Whether you want to keep your meal warm as you're serving it or if you are worried about food safety, keeping your food hot is an important thing to do. Luckily, there are many easy ways to do it right in your own home. You can use your kitchen appliances or insulated containers to keep food warm, use a cooler to make a hot and portable container, or serve your food on warm plates so they don't get cold. No matter how you do it, you can have a hot meal wherever you are!
Method 1 of 4:Using Kitchen Appliances
1Set a slow cooker to the “Keep Warm” setting for soups and stews. Let the cooker preheat before you transfer your food into the pot so your food doesn't cool down. The “Keep Warm” setting keeps the food near 170 °F (77 °C) for however long you leave it on.
Slow cookers work best with wetter foods, like soups, stews, sauces, or mashed potatoes.
Your food may continue cooking slightly or it may change in texture the longer you leave it in the pot.
Once you turn the power off, you can safely keep the food warm in the pot for up to 2 hours.
2Keep meats and large dishes warm in the oven at 200 °F (93 °C). Preheat your oven to the lowest setting and transfer your hot food into an oven-safe pan. Set the pan on the middle rack and keep it in the oven for up to 2 hours.
Check the temperature of your food with a thermometer after 20 minutes to make sure it is above 140 °F (60 °C). If not, turn up the temperature slightly.
3Make a hot water bath on the stove for foods in pots or pans. Fill a large pan halfway full of water and set it on a medium-low setting on the stove. Check the temperature of the water with a thermometer to make sure it is around 160 °F (71 °C). Place another pot or pan with your food in it in the middle of the water bath.
You can use this method as long as you keep the stove at low heat and replace any evaporated water with warm water.
Stir your food occasionally to prevent it from burning on the bottom.
4Use chafing fuels under aluminum catering dishes. Remove the cap on the fuel with a blunt object, such as a spoon. Place the chafing fuel container underneath the catering dish before you light it with a multipurpose butane lighter. The fuel will burn for up to 2 hours before it runs out. Extinguish the fuel with the cap or a snuffer when you're finished using it.
Always use caution when you work with an open flame.
Chafing fuel can be purchased in a gel or wick form. Both will work the same way.
Method 2 of 4:Storing Hot Food on the Go
1Keep soups and stews in an insulated thermos. Transfer your soup into a tall thermos while it is still piping hot. Secure the lid tightly as soon as you're finished putting your food inside. Eat your food within 4 hours so it doesn't cool down and develop bacteria.
Look on the thermos' packaging to determine how long you can safely store food inside.
Thermoses are typically only sized for a single serving.
2Purchase insulated thermal bags for larger dishes. Similar to the bags used for pizza delivery, thermal bags allow you to store dishes so they retain heat while you're on the go. Cover your hot dish with a lid or foil wrap before securing it in the bag. Use a thermal bag for a maximum of 3 hours before serving your dish.
Thermal bags can be purchased at big box stores or at your local kitchen specialty store. Reusable and disposable bags are available.
3Get a portable food warmer to keep foods warm in your car. Find an insulated lunchbox or cooler that can plug into the cigarette lighter jack inside your car. Fill the cooler with hot food and plug it in as you travel. The cooler will use the energy from your car to keep the food at a safe temperature.
Only have the cooler plugged in as your car is running so you don't drain your car's battery.
Check the voltage requirement on the bag to see your cigarette lighter can output that much energy. If not, you may cause the cooler to short out.
Method 3 of 4:Making an Insulated Container
1Line the inside of a cooler with aluminum foil. Even though a cooler is meant to keep everything cold, you can also use it to keep hot foods hot. Double-layer aluminum foil around the interior of the cooler. The aluminum will hold the heat inside your cooler.
2Wrap your container of hot food with another piece of foil. Lay out a large piece of aluminum foil on your counter and set your hot container onto it. Make sure your food is piping hot as you wrap the foil around it. Use a few pieces of foil to cover the container completely.
Use an oven mitt as you wrap the foil so you don't burn yourself.
3Place the container inside the cooler. Set the container in the middle of the cooler. The heat from the container will transfer through the aluminum foil and keep the entire cooler warm.
4Make 2 or 3 heat packs by filling new socks with uncooked rice. Fill new cotton socks halfway with uncooked rice. Once you have the rice inside the sock, tie a simple knot on top so none of it spills out.
Use a string to tie the socks for added security.
Dried beans will also work similarly.
5Microwave the heat packs for 2 to 3 minutes. Use the regular settings on your microwave. Once they are finished, they will be nice and warm and they will hold heat for a while.
6Place the heat packs on the sides of your food container. Fill in the large spaces on each side of your food container. This will add more heat to the cooler and help your food stay at a reasonable temperature.
7Fill in any gaps in the cooler with towels. Use clean towels so your food doesn't move around while you transport it. Make sure the towels are tight against your food so they insulate the heat inside.
8Put a hot water bottle on top of the towels. Fill a rubber hot water bottle with boiling water. It's easiest to pour the water into the bottle from a kettle or a pot with a spout. Place the hot water bottle on top of the cooler for one final heating element to keep your food warm.
Seal the lid of the cooler tight after you add the water bottle so no heat can escape.
9Eat the food within 2 hours. The temperature of the cooler will start to drop over time. Carry a food thermometer with you to check on the temperature of your food to make sure it is above 140 °F (60 °C).
Method 4 of 4:Keeping Your Plates Warm
1Microwave the plates to heat them quickly. Stack your plates and put them in the microwave. Keep your microwave on its regular setting and heat them for 30 seconds per plate. Once they are finished, use an oven mitt to remove the plates since they will get hot.
2Put the plates in the oven at its lowest setting if they are oven-safe. Preheat your oven to the lowest setting, usually around 150 to 200 °F (66 to 93 °C). Once the oven is hot, place your stacked plated inside and leave them there for a couple minutes. Use an oven mitt to take them out of the oven and let them cool slightly before serving.
Use a toaster oven that's large enough to fit your plates if you want to preserve energy.
3Purchase an electric plate warmer so you can still use your appliances. Plate warmers look like a large foldable heating pad that you can stack plates on. Plug the plate warmer in and turn it on. Wrap the entire plate in the warmer and then place another plate on top. Continue stacking the rest of your plates to heat them thoroughly for 5 minutes before you serve your food.
Plate warmers can be purchased online or in kitchen specialty stores.
In a pinch, you can use a large heating pad meant for backs. These can be purchased at your local pharmacy.