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, or slow cookers may also be used.
Article originally written by Alice Henneman, MS, RD. Reviewed and updated in 2020.