When it comes to cooking in a commercial kitchen, having the right equipment is essential. One such piece of equipment is the hotel pan.

If you’re not familiar with hotel pans, you may be wondering what they are and how they’re used. In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide to hotel pans, from their origins to their various uses in the kitchen.

So, whether you’re a professional chef or just someone who loves to cook, read on to learn everything you need to know about hotel pans.

What is a Hotel Pan?

If you have ever dined at a hotel, a buffet, or a catering event, you have most likely come across hotel pans. Hotel pans are essential tools in the foodservice industry, making it possible to prepare, store, and serve food in large quantities.

What is a Hotel Pan?

A hotel pan is a shallow, rectangular metal container made of stainless steel, aluminum, or copper that is used to prepare, cook, store, and serve food. It is commonly used in hotels, restaurants, catering businesses, and other foodservice establishments to handle large quantities of food.

Origins of the Hotel Pan

Hotel pans were first introduced in the early 1900s as part of the hotel industry’s efforts to improve efficiency in the kitchen. The pans were designed to fit standard-sized racks and hold food for serving, making it easier for hotels to manage their foodservice operations.

Types of Hotel Pans

There are several types of hotel pans available in the market today. The most commonly used ones are:

  • Gastronorm Pans – These are the most popular type of hotel pans, and they come in six standard sizes: full, half, third, quarter, sixth, and ninth. Gastronorm pans are designed to fit in standard-sized racks and are compatible with most foodservice equipment.
  • Perforated Pans – These pans have small holes on the bottom that allow for the draining of liquids, making them ideal for cooking and storing items like vegetables and pasta.
  • Steam Table Pans – These are shallow pans that are designed to be used in steam tables to keep food warm. They are available in the same sizes as gastronorm pans and are made of stainless steel or aluminum.

Sizes and Capacities

Hotel pans come in various sizes, and their capacities are measured in quarts. The most commonly used sizes and their capacities are:

Size Dimensions Capacity (Quarts)
Full 20 3/4″ x 12 3/4″ 8.5
Half 12 3/4″ x 10 3/8″ 4.25
Third 12 3/4″ x 6 7/8″ 2.5
Quarter 10 3/8″ x 6 3/8″ 1.5

It is worth mentioning that the size and capacity of hotel pans can vary slightly between different manufacturers. When purchasing hotel pans, it is essential to check the dimensions and capacity to ensure they fit your specific needs.

Uses of Hotel Pans in the Kitchen

Hotel pans are essential tools in any commercial kitchen, and they are used for a variety of purposes. The following are some of the most common uses of hotel pans in the kitchen:

  • Holding and Storing Food: Hotel pans are often used to hold and store food. They are available in various sizes and depths and can be used to hold anything from salad greens to entrees. They are also ideal for holding and storing ingredients that will be used later in the cooking process.
  • Cooking and Reheating Food: Hotel pans are also used for cooking and reheating food. They can be used in the oven, on the stovetop, or in a steam table. They are often used for cooking large quantities of food, such as lasagna or roasted vegetables. They are also ideal for reheating leftovers.
  • Transporting Food: Hotel pans are designed to be durable and stackable, making them ideal for transporting food. They are often used to transport food from the kitchen to a buffet table or to another location. They can also be used to transport food to catered events or off-site locations.

It is worth mentioning that hotel pans are available in different materials, such as stainless steel, aluminum, and plastic. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages, and the choice of material will depend on the specific needs of the kitchen.

When it comes to holding and storing food, hotel pans are an excellent option because they can be covered with lids, which helps to keep the food fresh. Keep in mind that it is important to label and date the food in the hotel pans to ensure that it is used before it expires.

On the other hand, when it comes to cooking and reheating food, it is important to choose the right size and depth of hotel pan to ensure that the food is cooked or reheated evenly. It is also important to use a hotel pan that is appropriate for the cooking method being used.

Unfortunately, transporting food can be a challenge because it can spill or become contaminated during transport. To prevent this, it is important to use a hotel pan that is secure and leak-proof. It is also important to transport the food at the right temperature to prevent it from spoiling.

Remember, the use of hotel pans in the kitchen is not limited to the above-mentioned purposes. They can also be used for breading and marinating food, as well as for serving food. Hotel pans are versatile tools that can help to make the cooking process more efficient and effective.

Materials and Construction of Hotel Pans

When it comes to choosing the right hotel pan for your kitchen, it is important to consider the materials and construction. The most popular materials used for hotel pans are stainless steel, aluminum, and those with a non-stick coating.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel hotel pans are known for their durability and resistance to corrosion, making them a reliable choice for high-traffic kitchens. They are also non-reactive, meaning they won’t affect the flavor of the food. Stainless steel hotel pans can be used for a variety of cooking methods, including baking, broiling, and roasting.


Aluminum hotel pans are lightweight and heat up quickly, making them a popular choice for kitchens that require fast cooking times. They are also affordable, making them a great option for budget-conscious kitchens. However, aluminum is reactive, which means it can affect the flavor of acidic foods. It is also not as durable as stainless steel.

Non-Stick Coating

Hotel pans with a non-stick coating are ideal for cooking delicate foods that are prone to sticking, such as eggs or fish. The non-stick coating allows for easy food release and makes clean-up a breeze. However, it is important to note that non-stick coatings can scratch and peel over time, which can be a health concern.

Material Pros Cons
Stainless Steel Durable, corrosion-resistant, non-reactive Expensive
Aluminum Lightweight, affordable, heats up quickly Reactive, not as durable
Non-Stick Coating Easy food release, easy to clean Can scratch or peel over time

Keep in mind: When choosing a hotel pan, it is important to consider the type of foods you will be cooking and the cooking methods you will be using.

It is also worth mentioning that some hotel pans come with reinforced edges or corners to prevent bending or warping over time.

Remember, investing in high-quality hotel pans can ultimately save you money in the long run by reducing the need for frequent replacements.

Choosing the Right Hotel Pan

When choosing the right hotel pan, there are several factors to consider in order to meet your specific needs. One of the most important considerations is the size of the pan. Hotel pans come in a range of sizes, from full size to 1/9 size. It is worth mentioning that full-size pans are the most commonly used size in commercial kitchens, while smaller sizes are used for smaller dishes or for ingredient storage.

Another consideration is the material of the pan. Most hotel pans are made of stainless steel, which is durable, easy to clean, and resistant to corrosion. However, there are also aluminum and non-stick options available. Keep in mind that aluminum pans are lighter but may not be as durable as stainless steel, while non-stick pans are more delicate and may not be suitable for high-temperature cooking.

Finally, the depth of the pan is another factor to consider. Deeper pans are ideal for dishes that require more liquid, such as soups or stews, while shallower pans are best for dishes that require less liquid or for ingredient storage.

When it comes to brands and manufacturers, there are several well-known names in the industry. Some of the top brands include Cambro, Vollrath, and Carlisle. These brands offer a variety of sizes and materials to choose from. It is worth noting that Vollrath offers a lifetime warranty on their stainless steel pans, making them a popular choice among chefs and kitchen managers.

Brand Material Size
Cambro Stainless steel, plastic Full size to 1/9 size
Vollrath Stainless steel, aluminum, non-stick Full size to 1/9 size
Carlisle Stainless steel, plastic Full size to 1/9 size

It is important to remember that the right hotel pan for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. By considering factors such as size, material, and depth, and by researching different brands and manufacturers, you can choose a hotel pan that will meet all of your kitchen’s needs.

Caring for Your Hotel Pans

When it comes to hotel pans, caring for them properly is essential for longevity, hygiene, and overall performance. Here are some tips on how to maintain your hotel pans:

Cleaning and Maintenance

After each use, it is important to clean your hotel pans thoroughly. Use hot water and soap to remove any food residue or stains. Avoid using abrasive cleaners that can scratch the surface of the pan. If the pan has burnt-on food, soak it in hot water for a few hours before cleaning.

It is worth mentioning that regular maintenance can prevent rust and corrosion. To maintain the non-stick surface, avoid using metal utensils that can scratch or damage the coating. Instead, use silicone or wooden utensils. If the non-stick coating is damaged, it is recommended to replace the pan.

Remember to dry the hotel pans completely before storing them. Moisture can cause rust or corrosion.

Storage and Organization

Proper storage and organization can prolong the life of your hotel pans. Stack the pans neatly to save space, but avoid stacking them too high as this can damage the pans. It is recommended to use a pan rack or divider to keep the pans separated and prevent scratches or dents.

On the other hand, if you need to transport your hotel pans, use a pan carrier to protect them from damage or breakage. Keep in mind that excessive movement or shaking during transport can cause damage to the pans.

Finally, it is important to store your hotel pans in a clean and dry area. Avoid storing them in damp areas or where there is moisture, as this can cause rust or corrosion.


In conclusion, hotel pans are a must-have for any commercial kitchen and can also be useful for home cooks. Understanding the different types, sizes, and materials of hotel pans, as well as their various uses and care requirements, will help you make informed decisions when it comes to purchasing and using these essential tools.

So, whether you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen equipment or just want to learn more about hotel pans, we hope this comprehensive guide has been helpful to you.

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