Restaurants have many options for keeping hot foods at safe holding temperatures. Steam tables are one of these options, and they are especially popular with self-service or buffet eateries.
If you're considering a new steam table for your restaurant, it's important to know what to look for and understand your needs.
What is a Steam Table?
A steam table is a food warming system that uses the power of steam to keep foods at safe temperatures. You can find both countertop and standalone models, allowing restaurants of all sizes to take advantage of this equipment.
Steam tables do not cook food. Instead, they keep already-cooked food at safe food holding temperatures. They use heated water to produce steam, which heats the food pans inside the table. Some types of steam tables can use dry heating (without water) to keep foods warm.
Restaurant Steam Table Buying Guide
There are several things to consider when choosing a commercial steam table. Because there are so many options, it's important first to consider how you'll use your table to find one that meets your needs.
Here are some other factors to consider.
Gas or Electric?
Steam tables can be powered by gas or electricity. If your kitchen doesn't have a gas connection, then your decision is already made for you.
Otherwise, you'll need to consider the pros and cons of each type:
- A gas steam table will heat up quickly and last longer because there are fewer parts that can malfunction. Gas steam tables can use liquid propane or natural gas.
- An electric steam table will take longer to heat up, but they are energy efficient and have more precise temperature controls. In addition, these steam tables are easy to use, and you have the option of choosing between a plug-in model and a hardwired model.
If portability is a priority, electricity will likely be your best option. Gas steam tables can also raise the kitchen's temperature, so that's something else to keep in mind.
Open or Sealed Well?
Steam tables can have an open or sealed well. Open or sealed refers to whether the unit's heating element is exposed or covered.
- With an open well, the heating element is exposed, which means you'll need spillage pans for moist heating. One advantage of an open well is that you can use either moist or dry heating. Dry heating is ideal for warming crispy or fried foods.
- With a sealed well, the heating element is covered, which means that you can add water directly without spillage pans. However, moist heating is the only option you have with these units, so they are not ideal for fried or crispy foods. A water steam table works best for vegetables, soups, pasta dishes, and other non-crispy foods.
Steam Table Temperature
When looking for a steam table for sale, it's important to consider its temperature range. According to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system, foods must be kept above 140В°F for safety.
Ideally, the steam table should be able to hold foods at 150В°F-160В°F just to be on the safe side.
Some steam tables have thermostatic controls, which give you precision control over the temperatures. Others have a rheostat with various settings for infinite heating. Consider which one would be the optimal choice for your restaurant.
There are several types of accessories that you can use to customize and configure your table to your liking, including:
- Adapter plates, which allow you to make custom configurations.
- Adapter bars to prevent steam loss and divide pans for a more custom layout.
- Cutting boards, which provide additional space for prep work or plating food.
- Shelves, which provide extra storage and protection for your steam table.
Our Top Commercial Steam Tables
We offer a wide range of steam tables for restaurants of all sizes and budgets. Some of our top steam tables for sale include:
The Adcraft ST120-2 is a two-bay unit with an open wall that's powered by electricity. The unit is made with stainless steel and features galvanized steel legs and wells.
Each well is 8" deep and has its own 750-watt heating element with infinite temperature control. This model has a convenient stainless steel undershelf and a polycarbonate cutting board.
- Dimensions: 33" W x 34.25" H
- Weight: 82.5 lbs.
- Power: Electric
Eagle Group AWT5-NG
Eagle Group's AWT5-NG is a massive 79" steam table powered by gas. This unit is ideal for catering services and cafeterias.
The 5-well steam table is made with 20-gauge stainless steel for superior durability and easy maintenance. It also features an undershelf for storage and a built-in serving shelf.
The unit has a 30,000 BTU burner and uses liquid propane.
If you need a large steam table for your eatery or catering business, the AWT5-NG is a reliable option.
- Dimensions: 79" W x 34.5" H
- Weight: 183 lbs.
- Power: Gas (liquid propane)
Adcraft's ST-120/3 is a three-bay electric unit made with stainless steel. The legs and the steel wells are galvanized for greater durability.
This unit has an open well, and it fits any full-size spillage pan. There are three individually controlled 750W heating elements with infinite control switches.
For convenience, this unit has an adjustable undershelf made of stainless steel as well as a built-in polycarbonate cutting board.
- Dimensions: 48.5" W x 34.25" H
- Weight: 114 lbs.
- Power: Electric
Turbo Air RST-2P
The RST-2P from Turbo Air is electric powered and features a stainless steel body and top. Designed for commercial use, the heating compartments are constructed with galvanized and heavy gauge steel.
The RST-2P has an open well with a 750-watt heating element under each compartment. Dual bays make this a great option for more compact kitchens.
The unit also features an adjustable, galvanized steel undershelf for storage. The stainless steel legs have bullet feet for added stability, and there's a built-in polycarbonate cutting board for convenience.
- Dimensions: 29.5" L x 30" W x 34" H
- Weight: 81 lbs.
- Power: Electric
Steam tables are a great addition to most restaurant kitchens. They provide a simple, convenient and reliable way to hold hot foods at safe temperatures. Consider the factors above to help you find a table that best meets your needs and budget.