10 Ways to Keep Food Warm for a Party

How do you keep everything warm and ready to eat when you're feeding 40 guests? With these helpful hints! Learn how to keep food warm while you finish up the rest of the meal.

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Empty open electric oven with hot air ventilation.
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In the Oven

If you have the space, a 200°F oven is perfect for keeping food warm. Alternatively, you can make your side dishes ahead of time and reheat them in a 350°F oven. Here are favorite make-ahead side dishes for a crowd.

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Open drawer of cabinet with steel pots and pans and bowl.
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The Oven Drawer

Most people store pans in their oven drawer, but that drawer actually has another purpose: keeping your food warm. Some ovens have specific warm settings for this drawer, but it will always be warm if the oven is hot. When one dish finishes up in the oven, simply pop it in the drawer to keep it warm while you finish up the remaining dishes. You should always follow this one rule when storing items in your oven drawer.

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Close up of a slow cooker working on kitchen shelf
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Use a Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

If you made a side dish in the slow cooker or an Instant Pot, it’s super easy to hold it warm once it’s finished cooking. Simply select the “Keep Warm” setting, and away you go! You can also transfer an oven-baked or stovetop dish to the slow cooker to keep them warm, too. Here are our favorite recipes to make in an Instant Pot.

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Plates before dinner
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Pick up some Chafing Dishes

Chafing dishes are specifically designed to hold your food warm for hours. Although having a set might seem like a luxury, they’re not as expensive as you might think. And you can reuse them for so many occasions: Superbowl parties, potlucks, backyard barbecues or dinner parties. Psst! Here are a few impressive dinner ideas to have handy.

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Barbecue grill with fire on nature,
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Turn on the Grill

Even if you’re not using the grill to making dinner, you might be able to use it to keep the food warm. Fire up one of the burners on the lowest heat possible and use it to keep casseroles or side dishes warm while you wait on the rest of the food to cook. Here are our favorite grilling ideas for dinner.

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Double boiler
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Create a Double Boiler

This option is great for delicate sides, like mashed potatoes or gravy. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can make one by bringing water to a simmer in saucepot or skillet. Place the bowl over the pan and let the steam keep it warm.

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Red Cooler
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An Insulated Cooler

If you don’t need to hold food warm for long, an insulated cooler is a fantastic option! The thick walls will keep the food warm for about 30 minutes. You can add a pot of boiling water to the cooler if you need to keep the food warm for a touch longer. It’s also great for travel. Get more tips for traveling with food.

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Two pieces of toasts in the oven.
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A Toaster Oven

It’s not too big, so don’t expect to store a whole turkey in the thing. But a toaster oven is perfect for small items like rolls or dessert. The top of the oven often gets hot while it’s on, too, which means you can store a casserole on top and take advantage of the carryover heat. Learn how to reheat pizza so it tastes as good as day one.

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Four different size and color fleece blanket rolled on electric blanket.
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An Electric Blanket

An electric blanket can do so much more than keep you warm on a cold day. Wrap it around your pots and pans, plug it in and turn it on. It’ll keep your food toasty and warm while you finish up the rest of the meal. Get more ideas for how to prep your kitchen for winter.

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Open dishwasher with clean dishes after washing
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The Dishwasher (Yes, You Read That Right)

This one’s weird, but it totally works! The dishwasher can do so much more than clean your dishes, including keeping your food warm. Simply set the dishwasher to the dry cycle (you don’t want to water down your food!). Place the food on the top rack and turn the dishwasher on. Here are 15 more things you never knew your dishwasher could do.

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay has been writing for digital publications for seven years and has 10 years of experience working as a professional chef. She became a full-time food writer at Taste of Home in 2023, although she’s been a regular contributor since 2017. Throughout her career, Lindsay has been a freelance writer and recipe developer for multiple publications, including Wide Open Media, Tasting Table, Mashed and SkinnyMs. Lindsay is an accomplished product tester and spent six years as a freelance product tester at Reviewed (part of the USA Today network). She has tested everything from cooking gadgets to knives, cookware sets, meat thermometers, pizza ovens and more than 60 grills (including charcoal, gas, kamado, smoker and pellet grills). Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, especially when she can highlight local, seasonal ingredients. As a writer, Lindsay loves sharing her skills and experience with home cooks. She aspires to motivate others to gain confidence in the kitchen. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking with fresh produce from the farmers market or planning a trip to discover the best new restaurants.