If you're preparing several foods that get "done" at different times, you often can successfully hold most hot foods for about 15 to 20 minutes in a preheated oven set to 200 to 250°F. For longer than this, check frequently with a food thermometer, to assure the food is remaining at a temperatures of 140°F or above. If necessary, adjust the oven's temperature to a higher setting. Keeping foods hot for extended periods (more than a couple of hours) may reduce the quality of the food.
Examples of ways to keep foods warm include:
- Place pancakes or waffles in a single layer on a baking sheet as they're made if you want to serve them all at the same time.
- Keep hot takeout food — such as barbecued meat or Chinese food — warm by transferring it to an oven-safe baking dish while you prepare another dish to serve with it.
- If you mash potatoes in an oven-safe saucepan, place them in the oven to stay warm while you finish preparing the other foods.
- When stir-frying foods in several batches, transfer heated foods to the oven until all foods have been stir-fried.
- Chafing dishes, preheated warming trays, multicookers, slow cookers or toaster ovens may also be used to keep food warm.
Article originally written by Alice Henneman, MS, RD. Reviewed and updated in 2020.