Chafer Use Instructions

Thank you so much for ordering your hot food from Zingerman’s Catering. This guide will show you how to set up your chafers so that your food stays hot. As when using any heating device, please be very careful. Once set up, the water and pans will become extremely hot. Downloadable Instructions (PDF)


chaferinstructionsYour disposable chafer set-up from Zingerman’s arrives with three pieces: the Wire Frame, the Sternos, and the Water Pan.


  1. Place the wire frame on the sturdy, flat surface where you would like to serve your food.
  2. Place the water pan inside the wire frame.
  3. Fill the water pan with about an inch of hot water. Do not overfill. The water will evaporate while the food is warming.
  4. Open the sternos. The easiest way to do this is to use a can opener or metal spatula.
  5. Place the two sternos in the base of the wire frame, below the water pan.
  6. Light the sternos. Do not light the sternos before filling the water in the water pan.
  7. Place the food pan on top of the water pan. Be very careful during this step – once the flames have been lit, the water will start steaming. The steam will be very hot.
  8. Serve your food directly from the chafer, while being aware of the hot pan edges. Enjoy!

*Sterno is flammable and must be handled very carefully. Keep the flame clear of any flammable objects and do not leave unattended.*


  1. Before you begin, make sure the sternos are no longer lit.
    • They will go out on their own when they run out of fuel – usually two or more hours.
    • If you would like to clean up before then, you can extinguish the sterno by covering the flame with a non–flammable metal object, such as a metal spatula that is wider than the flame opening.
    • Give the sternos plenty of time to cool down before you touch them directly.
    • Throw the sternos away. Even if they went out on their own, they may still be hot. Make sure the sternos are cool before touching them.
  2. Throw the food pan away. Make sure it is cool to the touch before you move it, keeping in mind that the underside of the pan may be hotter than the edges.
  3. Discard the rest of the water from the water pan. Don’t forget that the water and the water pan may be hot.

Thank you again for choosing Zingerman’s Catering, and we hope you enjoy your food. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 734-663-3400

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