What is a Warming Drawer?

warming drawer

A warming drawer is an electrical appliance used by commercial foodservice operators. Their function is to hold and warm food that will not be served immediately fresh, flavorful. 

The Industry refers to them as many other names. Some call them warming drawers, food warmers, hot-boxes, holding drawers, hot cabinets, heated food cabinets, etc. Whatever you call them, a warming drawer can help streamline your operation. This product is a reliable way to keep staple menu items hot and fresh. Ordinary, you can find warming drawers at buffets, cafeterias, and restaurants because they make it easier to keep up with demand. Most importantly, they allow the operator to remain confident in the quality and safety of the food they are serving. CVap® Hold and Serve Drawers have an operating range of 90 to 180°F. The maximum temperature of CVap warming drawers is 250°F.

For example, high-volume food products such as bread rolls are kept warm for immediate serving. Also, perishable foods such as meats stay above 140°F to prevent spoiling; moreover, guests dine safely. In order to do this, set and adjust temperatures with the electronic differential controls. These controls automatically monitor and adjust the drawer temperature. Watch this video for a quick, quirky rundown of CVap drawers.

What Are Warming Drawers Used For?

warming drawer
  • Specifically, drawers are used on the serving line to keep hot components of daily specials ready to churn out, cutting down on cooking times.
  • Servers and front-of-the-house staff use them to hold sides such as nachos, tortillas, breadsticks, and rolls.
  • Also, caterers use them to hold pans of cooked food before departing for events.
  • Drawers are great for holding a variety of foods, such as soft and moist to crisp or fried.
  • In addition to food, you can warm plates, bowls, cups, and other oven-safe dinnerware in drawers.
  • Finally, drawers are used at low temperatures to proof bread dough.

Never use warming drawers for...

  • Cooking or reheating food, especially potentially hazardous foods because we do not design drawers for cooking.
  • Warming plates or dinnerware that is not oven-safe.
  • Heating plastic wrap or conventional plastic containers because will melt and ruin food.
  • Also hazardous, aluminum lining or any other type of foil.

Is a Hold and Serve Drawer Worth the Investment?

Drawer warmer is a wise investment for high-volume menu items and ingredients. Cooking and holding them ahead will help you save time and sell more products. Consider these three questions when investing in drawers for your kitchen. Firstly, how many pieces of equipment does your operation require? Secondly, what type of product do you need to hold in them? Thirdly, where will they be placed?

If catering is your forte, or you find yourself frequently preparing for events, a warmer drawer will help you maintain that just-cooked look and taste. It’s a satisfying balance of achieving quality and quantity. A food warmer can serve as one of the workhorses of your kitchen and ease concerns you might have when large groups arrive. If the need is there, this versatile piece of equipment may be well worth the investment.

Benefits of Holding Drawers

Holding Drawers are an energy-efficient alternative to microwaves and conventional ovens to hold hot food.

They keep food fresh, flavorful, and visually appealing.

Allows you to cook food ahead of time, which frees up labor during peak serving times.

Simple, intuitive controls make it easy for even inexperienced cooks or servers to operate.

Provides a designated space for hot food holding which does not need to be nearby cooking equipment (e.g., an oven or microwave).

It frees up space on griddles and ranges and in ovens and microwaves, which kitchens sometimes use as warmers.

Typical Features of Warming Drawers

Variable Temperature

Digital or thermostatic controls allow you to select the desired temperature suitable for specific foods. CVap drawers feature digital electronic differential controls, and therefore never need calibration.

Vents

Vents allow airflow control to manipulate moisture and humidity to maintain the quality of different foods. For instance, CVap technology allows our drawers to operate without vents for even more control.

Heat Indicator Light

Indicator lights alert the operator when it reaches the desired temperature. CVap warmers indicate the temperature, therefore making heat lights unnecessary.

Mobility

Casters or legs offer different degrees of mobility, while a built-in design allows for discreet, permanent installation. Casters are available as an option on CVap Hold and Serve Drawers.

Different Types of Warming Drawers

All warming drawers perform the same primary function of holding food at serving temperature. However, different models can serve multiple purposes. Some units, like rice warmers, are designed to warm specific types of food and even utensils. Below, you’ll find comparisons of the common styles and types.

Types of Controls

Thermostatic Controls

  • Easy for anyone to use.
  • Typically include an on/off switch and a temperature dial.
  • The control may or may not have actual temperatures listed, and some interfaces opt for number settings corresponding to temperatures.
  • Some may also include a temperature gauge or a heat indicator light.

Digital Controls (includes CVap’s electronic differential controls)

  • Simple, intuitive controls.
  • Typically have a digital or physical power button/switch.
  • Up and down arrows typically control temperature and time settings.
  • Heat indicator light (on some brands).
  • LCD screen displays time and temperature settings; it may also display error codes.

How to Use a Commercial Warming Drawer

With proper training, using a warming drawer is simple, regardless of your crew’s experience level. Though control options may vary across models, the same essential functions apply to all drawers. After you’ve selected the proper warming drawer for your needs, ensure that it is securely resting or installed in an ideal location. Use the following tips and instructions for optimal results.

Voltage

Power your unit with an outlet suitable for the voltage rating of the drawer. Here’s a quick run-through of the typical voltage ratings available:

  • 120V warmers (CVap drawers operate at this voltage)
  • 208V warmers
  • 230V warmers
  • 240V warmers
  • 208/240V warmers

Temperature Setting

After powering the unit on, be sure to set it to the desired temperature and allow it to preheat. Preheating may take up to 30 minutes for high settings. Preheating ensures that hot food will not fall below the desired temperature. If your unit has a heat indicator light, it will illuminate or shut off (depending on the model) to indicate that the temperature is ready.

Digital displays will likely also provide a visual indication of a set temperature or actual temperature. After preheating, place hot food in the drawer as soon as possible, using drawer warmer accessories such as high-heat plastic or stainless steel food pans, if needed. Refer to the following table for a basic overview of food-safe internal temperatures for meat and seafood.

warming drawer

Airflow Control

If your model has them, the vents are located on the front of warming drawers to adjust the air entering the drawer. The more opened the vents are, the more air enters the drawer, ultimately decreasing the moisture level. Dry foods that do not require moisture, such as tortilla chips, will retain a perfect crunch with little to no humidity.

Moisture

Closing the vents allows you to maintain the moisture level inside a drawer. Keeping vents closed retains some of the natural moisture levels for foods that should stay moist. Fill a stainless steel pan with water to increase the drawer’s humidity. Doing so will prevent food like grilled chicken from drying out. To further increase the moisture and resulting humidity of a drawer to accommodate foods prone to drying out. Place a splash baffle inside the pan to prevent splashing when you move the drawer. Set another slightly smaller pan inside the first pan and fill it with the food that requires additional humidity. Also, for the best outcome, do not remove it from the warming drawer for the duration of holding.

CVap drawers, on the other hand, are powered by heated water vapor. CVap differs from other technology in that it directly utilizes heated vapor to control food temperature. Because CVap technology supplies the steam, foods can retain their internal moisture, preserving flavor and nutrients while keeping temperatures steady.

Proofing Dough

Similarly, keeping dinnerware warm before plating and serving is another less conventional use for drawer warmers. Though it’s not the most economical use for your unit, some do so without reservation, based on the notion that some dishes are improved when served on a warmed plate. The food maintains better flavor and consistency. Also, the meal stays warm longer when using preheated plates, bowls, or other dinnerware.

CVap drawers, on the other hand, are powered by heated water vapor. CVap differs from other technology in that they utilize heated vapor to directly control food temperature rather than doing so passively, as other “humidified” drawers do. Because CVap technology supplies the vapor, foods can retain their internal moisture, preserving flavor and nutrients while keeping temperatures steady.

Warming Dinnerware

Similarly, keeping dinnerware warm before plating and serving is another less conventional use for drawer warmers. Though it’s not the most economical use for your unit, some do so without reservation, based on the notion that some dishes are improved when served on a warmed plate. The food maintains better flavor and consistency. Also, the meal stays warm longer when using preheated plates, bowls, or other dinnerware.

CVap drawers, on the other hand, are powered by heated water vapor. CVap differs from other technology in that they utilize heated vapor to directly control food temperature rather than doing so passively, as other “humidified” drawers do. Because CVap technology supplies the vapor, foods can retain their internal moisture, preserving flavor and nutrients while keeping temperatures steady.

Cleaning Tips & Instructions

warming drawer

Clean Daily

To ensure that you are continuously operating in a food-safe manner, clean the drawers of your unit and any inserts daily, giving the exterior a good wipe down as needed.

turn off warming drawer

Turn it Off

Before cleaning, be sure to turn off or unplug the unit first to avoid any potential hazards. Also, allow any equipment to cool down for at least an hour before cleaning or servicing.

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External Cleaning

Never immerse any part of your unit, including the power cord, in water. When cleaning the exterior surface only, use a damp rag. Use a minimal amount of warm, soapy water or utilize cleaners and polishes designed explicitly for stainless steel. Avoid any areas containing electrical components. Furthermore, avoid any surfaces that come into contact with food.

sponge

Synthetic Scrubbers

Use a minimally abrasive synthetic fiber scouring pad or sponge. Clean with a mild cleanser to remove water scale and dried-on food. Do not use steel wool or other highly abrasive scouring pads. Avoid damage to the passive coating of the stainless steel. Abrasions in the coating layer can cause issues such as corrosion and rust.

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Remove Drawers

Lift the drawers themselves off their tracks and hand wash as needed using the handwashing method above.

Remove Pans

If your unit includes inset drawer pans or liners, remove them, and wash and sanitize in a three-compartment sink or commercial dishwasher.

spray

Remove Lime Scale

Use a 3:1 ratio of water (75%) and white vinegar (25%) to remove limescale and other mineral deposits. Fill the existing water pan or a separate stainless steel pan with the mixture and place it into the unit’s drawer. Power the unit on and allow it to run for 30 minutes, then turn it off. Let the pan sit in the equipment for two or more hours, depending on the severity of the buildup. There are also several commercial limescale removers available on the market.

Advantages of CVap Warming Drawers

Unlike traditional heated holding or low-temperature cooking technologies, temperatures created by CVap technology do not fluctuate. Its gentle vapor heat evenly surrounds food, resulting in better food quality and higher yields.

Contact Winston Foodservice Today

For over 50 years, Winston has provided reliable equipment to help foodservice operators meet the growing demands of their customers. Our sales team and global network of sales representatives are happy to consult with you and help you figure out the best equipment to meet your goals.

Fill out a contact form, or call 800-234-5286 to speak with a member of our team.

Efficient Kitchen Design

Maximizing efficiency in your kitchen design takes planning, research, and hard work. It doesn’t matter whether your operation is in the blueprint stage or is going through a remodel. The pressure to get it right can make the process quite intimidating. Winston has the tools you need to assure kitchen efficiency.

Industrial kitchen. Restaurant kitchen. 3d illustration

An Efficient Kitchen has Flow

Commercial kitchen equipment takes up a lot of room. It can be difficult to accommodate when trying to maximize efficiency. This can be one of your biggest challenges when designing a kitchen.

Research your plan for kitchen flow when deciding the best location for your equipment. The goal is to avoid issues in employee foot traffic. For example, do frequently used doors open into busy aisles? Do doors swing in the correct direction to avoid collisions with one another?

Making sure that you have the correct amount and type of equipment eliminates clutter from your kitchen. However, be flexible should you need to add equipment to meet future needs.

Higher foot traffic during peak hours can cause serious issues if not reflected in the kitchen layout. Traffic jams in the kitchen can negatively affect the entire service period, from preparation to serving customers’ orders. Ensure you allow enough space for multiple people to perform their tasks in the kitchen.

Don’t forget to allow for maintenance. Even the best equipment occasionally needs service or repairs. Equipment must be accessible from all sides, or at the very least moveable, so that interruption can be minimized. Otherwise, it will cause disruptions for your employees and make the repair tech’s job unnecessarily difficult.

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restaurant-dining-room
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Safety and Regulations

As with anything related to customer safety, your kitchen layout needs to adhere to health and safety regulations. State and local health departments are a prime resource for up-to-date information on regulations and requirements. Some design elements are simply common sense. Cooked food must be physically separate from areas where raw food is prepared. All food must be separate from dirty dishes, cleaning supplies, or any other material that could be harmful or toxic. The possibility of cross-contamination or food poisoning must be eliminated.

Employee safety is also important. If the layout is not ergonomic or puts staff in risky situations, physical injuries can result. Are counters and shelves at the correct height? Are floors made of material that can be easily cleaned (and kept from getting slippery)? Avoiding employee injuries isn’t just a decent thing to do. The financial future of your operation demands that you do all you can to keep your employees injury-free.

Let's Give it a Try

Now you know what you need to do. Put it into practice! Your end goal is to create a safe, productive, and efficient kitchen. A great customer dining experience always starts with a well-designed kitchen. Need help? Contact us!

A CVap Holding Drawer Is Extremely Versatile

CVap Hold and Serve Drawers are extremely versatile

A holding drawer is a valuable piece of equipment to have in any establishment that serves food. A CVap Holding Drawer and server control food temperature and texture. You have the flexibility to hold moist or crisp, whichever suits your needs. The holding drawers’ design boosts temp recovery, even with frequent openings. They’re ideal for kiosks, QSRs, or any operation where space is limited, but food quality is still a priority.

How is a Holding Drawer Used
  • Prep and line cooks use holding drawers to reduce labor and cook times.
  • Front-of-the-house staff use  drawers for quick access to appetizers and sides, such as tortilla chips and bread.
  • Caterers use holding drawers to hold cooked food for transport.
  • Holding anything you want to keep moist or crisp.
  • A holding drawer can hold soups or beverages. 

For example, high-volume food products such as bread rolls are kept warm for immediate serving. Also, perishable foods such as meats stay above 140°F to prevent spoiling; moreover, guests dine safely. In order to do this, set and adjust temperatures with the electronic differential controls. These controls automatically monitor and adjust the drawer temperature.

holding drawers

CVap (or Controlled Vapor Technology) is a patented dual heat system that combines moist vapor heat and dry air heat to control food temperature and texture.

warming drawer

The CVap® Holding Drawer HBB0D2 offers fantastic food temperature and texture control. CVap Drawers feature a unique design that speeds temp recovery, even with frequent openings. 

food warming drawer

Winston offers many different holding drawer configurations. Check out our full line of hold and serve drawers to find the model that best suits your needs.

If you have any questions about CVap Holding Drawers, please contact us. We could talk all day about the benefits of a warming drawer for your kitchen.