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Bain Marie: Types, Uses, and Maintenance

Restaurants, cafeterias, diners, and other types of establishments in the food industry use various equipment to ensure that their products are served at ideal temperatures. Keeping food warm or cold is essential to retain flavour, texture and visual appeal. Moreover, dishes must be served at specific temperatures to make them appetising to customers. 

Food establishments commonly use Bain Marie, also called food warmer, to keep it at optimal temperatures. A Bain Marie consists of stainless-steel frames, metal dishes called gastronorm pans, and a heating or cooling unit. Some also have glass panels and doors and may also include light fixtures.  

The name ‘Bain Marie’ is rooted in the French term ‘Bain de Marie,’ which means ‘Mary’s bath.’ The name was taken from Mary the Jewess, an ancient alchemist who invented the device. It comes in various shapes, sizes and designs and is used for different purposes. While Bain Marie is commonly associated with hot food items, this equipment can keep food at lower temperatures.  

If you’d like to learn more about the different types of Bain Marie and its uses and maintenance requirements, continue reading this article. 

Types of Bain Marie

There are various types of Bain Marie. Those used in commercial establishments are usually either for hot or cold food service. The hot server variant can be classified as either traditional or modern. Traditional food warmers use hot water to warm the metal dishes or gastronorm pans, thus, applying indirect heat to the food. Meanwhile, modern Bain Marie for hot food applies direct dry heat to the gastronorm pans and keeps the food warm or hot. 

According to the Food Safety Information Council of Australia, a Bain Marie warmer is used to keep hot food at 60°C or hotter temperature, which are ideal serving temperatures. This way, the food will remain appetising and safe to eat without scalding hot. Meanwhile, the cold Bain Marie serves chilled food. Instead of a heating component, a cooling Bain Marie has an integral condensing unit to keep food at low temperatures.    

Follow the Bain Marie instructions to ensure that you’re serving food at the right temperatures, as outlined in the top five food safety factors in New Zealand’s Food Act 2014. Food in this equipment typically lasts up to four hours, provided the temperature is consistently maintained. 

Different uses of Bain Marie

Food warmers are typically placed on top of a stand or a kitchen top and then used as an island display or a self-service nook. On the other hand, the Bain Marie fridge is typically used as a salad bar or a display island for ice cream, desserts, cut-up fruits and other items, ideally served cold. The cold food display unit can be dropped into the counter. 

Bain Marie can be seen installed in many food outlets across the world. They’re popular in fast food restaurants, takeaway outlets, food courts and other food shops. Likewise, you’ll find Bain Marie in hotels, catering services, canteens and the like, as this equipment can be significantly valuable in serving food in large quantities. 

Bain Marie maintenance

Since Bain Marie primarily comprises stainless steel, maintenance is relatively easy. Fully stainless-steel construction makes cleaning a breeze and meets food safety standards. Food debris won’t easily stick to the surface, and contaminants can be quickly removed using a sponge and soapy water.

Before cleaning your Bain Marie, it’s crucial to unplug the unit and allow the water inside to cool down to a safe level. Also, the gastronorm pans, Bain Marie lights, lids and other removable parts must be cleared to avoid accidents or damage. Once the water is cold enough, you can drain it using the exterior tap intended for drainage or drain the unit directly on the kitchen sink.    

After removing the water, you can scrub the stainless steel with a sponge or a rug, cool water and cleaning agents. Rinse the unit thoroughly and wipe it with a towel to dry it before placing it back on the counter.  

Draining your Bain Marie daily after use is highly advised to simplify the cleaning and maintenance. 


Bain Marie is part of the Custom Solutions range of Inter-Fridge, a New Zealand-based business solutions provider. Inter-Fridge Bain Marie are manufactured from 304-grade stainless steel and are gastronorm compatible, with hot and cold versions available as Island or Self-Service options. LED lighting is included in all models.

Depending on your requirements, you can have sliding glass doors for easy access. Sizes range from 1200 millimetres (mm), 1500mm, 1800mm, up to 2200mm wide. Canopies and sneezeguards are also available as additional health and safety measures. For more Bain Marie options and to discuss your requirements, contact one of our team members today!