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The Merits of the Chafing Dish - 1913

How much do you use a chafing dish? Have you any idea how useful it is as a piece of household furniture? Of course, the usual opinion concerning a chafing dish is that it is an article of luxury, designed for service at late-at-night revels or other meals taken at uncanonical hours.

To consider it as an everyday adjunct of commonplace food seems a little odd, at first, but no woman who has ever known what it is to be able to prepare a hasty meal with its help fails to estimate it as valuable assistance to easy housekeeping.

The Merits of the Chafing Dish - 1913
Perhaps the chafing dish is of less importance in a family where cooking is done by gas than anywhere else. A woman who owns a gas stove thinks, with reason, that it is easier to put a dish over a flame, which she secures by turning a cock and lighting a match than to fill a lamp with alcohol.

Have you an idea that the food cooked in the chafing dish must of necessity be unsubstantial and a little indigestible?

When a chafing dish is associated in mind with the irregular meals referred to above, and the items usually served on such occasions—lobster in unhallowed combinations and sauces, Welsh rarebit in its most virulent forms, crabs, mushrooms, oysters in rich dressing—there is some excuse for looking upon it, as a minister to indigestion.

Try to consider it, for a while, in a more wholesome connection, and see if you can not derive benefit from its employment at sensible meals for the family in the middle of the day and commonplace any night in the week suppers.

Chafing Dish with Alcollte Burner Stove
Chafing Dish with Alcollte Burner Stove

To begin with, there are some dishes that are better when cooked in the chafing dish than in any other utensil, simply because they are served at once to the plate of the eater and lose nothing of the first delicacy of the freshly cooked food by being transferred to another dish, carried from the kitchen to the table and then suffered to stand while the family assembles.

When one cooks in the chafing dish at the table, it is the eaters who wait and not the food—much to the improvement of the latter. Take eggs, for instance.

No one knows how good scrambled eggs may be, who has not eaten them cooked in the chafing dish, sitting in expectancy until the eggs reach that state of delicate custard-like consistency equally removed from rawness and from toughness.  If they stand even three minutes, they lose their flavor, as you will readily see, if you take a second supply.

Not plain scrambled eggs alone are improved by immediate service. Eggs scrambled with ham or with meat of any kind, or with vegetables, or with cheese, eggs in practically any combinations, are far better eaten from the dish in which they were cooked than they are after the transit from the frying pan to the plate of the individual.

Try an omelet in your chafing dish and see how much better it is than when you have it made and cooked in the kitchen. Add to this, the interest you awaken in the hearts and appetites of those who see you cook, and you will find further merits in the chafing dish.

There are few more interesting culinary processes than the transformation of the raw egg, either beaten or plain, from its natural state to its condition as a prepared and cooked article of diet.

But a man may not live by eggs alone, though, until you have poached eggs in milk on the table or scrambled them in cream, or stirred them in a cup of hot soup into a custardy mass, or browned them in butter, or cooked them in a curry or anchovy sauce, and all in the chafing dish, you do not know the possibilities of the egg as an article of diet.

Earthen Casserole
But the chafing dish would not have displayed its full possibilities if you stopped here. It is invaluable as a means of swift warming over of cold food. Did you ever make hash in the chafing dish?

A bash for which you have minced meat and potato at an early hour of the day, covered and put aside in the cold with the cup of well-seasoned gravy, which is to make your special hash a very different thing from the article usually eaten under that name.

Suppose you have thin bread and butter, a salad, fruit and cold tea for the rest of the meal. That might do for the majority of the household, but it is likely that certain members of the family desire or need a hot dish, though they might hesitate to make their wants known if the gratification of these involved your hanging over a coal stove in the middle of the day.

With the chafing dish, it is a different matter. Has the dish put on the table in front of you, when you set the table for lunch? Don’t fill the lamp until just before you are to light it, for the spirits evaporate quickly, and even if you use the denatured alcohol, which makes chafing dish cookery so much cheaper now than it was a few years ago, there is no reason why you should waste it.

Just before you summon the family to the table, and when the cold dishes that are to make up the bulk of the meal are put in place, bring in your bowl of chopped meat and potato or of chopped meat alone, if you prefer a mince of this sort to the meat and potato blend, and the cup of gravy, with whatever additional seasoning you think desirable.

The gravy may go into the dish, and the lamp be lighted under it even before the gathering of the family about the table. As soon as the gravy is really hot, put in your meat or potato and stir and toss them about to prevent burning.

My personal preference is for a wooden salad spoon or fork, as this is not only less noisy when it comes in contact with the bottom and sides of the dish, but it is also pleasanter to handle since the wood does not conduct heat. As soon as the contents of the dish are smoking hot, and the seasoning has been added, they are ready to serve to the waiting plates.

Until you give your mind to it you have no idea how many hot dishes you can compass from cold remnants with the aid of the chafing dish.

Chicken Soufflé Ready in Blazer

Chicken Soufflé Ready in Blazer

Chicken is excellent cold, but if the scraps that are left are not seemly enough to appear in slices as a separate dish, they may be laid in salad oil for half an hour and then heated in a white sauce, well-seasoned with celery salt, and made in the chafing dish.

Cold veal is nearly as good warmed over in this fashion. Cold lamb may be heated in a mixture of butter and jelly to a delicious dish.

Barbecued ham, the ham crisped in the chafing dish, a teaspoonful of white sugar, a teaspoonful of vinegar, a little mustard and pepper added to the gravy from the ham, with perhaps a little butter, if the fat has cooked away, is as appetizing a dish as one can ask, coupled with crisp radishes and plenty of good bread and butter, with perhaps a potato salad.

One word more. Don't be discouraged, if you are not already the possessor of a chafing dish, by thinking of it as a luxury, which requires a big outlay to obtain.

Not only silver, but brass and copper are used as materials for its manufacture. It is found in nickel, in agate iron and other inexpensive metal combinations. Look about you and see if you can not save money by its use as well as work and discomfort.

Mrs. S. J. Huber, "The Merits of the Chafing Dish," in The Boston Cooking-School Magazine, Boston: The Boston Cooking School Magazine Company, Vol. XVII, No. 8, March 1913, p. 602-603

Various Chafing Dishes and Their Useage

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0495.

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0495.

Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan
  • Cutlet Dish

Capacity Four Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Form: Round
Finish: Satin or Polished
Handle: Ebony

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0520

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0520

Capacity Five Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan
  • Cutlet Dish

Form, oval
Finish, Satin or Polished

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0526

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0526

Capacity Three Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan

Form, Round
Finish, Bright
Handle, Ebony

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0560

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0560

Capacity Four Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan
  • Optional: Cutlet Dish, If Desired

Form, Round
Finish, Polished
Handles Ivory

Chafing Dish No. 0560

Capacity Four Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan
  • Optional: Cutlet Dish, If Desired

Form, Round
Finish, Repousse Chased
Handles, Ivory

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0565

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0565

Capacity Three Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Optional: Cutlet Dish, if Desired

Hot Water Pan Handles, Ivory

Form, Round
Finish, Polished

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0570

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0570

Capacity Five Half Pints
By Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan
  • Optional Cutlet Dish, if Desired

Form, Oval
Finish, Polished
Handles, ivory

Plated Yacht Chafing Dish No. 0619

Plated Yacht Chafing Dish No. 0619

Capacity Four Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan

Form, Round
Finish, Polished
Handle, Ebony

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0620

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0620

Capacity Five Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan

Form, Round
Finish, Polished
Handles, Ebony

Plated Chafing Dish No. 0625

Capacity Three Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfo. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan

Form Round
Finish Polished
Handles, Ebony

Plated Chafing Dish, No. 01000

Plated Chafing Dish, No. 01000

Capacity Five Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan
  • Optional: Cutlet Dish, If Desired

Form, Oval
Finish, Polished
Handles, Ebony

Plated Chafing Dish, No. 01005

Plated Chafing Dish, No. 01005

Capacity Four Half Pints.
Made by Qorkam Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan
  • Optional: Cutlet Dish, If Desired

Form, Round
Finish, Polished
Handles, Ebony

Plated Chafing Dish, No. 01010

Plated Chafing Dish, No. 01010

Capacity Three Half Pints.
Made By Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan
  • Optional Cutlet Dish, If Desired

Form, Round
Finish, Polished
Handles, Ebony

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 5

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 5

Capacity Three Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan

Form, Round
Finish, Polished
Handles, Ivory

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 10

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 10

Capacity Four Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan
  • Optional Cutlet Dish to Order

Form, Round
Finish, Polished
Handles, Ivory

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 15

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 15

Capacity Four Half Pint
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan
  • Optional Cutlet Dish to Order

Form, Round
Finish, Polished
Handles, Ivory

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 20

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 20

Capacity Three Half Pints.
Made By Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan

Form, Round
Finish, Polished
Handles, Ivory

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 25

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 25

Capacity Three Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan

Form, Round
Finish, Polished
Handles, Ivory

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 30

Sterling Silver Chafing Dish 925/1000 Fine, No. 30

Capacity Five Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan

Form, Round
Finish, Polished
Handles, Ivory

Sterling Silver And Bronze Chafing Dish No. 35

Sterling Silver And Bronze Chafing Dish No. 35

Capacity Four Half Pints.
Made By Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan

Form, Round
Dish and Cover, Sterling Silver
Stand, Bronze
Hot Water Pan and Lamp, Copper

Bronze And Copper Chafing Dish No. Y150

Bronze And Copper Chafing Dish No. Y150

Capacity Four Half Pints.
Made by Gorham Mfg. Co.
Consisting Of

  • Chafing Dish and Cover
  • Stand and Lamp
  • Hot Water Pan

Form, Round
Stand, Bronze
Dishes and Lamp, Copper
Handle, Ebony

"Various Chafing Dishes and Their Useage" exerpt from One Hundred Recipes For Chafing Dish, by H. M. Kinsley, New York: Gorham Manufacturing Company Silversmiths, 1894.

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