Choosing what steam table pans to use doesn’t have to be a headache. Even though doing so may seem overwhelming, it’s fairly easy once the terminology is understood. With standards for sizes and pan (metal) thicknesses, choosing the right steam table pan for your kitchen can be quite simple. Often known as kitchen pans or hotel pans, steam table pans offer an unlimited amount of options for holding and warming a variety of different foods. So, take a look at some of these basic terms and tips to help you understand steam table pans and how to use them.


Standard vs. Heavy Duty

Generally speaking, the two most common types of steam table pans are standard and heavy duty. And you guessed it, heavy duty pans are made for more wear and tear. These pans are designed with thicker steel (22 gauge) so as to last longer. Usually intended for heavy usage, these heavy duty pans will be a bit more money, but will provide tons of added strength. Standard steam table pans are more for everyday use, for the average kitchen. **Tip: in the steel world, the lower the gauge the thicker the steel.

Sizes and Configurations 

Okay, so first off let’s put this out there: all steam table pans are a division of a full-size pan. Full size pans measure at 20 3/4” x 12 3/4”. All other pans come in fractional sizes of 1/2, 1/4, 2/3, 1/6, and 1/9. Typically, steam table pans come in depths of 2.5, 4, and 6 inches, also known as shallow, medium, and deep.

Steam tables usually have several wells that are filled with a water pan, upon which the steam table pan fits. The different sizes all fit together in various configurations. How deep, what size, and how many pans you want will depend on your needs. For example, do you have several side dishes you want to heat up? Then you might be interested in 1/2, 1/3, or even smaller size pans. For a big entree, like a meat, you might want to stick to a full size. It also is going to depend on what you are serving and how much of it. If you have several things to serve, you might want to use deeper pans for more storage space.


From buffets to cafeterias to everything in-between, steam table pans have a number of uses. As said above, steam tables use boiling water to keep food warm and ready to serve without burning. Steam table pans can also go from freezing temperatures to hot temperatures. Keep your food warm and ready to go throughout the day.

Check out Gator Chef’s wide variety of steam table pans and accessories! We feature both standard and heavy duty pans in all sizes and depths to accommodate your steam table needs.

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