A chafing dish is a dual tray made of stainless steel that is mounted in a frame, with a lid, and is used to keep food warm during a buffet or party. The outside tray holds heated water (to evenly heat the inner tray) while the inner tray holds food. The warmer for the chafing dish can use electricity, candles or gas. You do not use the chafing dish to cook food, only to keep it warm once it has been prepared on a stove or in the oven. Nevertheless, you can bake food using the inner metal tray of the dish.
Clean the inner tray of the chafing dish with dish soap, warm water and a sponge. Rinse off the tray, and dry it off with a towel.
Lubricate the tray by spraying cooking spray lightly throughout the inside of the pan, or take a paper towel, pour a few drops of olive oil on it, and run it along the entire inside portion of the pan. This will keep the food from sticking to the pan while baking.
Preheat your oven for your desired appetizer or entree. For example, the tray from the chafing dish is perfect for baking frozen appetizers or making casserole dishes, such as lasagna or scalloped potatoes.
Prepare your food in the chafing dish. For example, if you are baking appetizers, lay each appetizer out individually in rows and so the appetizers are not touching. If you are making a dish such as lasagna, layer all the ingredients appropriately, covering the entire bottom of the tray. Start with a thin layer of the meat sauce, cover with lasagna noodles, top the layer with a mixture of mozzarella and ricotta cheese and repeat until you have reached the top lip of the pan.
Leave the tray in the oven for the appropriate baking time. For example, expect 15 to 30 minutes for appetizers or 45 to 60 minutes for a dish such as lasagna. Use thick oven mitts to remove the pan from the oven, and set it aside.
Hold the outer tray with oven mitts. Fill the outer tray 3/4 full with hot water from the tap and place it in the chafing dish frame. Place the inner tray with cooked food into the outer tray. Light the warmer by either plugging it in or lighting the flame. Place the lid on the chafing dish to trap in the heat.
To further preserve the heat in the inner dish until the food is served, cover this pan with tinfoil once you take it out of the oven. Place the lid on top of the tinfoil.
If you are using a chafing dish with an open flame for the warmer, never leave it unattended because it could start a fire.
Anne Redler is a writer who has worked in research and publishing since 1996. She has published work on the topics of macroeconomics and financial markets, including articles in the "Financial Times" and "The Wall Street Journal." Redler holds a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Master of Business Administration from Boston University.