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The Complete Guide to Disposable Steam Table Foil Pans

Alex Patel
by Alex Patel November 21, 2010

Aluminum foil pans are the most versatile disposable food containers produced today. Steam table foil pans are cost-effective, practical, and intended for one-time use. They are designed to withstand extreme temperature ranges, from below freezing to oven broiler temperatures. For these reasons, they are the #1 choice for food transport used by restaurants, caterers, and chefs within the foodservice industry. There is no need to clean them up after using, simply discard in a recyclable manner. Aluminum can be recycled a countless number of times, therefore disposable foil pans can be added to your recycling bin whenever possible.

There are many sizes to choose from and it can sometimes become confusing. This guide will help you in deciding which pans best fit your needs.

Steam Table Foil Pans Background:

Almost all US manufactured foil pans are made with aluminum alloy 3003. The strength of a foil pan is determined by how thick the aluminum sheet is, which is measured by its gauge. A heavier gauge results in a stronger pan. Many US manufacturers make several different gauges of the same sized pan to allow for economical usage in different applications. For example, transporting light-weight food items such as salads does not require such a strong pan, so a lighter gauge pan will do the job adequately.

Steam Table Foil Pan Sizes:

Apart from a few negligible variances, all steam table foil pan sizes are universal among US aluminum foil manufacturers. There are 3 size categories of steam table pans: Full-Size, Half-Size, and Third-Size.

Full-Size Pans:

These measure 20-3/4” length by 12-13/16” width and vary in depth. Full-size pans are commonly made with 65 gauge heavy duty aluminum, full curl rim. These will not bend or crush easily. Economy gauge pans are 55 and 60 gauge, these are the ones normally seen at dollar stores and thrift shops. These are best used for light duty applications and we generally don’t recommend or stock them for commercial foodservice use. Some manufacturers make a 70 gauge extra heavy duty pans in the Full-Size Deep and Full-Size Medium for extra added strength.

Uses: Full-service volume catering, party pan portions, heavy bulk food transport, broiling, barbecues, baking, cooking.

Half-Size Pans:

These measure 12-3/4” length by 10-3/8” width. Our most common half-size pans are made with 40 gauge heavy duty aluminum, full curl rim, with the exception of the half-size extra deep pan which is even stronger 50 gauge. We stock an even stronger 45 gauge pan in the half-size deep.

Uses: Light-medium volume catering, smaller party portions, bulk food transport, barbecues, broiling, baking, casseroles, pastries, cooking.

Third-Size Pans:

The third-size deep steam pan is also sometimes referred to as a 5 lb. loaf/bread pan. It measures approximately 12.5" x 6.5" and is 3.25" deep.

Uses: Loaf/bread pans, pound cakes, broiling, barbecues, cooking, baking

Steam Pan Lids:

Matching foil lids are available for all steam foil pans. Lids will universally fit their respective size pans, including pans made by various US manufacturers. In addition to foil lids, clear OPS (plastic) dome lids are available for half-size pans.
Because of their versatility and countless practical uses, steam table foil pans are a staple supply item in numerous restaurants and catering businesses across America. 


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