Warming Drawers – Pros, Cons & Options Explored
If you’re an avid cook in search of a way to keep food and crockery warm, a warming drawer is a great option to consider. Warming drawers give you fewer worries about keeping dishes at a desirable temperature, especially when you’re busy preparing multiple courses.
But are they a must-have appliance for your kitchen, and would you really use one?
In this post, I’ll dive into the ins and outs of warming drawers and look over a few of my hand-picked favourites, to help you decide if one is the right choice for you.
Let’s get into it!
What Is A Warming Drawer?
A warming drawer is a small built-in kitchen appliance. Its primary function is to keep cooked food warm at a constant temperature until serving.
They typically come in two sizes, 14cm high and 29cm high and can be handy appliances that have more uses than you might think.
Primarily used to keep food and/or crockery warm before serving, warming drawers can also be used to defrost food, function as a slow cooker and are perfect for proving bread. You may have even seen them in action on the Great British Bake Off.
Warming Drawers In Kitchen Design
Aside from keeping food and plates warm, one of the most common reasons warming drawers are added to a kitchen design is to balance the look of built-in oven appliances.
A 14cm high warming drawer together with a 45cm compact oven or built-in coffee machine will match perfectly with a standard 60cm oven niche. So when placed side by side, the two sets of appliances will all line up. 👌
Also, a taller 29cm warming drawer is designed to be combined with a standard 60cm high single oven to fit neatly alongside a standard 90cm double oven niche.
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Advantages Of Warming Drawers
- Energy Efficiency: Warming drawers consume less energy than keeping a full-sized oven running, making them more efficient for maintaining food temperature.
- Plate Warming: They are perfect for warming plates ahead of mealtime, ensuring that food stays warmer for longer when served.
- Preserving Food Quality: Unlike microwaves or toaster ovens that can dry out food or heat unevenly, warming drawers provide gentle and consistent warmth, ensuring dishes remain moist and delicious.
- Versatility in Baking: They offer a controlled environment, ideal for letting dough rise. Additionally, pastries, baked rolls, and other confections can be kept warm and fresh, enhancing their taste and texture.
- Maintaining Food Temperature: If you’re entertaining guests or preparing multiple dishes, a warming drawer ensures that everything remains at the desired temperature without overcooking.
Disadvantages Of Warming Drawers
- Space Consumption: In kitchens where space is at a premium, installing a warming drawer may not always be feasible as it takes up additional room.
- Limited Slow Cooking: Not all models come equipped with slow cooking capabilities. If this function is a priority, choices may be more restricted.
- Budget Considerations: For those undergoing kitchen renovations with a tight budget, adding a warming drawer might increase costs significantly. It’s crucial to evaluate its utility against its price.
- Additional Maintenance: Like any other appliance, a warming drawer requires care and occasional maintenance, adding another item to your household upkeep checklist.
What Temperature Is A Warming Drawer?
A warming drawer typically operates at a temperature range of 30°C to 85°C (85°F to 185°F).
This range is gentle enough to keep your meals warm without further cooking them, yet hot enough to keep bacteria from growing. It’s the perfect temperature window to ensure that your food stays warm and safe to eat until you’re ready to serve
If you want a particular temperature, make sure to check the appliance details as some models may not cover the whole temperature range.
Can You Cook In A Warming Drawer?
Yes, but with some caveats. You can slow cook a variety of dishes, including beef, poultry and lamb, but only if the warming drawer comes equipped with the appropriate cooking function.
Warming drawers are primarily designed to keep cooked food warm, not to cook food from raw. However, there are some applications where you can use them:
- Slow Cooking: Some warming drawers come with a slow-cooking function. This allows for cooking foods over extended periods at low temperatures, similar to a slow cooker.
The Miele ESW7120 is the only warming drawer on my list that states it’s capable of slow-cooking meals. Miele even provides a recipe book for meals using their warming drawer.
- Dough Rising: Warming drawers provide an ideal environment for letting bread dough rise because of the consistent, low temperature.
- Reheating: While they’re not as fast as microwaves, warming drawers can reheat precooked foods without drying them out or making them soggy, preserving their texture and flavour.
It’s essential to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific model. Some warming drawers may not reach temperatures high enough to safely cook certain foods, and using them outside their intended function can pose safety risks or damage the appliance.
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Best Warming Drawers
These warming drawers are ones I have used in the past with clients or have all scored well in reviews and are all from good quality manufacturers I have worked with over the years of being a kitchen design expert.
If you are looking for a warming drawer, I would recommend any of the below.
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NEFF N50 N1AHA01N0B Built-In Warming Drawer
Dimensions: (H)14.0 x (W)56.8 x (D)55.0
Max Weight: 15 Kg
No. Functions: 4
Control Type: Rotary
Key Features: Dedicated plate warming feature / Dough proving function
There’s plenty to love about this particular warming drawer, from its uncomplicated rotary dial control to its sleek dimensions, making it perfect for smaller kitchens.
Its plate-warming feature makes it easier to keep serving plates at the ready for spectacular meals. And, the dough proving function is a must-have for any avid baker.
A sleek design, some nice features and Neff’s good build quality make this a great ‘best overall’ pick for any kitchen.
AEG KDE912924M Built-In Warming Drawer
Dimensions: (H)29.5 x (W)59.5 x (D)53.5
Max Weight: 12 Kg
No. Functions: 4
Control Type: Rotary
Key Features: Easy-to-use rotary dials / Indicator light
If a tall warming drawer is what you’re looking for, then this model from AEG should fit the bill.
At 29.5 cm tall, it’s large enough to hold a stack of dinner plates and other tall dishes. It’s particularly perfect for any keen bakers as the larger capacity is ideal for helping those lovely big bread loaves rise.
The straightforward rotary dial makes it much easier to adjust temperatures as needed. This model also features an indicator light as a reminder of when it achieves your desired temperature.
Its clean and logo-free stainless steel design helps it blend in with any other kitchen appliance. Meaning there’s no need to worry about mixing and matching appliance brands.
If you’re looking for a tall, simple-to-use warming drawer to blend in with the rest of your kitchen, this AEG model is a perfect choice.
Miele ESW7120 Built-In Warming Drawer
Dimensions: (H)28.9 x (W)59.5 x (D)57.0
Max Weight: 12 Kg
No. Functions: 4
Control Type: Touch Control
Key Features: Touch control / Wireless connectivity / Built to last / Slow cooking function
I’m a big fan of Miele and this warming drawer is no exception, thanks to its large capacity and multitude of features.
For starters, you’ll have four distinct functions for keeping a wide range of foods warm, from main courses to soups and coffee.
The Miele even lets you adjust settings from afar with your compatible smartphone thanks to its built-in WiFi. And with the equivalent of 20 years’ worth of testing, you’ll rest easier knowing it’ll be around for quite a while.
It’s also the only warming drawer on my list that lets you slow-cook meats and other dishes. If you have a rump steak or a leg of lamb in mind, simply pop it in and the Miele will take care of the rest.
While it’s the most expensive warming drawer on my list, it’s definitely the most feature-packed, versatile and well-built appliance. Trust me, you can never go wrong with Miele!
Is A Warming Drawer Worth It?
If you often find yourself playing the host or enjoy preparing elaborate meals, a warming drawer could be a great addition.
The versatility of a warming drawer extends beyond just keeping food warm. It can warm plates, slowly cook certain dishes, and even defrost food. For avid bakers, the proving feature of a warming drawer is a game-changer, making the dough-rising process a breeze.
If these features resonate with your cooking routine, a warming drawer could be a valuable addition.
However, if this isn’t you or your kitchen space is at a premium, the additional room it requires could be a deal-breaker. Also, while a warming drawer is a luxurious addition, it comes with a price tag.
If you are on a tight budget, weighing the utility against the cost is crucial. It’s an investment that’s only worth it if you envisage using it frequently.
There you have it! Everything you need to know about warming drawers and some great options to consider buying for your new kitchen.
The NEFF N1AHA01N0B is my best overall pick because it perfectly blends great features, strong performance and a reasonable price.
However, if you don’t mind spending a bit more to get something really versatile, then the Miele ESW7120 is the one I’d pick. A stylish, feature-packed and reliable appliance. You won’t be disappointed!
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.