How to Keep Meat Warm: 8 Easy & Safe Ways


Stop your barbecue beef, pork and chicken going cold. From slow cookers to outdoor grills, here are eight quick and easy ways to keep meat warm.

how to keep meat warm

Keeping food warm while the rest of your meal cooks or during a party can be a pain. Fortunately, there are a myriad of ways to keep the chill away from your feast before it’s time to chow down.

From the common catering trick of chafing dishes to the handy cooking vessels you might already have in your kitchen, you’ll never have to worry about lukewarm meals again.

On a more serious note, it’s important to keep food hot in order to prevent bacteria from growing. Illness and loss of maximum flavor is a no-go on all fronts. To ensure safety, keep a food thermometer nearby and check the internal temperature of whatever you may be serving. 

pork kept warm and reheated in oven


One of the most accessible choices when it comes to keeping food a nice, warm temperature is the oven, as most households have one.

It works for reheating ribs, brisket, reheating pulled pork, and it also does wonders for keeping meat warm fresh off the smoker or grill.

Set the oven between 170° – 200°F or the warm setting and simply transfer your food to either a baking sheet, oven-safe saucepan, or baking dish and cover them in aluminum foil. This can keep for an hour or two, but will eventually change the meal both in texture and flavor.

Also, if your oven has a button called “Warming Drawer” you can use the drawer at the bottom of the oven most people think is for storage for warming! 

Slow Cooker

Slow cookers are a great and affordable option to keep your meal from cooling too fast. They can keep your food warm for one to four hours after cooking on either the lowest setting or if your slow cooker has the option, the warm setting.

Make sure that the food stays above 140°F (60°C). Be aware that if you leave the food for too long, like the oven, it can change the flavor and texture of your dinner.

Chafing Dish

If you’re looking for an ideal way to keep food hot for your next party, look no further. A chafing dish (like this one on Amazon) is essentially a pan that is raised up on a frame that is set over a small flame. It’s a great investment to make if you host a lot of parties because they are stress-free. You can put all your dishes out ahead of time as they are made to keep food warm for two to six hours. Aside from keeping your heated food hot, it will also heat up cold food you put in it without any fuss. 

Insulated Cooler Bag

Hard-cased or soft-sided coolers are a fantastic low-cost and easy alternative. Put whatever you’re trying to keep hot in either a covered dish or foil and store. Be sure to check the temperature every once in a while, so it doesn’t go below 140°F.

You can also DIY your own insulated container for little cost. Line the inside a bag or a cooler as well as the food in foil and place inside. A handy way to make heat packs at home is to take unused socks and fill them with rice, and then heat them up in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. Fill in any large gaps in your container with the heat packs. If there are any other gaps, take towels and stuff those in.

For an extra layer of heat, put hot water bottles on the top, and then seal the container tightly to trap all the warmth in. Make sure to eat your food within 2 hours. 

Aluminum Foil

Quite possibly the simplest way to keep food warm before you’re ready to serve it is aluminum foil. It’ll keep it heated for around 30 minutes, and tenting meat with it will not only keep it warm, but it will also help the juices distribute more evenly. When wrapping it, though, make sure not to do it too tightly, or the meat will lose all the moisture.

Another easy way to use aluminum foil in the quest for hot food is to wrap it and put it in the microwave. This is a favorite in my household. The foil keeps all the heat trapped in while the microwave acts as a further barrier from any sort of chill. 


An outdoor grill can be an excellent tool to expand your food’s high temperature life span, even if you didn’t cook it on the grill! All you need to do is put the burners on the lowest setting until you’re ready to eat. The food should be removed from the grill within a few hours otherwise the quality could go down. If you cooked on the grill, then simply move them from directly above the coals, to the side of the grill rack. 

Rice Cooker

Much like a slow cooker, rice cookers are also great kitchen appliances to keep food the right temperature until you want to eat it. It has a warm setting solely to keep food at an edible temperature for many hours. The optimal time to keep your meal in a rice cooker before eating is five hours, however periodically you will need to let out the steam to ensure nothing is overcooked. 

Double Boiler

Double boilers are your best bet to keep soups, sauces, mashed potatoes, and the like warm as they apply a slow, gentle heat. A great alternative to purchasing one is using your own stainless steel bowl that fits fairly tight into the rim of a saucepan. Make sure to keep the heat low as too much steam can ruin the dish you’re trying to preserve. 

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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