would greatly benefit with holding cabinets. Holding cabinets come insulated or without insulation.  The non-insulated cabinets are a lower investment, but will affect the temperature in your kitchen, while insulated, though a higher price point, will not affect the kitchen temperature. Insulated cabinets also heat up faster and use less energy. There are a variety of holding cabinets on the market today. Features such as temperature and humidity control, portable, or stationary just scratch the surface on available options.  Hatco, as well as Metro, offer an array of holding cabinets. Remember to never use holding equipment to reheat food and to check internal food temperatures every two hours.


Food warmers are a lot smaller than holding cabinets and are used for a variety of things – from soup to fried food, they are becoming more and more of a necessary item.  Drawer warmers work well for dinner rolls, baked potatoes, or tortilla chips, just to name a few. They come in a variety of sizes and drawer counts.  Warmers also include items such as Counter-Top Crisp ‘N Hold fried food holders, which circulate air around the food to hold the temperature, along with keeping it crisp. Items such as fries and chicken fingers are great foods for this product.  Heated display cases or pass and go countertop warmers are ideal for convenience stores or grab-and-go solutions.  When using warmers, it’s important to note that containers should be covered to maintain food temperatures and moisture, unless you are holding crispy foods. Those should be uncovered and not stacked.

Serving Lines

Serving lines are found in a variety of spaces and are very flexible.  They can be used in school cafeterias, senior living facilities, grocery stores, deli counters, the list is endless. Serving lines can be configured to meet your needs and can include equipment such as steam tables, cold stations, and hot food tables.  Available in different sizes, they allow you to expand your menu while increasing storage and cooking capacity to improve productivity and efficiency. The Delfield company makes refrigerated, heated, and combination serving counters with some offering customizable colors and graphics, making them fit right into your design aesthetics.

Heat Lamps and Plate Warmers

Heat lamps are pretty standard in buffet lines, food stations, and quick-serve restaurants.  They are used to keep food warm and at ideal serving temperature for a period of time.  These should not replace holding cabinets and heated food wells, as they are not made to keep the food at ideal taste, texture, and appearance for long periods of time.  Plate warmers are used to keep plates at the perfect serving temperature and ensuring the food stays hotter for longer.

Cold Holding Cabinets

Keeping some food cold is as equally important as keeping it warm. Equipment such as refrigerated display cases or reach-in coolers are ideal for salads, cold sandwiches and bottled beverages in places such as convenience stores, coffee shops, or a front of house situations that have a grab and go area. 

Food holding cabinets play a role in not only convenience for your business for purposes of food preparation ahead of time, catering large events, and handling large orders, they are also help keep food safe from airborne pathogens.  With food holding cabinets, food can go straight from the fryer or oven into a holding cabinet, reducing product handling which preserves the life of the good.

At Horizon, we are happy to help outfit your establishment with whatever equipment is necessary. Whether it’s a university cafeteria or a deli kiosk, we are here!  Contact us and together, we’ll get started.