How long can you hold food in a steam table?

In this brief guide we will address the question, “How long can you hold food in a steam table?” as well as other questions pertaining to the subject at hand like how to hold food in a steam table and the danger temperature zone for food. Moreover, we will also discuss the temperature at which hot food should be served at.

How long can you hold food in a steam table? 

You can hold hot food in a steam table typically for 3-4 hours (or even longer). This depends on how efficiently the food was heated and when it was cooked. Steam tables utilize evenly distributed heat to keep the food in its best quality. It also maintains shelf life and quality of the food item that is being served. 

As compared to warmers, steam tables maintain a steady temperature with the help of a heating source. This is why steam tables can hold food for longer durations than regular warmers. In case of a warmer, you need to heat food again or refrigerate it after 2 hours. However, steam tables keep the food above the danger temperature zone, thereby eliminating the chances of contamination by other bacteria.

How to hold food in a steam table?

There are certain ways in which you can serve best quality and delicious food with the help of a steam table. Remember that steam tables are not made for cooking, but only to keep the food hot. Therefore, you should not use steam tables to cook food. 

  1. When serving vegetables on a steam table, you should go with slightly undercooked ones. This is because the steam table will inevitably provide heat and there are chances of the vegetables being overcooked. 
  2. Remember to always cook in small batches. This will ensure proper heat distribution and excess food will not be wasted. 

What temperature should hot food be served at? 

Hot food should be served at a temperature of above 140-degree Fahrenheit (or 60-degree Celsius). This is the temperature where the growth of most bacteria is hindered. The temperature also varies with the type of food product that you are handling. For examples, eggs and egg dishes, and other similar items need to be reheated at 165-degree Fahrenheit before they can be used again. 

What is the danger zone temperature for food? 

Bacteria grow the most between 4°C to 60°C. This is the temperature range that should be avoided at all costs. That is why the refrigerators operate at 4°C or even lower. 

Considering this range, is it safe if the core temperature of my food is 60 or above? Not quite. 

There are some bacteria that can survive above this temperature as well. This is exactly why you need to go higher than this temperature in certain dishes.

60°C is not the temperature at which you would want to cook your food. This temperature range indicates the presence of the most microorganisms in your food. This is the temperature above which your food is safe to be served and cherished within 2 hours. 

How to check the heating temperature? 

It is best to check the core heating temperature with a food thermometer. The core temperature should be maintained for a minimum of 2 minutes before you can take it out of the pan or the oven. 

Just putting the food in the oven and setting the temperature at 60-65°C is not a good practice. Always try using a method that will allow you to check the core temperature with a thermometer every 30 seconds. This is possible when you use open containers like pans. 

If you want to use the oven, what you can do is actually set the temperature even higher than the 65°C mark, because the oven will take time to reach that temperature and so will the core of your food item. 

That is why you need a temperature thermometer in your kitchen.

Conclusion

In this brief guide we have addressed the question, “How long can you hold food in a steam table?” as well as other questions pertaining to the subject at hand like how to hold food in a steam table and the danger temperature zone for food. Moreover, we also discussed the temperature at which hot food should be served at.

References

https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-to-keep-something-warm-for-a-potluck/

https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/hot-holding.pdf

https://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/advice-guy/how-long-should-restaurants-leave-food-hot-holder

https://askinglot.com/how-do-you-keep-food-warm-in-a-steam-table

https://www.webstaurantstore.com/guide/664/steam-tables-buying-guide.html#:~:text=To%20keep%20food%20warm%2C%20steam,kept%20at%20the%20ideal%20temperature.

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.