With as popular as potatoes are in just about every dish, for just about every occasion as well, it would make sense that you would want to prepare a nice potato dish for a large family gathering or any other occasion when you would be serving food to people.
However, as with many things in life, there may come an unexpected situation where someone arrives to the gathering somewhat late. When this happens, you may not know what to do to keep the food warm and at serving temperature.
There are many, many different methods that you can keep food warm. It all depends on the type of food that you are trying to keep warm as well as how long you need to keep the food warm for.
In some cases, you can simply leave the oven on at a low temperature for 20 minutes while you wait for the late guests to arrive.
In some cases, you may need to keep the food in question warm while you travel to the destination where everyone will be. With as many different situations for this as there are, it should come as no surprise that there are also many different ways to keep your favorite foods at a serving temperature for a fair amount of time.
Take, for example, a classic food of the nation: baked potatoes. Baked potatoes are suitable for just about any occasion and they are incredibly versatile, allowing there to be countless different methods that you can cook this simple and timeless meal.
Due to the nature of baked potatoes, they are one of the most common dishes that people would serve at a gathering or bring with them when visiting family. This means that whether you are planning for late guests or for being on the road, you are going to want to have a sense of how you can keep your potatoes warm.
Thankfully, baked potatoes are one of the easiest types of food that you can keep warm in most situations. In the case where guests may be arriving late, it’s pretty easy to keep the baked potatoes in a way that allows them to keep at serving temperature for more than enough time for most late guests to arrive to your location.
In a case where you have to travel to a destination and you are bringing your potatoes with you, there are a few ways that you can keep them warm on a car ride as well, as long as the overall trip doesn’t exceed more than several hours.
Without a doubt, if there is any food that you should be trying to keep warm or that you should take with you to a family gathering, baked potatoes are going to be the easiest type of food to manage.
First, you will want to have a good idea of how to keep baked potatoes at serving temperature, without altering their texture or taste, and from there you can begin to learn about how you would keep your potatoes warm in the car while you travel to meet with friends or family.
Keeping Potatoes Warm at Home
As an example, consider that you are having a family or holiday dinner at your house and you are inviting people over.
Common courtesy is that you do what you can to keep the food warm for a reasonable amount of time until all the guests who are coming have arrived, making sure to keep some foods at serving temperature to ensure that any potentially late guests will be able to have a tasty warm dinner without needing to rely on the microwave.
There are a few ways you can go about doing this, depending on what you have readily available in your kitchen. You can either use a bowl filled with hot water, a crockpot, or a bread warmer.
All of these options will work well, so it is purely up to your own kitchen supply and what you can make use of most easily. For the bread warmer, you will want to begin by having the potatoes reach the recommended internal temperature of 185 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit.
From here, you will pull the potatoes out of the oven, and using a mitted hand, you will wrap all of the potatoes into foil separately so that each potato has its own square of foil. You would then place the wrapped potatoes in a heated bread warmer drawer, leaving them there until the last of the late guests arrive.
The combination of the warmer environment and the foil around the potatoes make it easier for them to retain their heat while you wait, without affecting the texture of the potato. You can also consider a portable warming cabinet, not unlike the ones used for catering or slow-cooking meats, but these are not commonplace.
You can also use either a bowl filled with warm water or a crockpot. Both will functionally serve the same purpose of being a warm environment for the potatoes to wait in, it’s just that the crockpot remains heated through electricity and the bowl will become warm from the water placed into it.
If you are using a bowl filled with warm water, you will want to put warm/hot water into the bowl a few minutes before you take the potatoes out of the oven so that the bowl can heat up.
You will then follow the same process as you would with the bread warmer, wrapping each potato in a square of foil so that they can retain their heat for as long as possible. When all of the potatoes have been wrapped, you will then want to remove the water in the bowl, leaving just the warmed surface.
For the crockpot, you will not need any water so this step does not apply to you. Just as with the bread warmer, you will place the wrapped potatoes inside the heated surface, covering them until you are ready to serve them to any guests lagging behind.
Warming Potatoes on the Go
In some cases, you will want to keep potatoes warm while you are arriving to a destination. For the sake of convenience and not packing too much for what you would need, these options are given on the assumption that the overall car ride will not take more than six to eight hours.
For keeping baked potatoes warm in the car, you will be following much of the same instructions, but keeping everything portable. You will still need the foil to keep the potatoes warm and you will still need a container that can keep heat inside of it, such as a glass container.
In addition to this, you will want to bring some towels or blankets to surround the container with. These will further insulate it, ensuring that no heat will escape as you are on the road. If you want to be extra careful, you can also use a cooler or a cardboard box for further insulation.
You will then want to follow the same steps as you would for the beginning of the previous methods. When you take the potatoes out of the oven, you will want to wrap them with foil immediately so that you can start keeping the heat trapped inside the potato, keeping it as close to the serving temperature as possible.
In a situation where you will be on the road for a while, you can consider purchasing a portable food warmer. Because this will be a purchase to make, this cannot always be done in the moment but it is good to have one if you know you will be needing it.
These generally plug into a car’s lighter. Depending on how many potatoes you are bringing, you may need more than one, which can get tricky.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.