Infrared Heat Lamps
Most commercial kitchens or restaurant buffets require infrared heat lamps to keep prepared food warm without it drying out or becoming discolored. Food heat lamps keep dishes at the perfect temperature until ready to be served. The two most common types of restaurant heat lamps are strip warmers and bulb warmers.
Strip warmers consist of a single or dual, high wattage tubular metal heater rod. The majority of these units are designed to be installed and stay in one place. They are great for buffets because they come in a variety of lengths, and can also be found in the back of the house.
Bulb warmers are usually freestanding units that can be plugged into a standard outlet, making them portable. They don’t produce as much heat as the strip warmers and generally cover less surface area. These units are ideal for carving stations or for holding warm bags of foods at concession stands, like French fries.
If you’re trying to decide between food warmers or heat lamps, remember that heat lamps are best for keeping foods warm for a short period of time. They work best on foods with a small surface area like veggies, breads, or pieces of meat, like chicken breasts. These units are not meant to be used for long-term holding or for heating dense foods like mashed potatoes. For those kinds of items, opt for a drop-in food well, holding cabinet, or hot food table.