Heated Holding Cabinet Buyers' Guide

Heated holding cabinets are crucial components of many foodservice operations, from pizzerias and bakeries to event venues and banquet halls. Our heated cabinets are organized by application: mobile heated cabinet, banquet cart, kitchen hot box, humidified holding cabinet, proofing cabinet, and pizza holding cabinet. Each of these is discussed below so you can decide which one would best fit your needs.

Choosing a Heated Cabinet

Most heated holding cabinets come standard with casters, which makes them easier to move around your facility and, for some boxes, transport to other locations. Those wheels also make these units more versatile to ensure kitchens get the most out of them. Technically, this means all heated cabinets are mobile, but many are designed for more specific applications. General-purpose mobile heated cabinets can be used to transport and hold meals at venues and catered events or worked into a kitchen's workflow as a place to keep food safely warmed until it's ready to serve.

Some mobile heated cabinets are meant to be more stationary, although they do still come with casters so they can be moved easily throughout your establishment's floorplan. Rather than hold pre-plated food, a kitchen hot box is meant to keep large quantities of food, stored in pans or other containers, warm until it is served or added to a buffet line.

Heated cabinets with humidity controls can be utilized in a few different ways. Some mobile heated cabinets are equipped with humidity controls that allow the units to double as bread proofers, but generally, operators put their humidified holding cabinets to work holding prepared food at its optimal texture without drying the food out or overcooking it.

Although heated cabinets with humidity controls can be used to proof bread, restaurants and bakeries producing bread each day will want to invest in a dedicated proofing cabinet. These are designed specifically for creating an optimal environment for bread dough to age and rise, so they will be able to achieve a higher-quality product and stand up to more frequent use. Since they don't have a full humidity module, proofers also often have smaller price tags. Pizza holding cabinets are designed to keep their namesake items warmed to serving temperatures, preserving the taste and appearance of the crust and toppings.

For holding and transporting a large number of meals that don't require humidity, banquet carts would be more suitable. These are commonly used in commercial foodservice kitchens, such as high-volume restaurants or hotels, to hold pre-plated food that can be cooked prior to ordering and quickly served.

Heated Cabinet Options

Choosing a heated cabinet requires you to consider both the capacity needed to keep up with your production and the space available in your footprint. Heated cabinets are available in different sizes to ensure you can find one that fits into your footprint, including full-, half-, and three-fourths-height models, and undercounter units for kitchens with limited free space.

As with most any commercial equipment, heated cabinet models also come with a variety of features to consider, including:

  • Insulation. Some heated cabinets are insulated, which makes them more efficient. This means the unit loses less heat during use, making it less costly to maintain the chosen temperature. An insulated cabinet is also better suited to transporting meals to different locations, as the food inside will stay warmed for a longer period of time than in an uninsulated cabinet.
  • Total Capacity. Most heated cabinets are rated by how many full-size food pans they can accommodate. Kitchen hot boxes come with shelves or drawers, rather than pan slides, and, similar to refrigerators, full-size units usually offer three shelves per section. Because banquet carts are primarily used to keep plated food warm for delivery either to other parts of a facility or to individual tables in a large room, they are rated by how many standard plates they can hold.
  • Cabinet Style. Heated cabinets might be reach-in or pass-through models. Reach-in models only allow access through the front, which is great for cabinets that will be kept against a wall, and pass-through models can be set up to connect two areas, like between prep spaces or between the kitchen and a serving line. That allows food to be held warm as it's moved between those functions.
  • Door Type. In addition to choosing between solid or glass doors, some models offer Dutch doors, which limit the amount of heat that escapes by allowing the top and bottom parts of a section to be accessed separately.
  • Construction. Heated cabinets are usually constructed of aluminum or stainless steel. Aluminum is generally less expensive, while stainless steel is more durable and suited to heavy-duty use.