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What is a bain marie? the different types, use and maintenance

Use of unique and often obscure terms is quite common in the foodservice industry. The name Bain Marie which translates to “Mary’s Bath” is one such mystic names that naturally stirs up curiosity. It might sound complicated, but in reality, it is quite a simple piece of equipment commonly used for holding warm foods. What it is and how does it work? We will discuss that in detail in this blog. 

What is a Bain Marie?

It is a cooking and warming appliance that heats the food gently and slowly. However, application of this device in cooking is limited, and most often, it is used for maintaining pre-cooked dishes at a ready to eat temperature for an extended period. The device, also known as a double boiler or water bath. The dry heat variants do not use water at all. 

commercial bain marie is usually a gastronorm compatible device used in assisted and self-service buffets. However, they can be used for food- display or in the kitchen or canteen to maintain a constant and even temperature ideal for a specific dish. 

The brief history 

Bain-marie is a French word, and the name is attributed to a women alchemist named Mary who lived between the 1st and 3rd century. Her original invention, even though it looked like it belonged in a laboratory, used heated water in a container to warm up another container placed inside it. It is the main inspiration behind the bain-maries used extensively by food services today and hence the name.

Can you cook in a bain marie? 

This is another common question, and the answer is Yes, but No. It is used for cooking certain items that need a gentle and uniform heat for preparation. Certain types of custards, cheesecakes that tend to crack in dry heat, might be prepared in this device depending on the preference of the chef. It is also used commonly for melting chocolate. So, while it can be used for cooking a few selective dishes, the application is limited. 

It is best suited for warming and holding delicate pre-cooked dishes like curry, baked beans, sauces, etc. You can adjust the heat with a thermostat to make sure that the food has the right temperature.  

Holding time 

While this device is excellent at keeping the food warm without losing out on quality, it is best not to store any dish for over 2-3 hours as that might lead to subsequent moisture loss and your food drying. Certain items tend to perish more quickly, and it is vital to be careful about the holding time of these dishes.  

The different types 

These appliances are available in different sizes and shapes to suit the purpose. These are typically made with stainless steel to ensure minimum corrosion and easy maintenance. The primary types include, 

Wet Heat 

As the name goes, the device uses wet heat. It comes with a chamber of water, and you place the food pan within this water bath. The water is gently heated to a set temperature which keeps the pan with the food warm. There are multiple benefits of the wet heat style. The device produces highly controlled heat, and the temperature never reaches the boiling point of water; hence the preparation is not burnt but kept warm throughout. 

The steam produced from the bath helps to keep the food from drying out. The dish is heated evenly, without any hot or cold spots. The steel gn pans can be swapped easily even when the service is in motion. On the downside, transferring the hot water-filled device from one place to another can be challenging. In case of use for extended periods, refilling the water might be necessary. 

Dry Heat 

These appliances considerably differ from the previous variant in the aspect that they don’t carry a water chamber and hot water is not used for warming up the food pans. Instead, here the base of the pan comes with a heating element for warming up the pans quickly. This design is highly suitable for catering as they can be used immediately. Moving these appliances from one place to another is not at all problematic. These are naturally more energy efficient as electricity is not wasted for warming up the water first. It is also easy to operate for your staffers. On the downside, the heating might not be as uniform as the wet variety. It can also dry out the dish, as no steam is produced to maintain the moisture level. These are good for fried foods such as chips, potato cakes and fried dim sims.

Bain-maries are available in both gas and electric variants. With both of these variants, because it uses gentle heat, power consumption is low. The electric variant is easier to place in buffets or canteen. It is vital to make sure that the device can hold full-size gn pans. If you do not have sufficient gn pans already, it is best to opt for one that comes with the pans and lids. In case you are not sure which type is better suited for your needs, discuss with your commercial bain marie supplier before taking the final decision.  


Just like every other commercial kitchen equipment, it also needs maintenance. However, if you have bought a 304 stainless steel commercial bain marie in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Hobart, Adelaide or Melbourne, the required maintenance can be as simple as wiping off the appliance properly to get rid of any marks or stains after removing the gastronorm pans. The cleaning part can be a little more complicated for the wet version. Here you need to drain the water first. The maintenance is straightforward for bain-maries with a drain. Regular cleaning is vital to make sure that food particles do not dry out on the appliance. 

These are not an expensive piece of equipment. But still, if you are looking for curved glass cake display or commercial bain marie for sale, get in touch with a reputed supplier for the best offers. 

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