Food Pans and Layouts


Food pans are essential to the foodservice industry. They start in the food prep area then make their way to display in a steam table, hence their other name: Steam table pans. Each food pan manufacturer has different construction types and benefits to best fit your foodservice establishment.

Pan Sizes

There are a variety of food pan sizes to best fit your current table's configuration which all depends on the types of food you are serving. In some instances, it is beneficial to use a full size pan, while in others, you may want to break things up and use multiple food pans in the same well. With Central's selection, options are endless.

Below is a diagram to show the different food pan size offerings from Central:

When dividing up a steam table, you will need to use adapter bars. Adapter bars enhance the steam tables presentation but more importantly, eliminate gaps that may cause steam loss. They also reduce energy consumption.

Below is a diagram to show the different ways adapter bars can be used with multiple sizes of food pans in the same well:

Adapter Bar Color Key


From stainless steel gauges to reinforced corners, there are many factors to consider when shopping for a food pan.

Stainless Steel Gauges

When choosing a gauge size, keep one thing in mind: The lower the gauge number is, the thicker the steel will be. So, for instance, a 22 gauge food pan will be thicker than a 24 gauge. Foodservice operations that depend heavily on using food pans may want to consider a lower gauge for durability.


If you have had to get a food pan out of a steam table before, you know at times it is not the easiest task. Many food pans now are "anti-jamming" or have a tapered or angled ramp on the corner for easy lifting. Others include coved corners for easy serving or pouring.


Food pans with a flat edge will keep the pan tight in the well and promote easier handling with a larger gripping area.


There are many accessories you can add to your food pan purchase to make things easier or more efficient for staff that include:

  • Wire grates: Ideal for draining, cooling and more
  • False Bottoms: Hold food above the pan bottom for draining
  • Disposable Pan Liners: Perfect for easy clean-up and can be used in both hot and cold settings
  • Disposable Pan Covers: Plastic that fits over a pan and shrinks once put in an oven for a tight-fit
  • Lids: Available in a variety of options from hinged and flexible to one that can be used with different food pan sizes

Looking for Plastic Food Pans?

Learn more about different plastic construction materials and other special considerations for plastic food pans in the Plastic Food Containers Buying Guide, or select a link below to begin shopping.

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