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Holding cabinets

At high-volume restaurants, a holding cabinet can be a real time- and money-saver for keeping dishes warm without drying out. For smaller operations, there are countertop models, usually holding two or three pans.

The basics
The standard holding cabinet comes in  many sizes, ranging from undercounter models (which hold about six pans) up to full-height, 20-pan models. Many of the larger cabinets have split “Dutch” doors to keep heat in when the cabinet is opened.

Casters are standard on most models, but stationary cabinets are also available. For cabinets that will be wheeled, be sure there are handles for easy pulling and bumpers to prevent damage to walls. If the cabinet will be in an area accessed by both kitchen and wait staff, consider a pass-through model with doors on both sides.

Since virtually every manufacturer offers humidified and dry options, it’s important to determine what foods you’ll typically be holding. In the humidified cabinets, moist air is produced by a water reservoir and circulated by a fan. The dry cabinets simply circulate heated air. Certain foods, like some whole-muscle meats, will hold up acceptably in dry cabinets. But crisp-coated chicken or fish, for example, will need the moisture in a humidified cabinet to keep from drying out. If baked goods are on your menu, there are combination proofing and holding cabinets that provide consistently moist, low-temperature heat for raising bread or roll dough.

Whether you need an insulated cabinet will depend on the time you plan to hold food. A non-insulated cabinet, with its single-layer metal walls, may be a better choice for short holding times. But for a longer period, the extra security provided by a cabinet with insulation sandwiched between two layers of metal can help offset its higher initial cost.

The options
Beyond the basics, the sky’s the limit for special features:

  • Hatco’s Flav-R-Savor Tall Dry Holding Cabinets feature tempered glass sides for better visibility and product rotation;
  • the C5 9 cabinets from Metro have a low-water alarm that sounds when the reservoir needs refilling;
  • the CombiMate 20 from Alto-Shaam accommodates a 20-pan roll-in trolley, which can also go in the company’s combi ovens and quick chillers;
  • Winston Industries’ HA4022 features a “food texture” dial, with settings ranging from “proof” to “very crisp”;
  • Cambro’s new insulated rolling cabinet has a molded polyethylene body instead of the typical metal.

Selected Full-Height Holding Cabinets At A Glance

Manufacturer/ModelExterior Dimensions
(H x W x D)
Temperature Range (°F)Features/Options
Alto-Shaam 2073.8- x 35- x 41.6-in.60°–205°FAvailable in stationary or mobile models;
electronic thermostat; optional roll-in pan cart
BevLes HCSS74W1273.6- x 28.1- x 34-in.70°–215°FDutch doors; low-water alarm
Hatco FSHC-17W73.3- x 25.4- x 34.9-in.90°–180°FFull-view Lexan door; optional Dutch doors;
optional pass-through door
Metro C59974.8- x 30- x 36.4-in.70°–200°FElectronic temperature and humidity displays;
low-temperature and low-water alarms
Winston Industries
74.9- x 27.6- x 34.5-in.90°–180°F“Food texture” selector dial; optional pass-through door;
optional automatic water fill system


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