Advantages of Cambro Food Pans: Plastic vs. Stainless Steel

Cambro, a leading manufacturer of smallwares for more than 60 years, provides several lines of food pans that can be used to store, transport, and serve food in restaurants, hotels, and catering operations. Cambro food pans are made of polycarbonate and other plastics, instead of stainless steel, because food pans made with those materials have several advantages in certain applications over those made with metal.

Types of Cambro Food Pans


All food pans from the Camwear line are made of polycarbonate, a durable material that is designed not to bend, crack, or dent during commercial use. Camwear food pans can be used in a temperature range of -40 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit, and are recommended for cold applications or applications that only use ambient heat. These polycarbonate food pans are available in black, white, and clear. Clear food pans give operators an unrestricted view into the pan to see what's being stored, while black and white pans are great for use in serving areas like salad bars.

  • Polycarbonate is resistant to damage
  • Rated for use at temperatures from -40 to 210 degrees F
  • Available in black, white, and clear


Translucent food pans are made of polypropylene, another type of plastic approved for use in foodservice operations. This line of Cambro food pans is not as clear as those made from polycarbonate, but still provides enough visibility to identify what is held in the pan without removing the lid. These can be used in a temperature range of -40 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and are also recommended for use in cold or ambient applications, making them a versatile option for commercial kitchens.

  • An economical food pan option
  • Rated for use in a temperature range of -40 to 160 degrees F
  • Provides some degree of visibility


Cambro X-Pans are high-heat models that can be used in everything from heated holding equipment to microwaves and ovens, making them a prep-to-service solution. These pans can withstand both hot and cold applications, with a temperature rating of -40 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. X-Pans come in black and sandstone, colors intended to make your serving line more attractive. Additionally, the pans can reduce product waste because they have non-stick interiors.

  • High-heat food pan recommended for use at -40 to 375 degrees F
  • Non-stick interior design reduces product waste
  • Available in black and sandstone


Cambro H-Pans are high-heat pans that have handles on each end, which makes them easier to grip and move. Although they are also made from a material that withstands temperatures from -40 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, H-Pans are designed specifically for battered and crisp menu items being stored in hot holding equipment. These are only available in clear amber, so they are easy to identify and let employees see what's being held in them.

  • High-heat pan with handles
  • Designed for hot holding applications
  • Available in amber

Why Choose Plastic Cambro Food Pans?

Stainless steel is a material frequently used in foodservice equipment because of its rust resistance and durability. Those are important attributes in commercial kitchens where equipment comes into contact with moisture, food residue, and cleaning chemicals. Many manufacturers offer stainless steel food pans (also called hotel or steam table pans), but these have a number of disadvantages when compared to food pans made of high-quality plastic:

  • Metal obviously isn't transparent, so stainless steel food pans do not allow operators to easily see what is being held. Although all food pans should be properly labeled, being able to identify products at a glance can save valuable time.
  • Stainless steel food pans sometimes warp at the edges, so the pans no longer sit flat. This lessens the efficiency of steam tables because heat can escape at the corners, which can also lead to users and employees being scalded.
  • Stainless steel food pans can be dented and dinged, creating surface damage that may lead to unsanitary rusted spots.
  • Unlike high-heat pans like the Cambro X-Pans, stainless steel pans cannot be used in microwave reheating applications. That means food stored in metal pans must be transferred to a different container before it can be heated.

When it comes to keeping products cooled to food-safe temperatures, the engineers at Cambro have tested Camwear pans against stainless steel pans and found that over the course of four hours, food in both pan types did not exceed 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Because plastic food pans are often more affordable than metal pans, this means your foodservice operation can spend less for comparable holding capacity.