What are hotel pans used for?



When it comes to running a professional kitchen or organizing a large-scale event, hotel pans are an essential tool that can make your life a whole lot easier. These deep, rectangular pans, which can vary in size, are versatile and multipurpose, designed to meet the demanding needs of the hospitality industry. In this article, we will delve into the world of hotel pans and explore their various uses and advantages. Whether you are a professional chef or a passionate home cook, understanding hotel pans and their applications can revolutionize your cooking and catering experience.

What Are Hotel Pans?

Hotel pans, also known as steam table pans or gastronorm pans, are shallow, rectangular pans typically made of stainless steel. They come in different sizes, ranging from full-size pans (20.75 inches by 12.88 inches) to smaller fractional pans. These pans are designed to fit seamlessly into commercial equipment such as steam tables, chafing dishes, and buffet setups.

The standard sizing of hotel pans follows the Gastronorm (GN) system, which was developed by the European Committee for Standardization. This system ensures uniformity in the sizes of food pans, allowing for easy interchangeability and compatibility among various foodservice equipment. The GN system categorizes pans into different sizes, such as GN 1/1, GN 1/2, GN 1/3, GN 1/4, and so on, with the number indicating the number of times the pan of that size will fit into a full-size pan. For instance, a GN 1/2 pan is half the size of a full-size pan.

Advantages of Using Hotel Pans

Hotel pans offer numerous advantages that make them invaluable in professional kitchens and catering operations. Let's explore some of the key benefits:

1. Versatility and Flexibility

One of the primary advantages of hotel pans is their versatility and flexibility. These pans can be used for a wide range of food preparation, storage, cooking, and serving purposes. From marinating large quantities of food to baking, roasting, and even transporting meals, hotel pans can handle it all. Their compatibility with various equipment, such as ovens, steamers, and warming units, adds to their flexibility, allowing seamless integration into your foodservice operation.

2. Efficient Food Organization

Hotel pans are ideal for organizing and storing food in a professional kitchen. Their rectangular shape and uniform size make them stackable, allowing for efficient use of space in coolers, refrigerators, and storage cabinets. By neatly arranging ingredients or prepped items in hotel pans, you can maximize storage capacity, minimize clutter, and easily access the required items without the hassle of searching through multiple containers.

3. Temperature Retention

Another notable advantage of hotel pans, especially those made of stainless steel, is their excellent heat retention properties. These pans retain heat for extended periods, helping to keep your food warm and appetizing. Whether you are using a chafing dish or a steam table setup, hotel pans ensure that your dishes stay at the desired temperature, presenting consistently delicious meals to your guests.

4. Durable and Long-lasting

Hotel pans are built to withstand the rigors of a commercial kitchen. Made from high-quality materials like stainless steel, they are incredibly durable and can withstand high temperatures, heavy use, and regular cleaning without warping or denting. This durability ensures that hotel pans will serve you well for a long time, making them a worthwhile investment for any culinary professional.

5. Easy Cleaning and Maintenance

Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene is crucial in any foodservice establishment, and hotel pans simplify the cleaning process. Their smooth, non-porous surfaces prevent food particles from sticking, making them easy to clean. Hotel pans are dishwasher safe, and many can withstand the abrasive action of cleaning chemicals without deteriorating. This makes them a hygienic choice and saves valuable time and effort during busy kitchen operations.

Uses of Hotel Pans

Now that we have explored the advantages of hotel pans, let's dive into their various uses in a professional kitchen or catering operation. Hotel pans are incredibly versatile tools and find themselves valuable in multiple aspects of food preparation and service.

Prepping and Storage

One of the primary uses of hotel pans is to store prepped ingredients before cooking or assembling dishes. Hotel pans accommodate a significant volume of food, allowing you to prep large quantities in advance. By using hotel pans, you can marinate meats, season vegetables, and store prepped ingredients conveniently. These pans also come with compatible lids or covers, enabling you to seal them tightly and retain the freshness of the stored food.

When prepping for events or large-scale catering, hotel pans can be a game-changer. Whether you are chopping, slicing, or dicing vegetables, or preparing salads or dressings, hotel pans provide ample space for preparing multiple food items simultaneously. Additionally, these pans allow you to maintain organization by separating ingredients and reducing countertop clutter.

Cooking and Baking

Hotel pans are well-suited for cooking and baking applications, thanks to their heat-conductive properties. When roasting meats or vegetables, hotel pans provide an even heat distribution, resulting in consistent and perfectly cooked dishes. They can withstand high temperatures, making them suitable for broiling, baking, or even grilling in some cases.

These pans are commonly used in commercial ovens and can accommodate multiple pans simultaneously, allowing large quantities of food to be cooked at once. You can use hotel pans for baking delectable casseroles, lasagnas, or even sheet cakes. Their depth ensures the contents remain within the pan, preventing any spillage, and making them efficient for baking moist and juicy dishes.


When it comes to off-site catering or transporting food items, hotel pans are invaluable. Their size and shape make them ideal for carrying and stacking in insulated carriers or food transport boxes. Whether you are catering a wedding or delivering meals for a corporate event, hotel pans allow you to transport food safely and efficiently.

Serving and Display

Hotel pans are commonly used in buffet and self-service setups. They are designed to fit into steam tables, chafing dishes, or food warming stations, keeping the food warm and appetizing throughout the service. These pans are deep enough to hold large quantities of food while maintaining a sleek and visually appealing presentation.

In addition to buffet setups, hotel pans are perfect for serving family-style meals or even individual portions. They can be used to serve dishes directly at the table, allowing guests to serve themselves while retaining the temperature of the food. Whether you are hosting a dinner party or holiday gathering, hotel pans can elevate the dining experience and streamline the serving process.


Hotel pans are a chef's trusted ally, providing versatility, efficiency, and durability in a professional kitchen or catering setting. From prepping and storage to cooking, transportation, and presentation, these pans are indispensable tools. Their compatibility with various foodservice equipment, excellent heat retention, and easy cleaning make hotel pans a worthwhile investment for any culinary professional or passionate home cook.

Next time you step into the kitchen, consider harnessing the power of hotel pans and unlock a world of culinary possibilities. Experience the convenience, organization, and consistency that these pans bring to your cooking, and elevate your dishes to new heights with this essential kitchen essential.


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