Traditional Chafing Fuels & Flameless Food Warming

Food warming solutions are a must have for all food service operations.  Whether you are setting up a buffet style dining event, catering an office luncheon, or sending a large pickup catering order out your doors, you need to be able to provide a warming solution for that food.  Different circumstances require different approaches and therefor different products.  Let’s explore the various options available and when, where and how to use them tot heir full effectiveness.

Chafing Fuels

The use of chafing fuels shouldn’t be a foreign concept to many in the food service industry.  It is far and away the most popular method of food warming in serve yourself settings.  It is a tried and true method to reliably keep prepared foods warm for the duration of your event up to approximately 6 hours.  That said, this older method does have a slight drawback.  It takes a considerable amount of time and effort to properly setup and warm chafing dishes.  Aside from all of the assembly and filling of water pans, it will take at least 20 minutes to bring your water to a steam.

Sterno Stem Wick 6 Hour: Item #10102

Wick vs. Gel

Wick fuel and gel fuel are the two options for chafing fuels.  Both options are considered to be environmentally friendly, odorless, and deliver high-quality heat for reliable food warming.  They are also both resealable so you can use them on multiple occasions until the fuel is exhausted.  There are some minor differences:


  • Available in two types: traditional or stem.
  • Uses a clean-burning glycol fuel.
  • Available in 2, 4, or 6 hours burn times.
  • Generally considered safer than gel since spilled glycol does not combust without a wick.


  • Available in two types: Ethanol (pink) or Methanol (blue).
  • Sterno Handy Fuel (Gel): Item #20660

    Available in 45 minutes, or 2, 4, or 6 hours burn times.

  • Ideal for low-profile chafers where the water pan is too close to the fuel cell holder for wick fuel.
  • NEVER touch when lit, they can become extremely hot as flame burns down the can.

Sterno SpeedHeat: Flameless Food Warming System

There are many times when a more practical option in necessary or food warming.  For smaller events it just doesn’t make sense to go through the hassle of setting up and breaking down entire chafing dishes.  Customer want something quick and safe that will be an easy cleanup.  This revolutionary product is an instant, flameless food warming system that makes quick-serve, drop off catering safer, simpler and faster!  This product is ideal for dining events lasting under 1-hour such as business lunches, corporate meetings and home parties. The heating agent is a non-toxic flameless heat pack which when mixed with warm water allows you to set-up and serve warm meals in minutes. This also provides a great way to expand drop-off or catering services to locations with open flame restrictions like churches, stadiums, casinos and historic buildings. If you would like more information on this product click here for resources and check out the video below to see how the system works:

Add Value for Your Customers

We have seen a lot of success in various catering and takeout operations we partner with utilizing this system.  Given the affordability of this system, many food service operations have been able to offer SpeedHeat trays and packets along with food orders at a small additional cost.  Most customers are so eager to have access to the simple food warming solution that they are happy to add this to their purchase. In turn, it helps you keep your costs down and ensures your food will be served at the correct temperature for all to enjoy and remember you by. This in turn leads to an increase in repeat orders.

How Johnston Can Help

Johnston prides itself on providing exceptional products to suit your food warming needs.  Our experts can help you assess your current situation and evaluate the best way to deploy new systems and processes throughout your facilities.  Johnston works with many exceptional vendors to deliver quality products, training and service to our customers.  In addition, our experts can help identify potential problem areas in your processes and help you to improve them through training, reinforcement and proper product selection.  Our team even offers laundry and warewash services as well as preventative maintenance programs where an expert from our team will check on your fleet regularly, keep it in great working order and inform you of any necessary maintenance or repairs.  Contact a Johnston expert today to get started.

About Johnston

Johnston has always stood for reliability, commitment, quality, and service. Our heritage means years of accumulated industry knowledge, the ability to see the bigger picture, and the know-how to determine the best possible approach. Combining this mastery with the drive to deliver exceptional results, Johnston goes beyond sales, developing strategic, end-to-end tailored solutions for each customer since 1881.

Contact a Johnston expert today!

See what solutions we can customize for you.

Call us at 800-800-7123 or visit our Contact page.