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Holding Cabinet and Proofing Cabinet Buying Guide

Few foodservice operations are complete without the convenience and versatility of a holding cabinet, a proofing cabinet, or a holding / proofing cabinet that serves as a combination of the two. But with hundreds of models to choose from and a variety of specialized models that give you even more to consider, how do you know which one is right for you? We're here to help!

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Holding Cabinets

Avantco full size non-insulated heated holding cabinet with a clear door

Holding cabinets provide you with a great way to keep your product at ideal food safe temperatures until you're ready to serve, giving you the confidence that you'll always be prepared for your busiest hours. A staple in foodservice applications ranging everywhere from busy diners to elegant banquet halls and casual catered events, these cabinets are typically designed to reach temperatures up to 185 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Proofing Cabinets

What is a proofing cabinet? A critical component in any bakery, a bakery proofer is specially designed to provide culinary craftsmen with the perfect environment to achieve the best breads, donuts, and croissants possible. Proofing is the final step in making dough before baking, when you allow the dough to rise via the fermentation of yeast. How does a proofer work? Since dough rises best in warm and humid environments, a commercial proofer cabinet will allow you to set the perfect temperature and humidity levels to get consistent, repeatable results.

Yeast cells die at 140 degrees Fahrenheit and grow significantly less at temperatures under 68 degrees Fahrenheit. So while the ideal proofing temperature will vary from item to item, a commercial dough proofer or bread proofing cabinet will typically allow you to adjust the temperature from 70-115 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Holding / Proofing Cabinets

Avantco undercounter height half size insulated heated holding / proofing cabinet with a clear door

Holding / proofing cabinets give you the versatility of two different pieces of equipment in a single footprint, allowing you to proof dough and keep the finished product or other foods hot and ready to serve in the same cabinet! These machines can be used as either a heated holding cabinet or a commercial bread proofer. For added flexibility, you can even use the heat of the holding function and the moisture of the proofing function together to help prevent foods from drying out. Especially helpful in keeping meats juicy and plump, this combination provides a better tasting product for customers and a higher yield for your operation.

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What to Consider When Buying a Holding / Proofing Cabinet

  • Size: Cabinets are available in a variety of sizes, giving you the capacity you need in the space you have available:
undercounter size holding cabinet Undercounter

Less than 34" high and will easily fit under countertops in small kitchens.

half height size holding cabinet 1/2 Height

36-41" high, making them ideal for use in smaller or low-volume operations.

3/4 height size holding cabinet 3/4 Height

54-57" high, making them perfect for medium to high-volume operations.

full height size holding cabinet Full Height

At least 65" tall, making them perfect for high-volume businesses.

  • Capacity: These are rated by how many pans they can hold, but pay close attention to the specification sheet because the type and size of pan can vary. Some refer to sheet pans, and some refer to food pans of varying depths.
  • Interior Configuration: A cabinet's interior defines what size and shape of pan you can use, as well as how you can load them:
  • Style: Standard reach-in cabinets are the go-to in most operations since they can be installed against a wall to conserve a kitchen's valuable walking area. Pass-through cabinets, meanwhile, can be installed between prep areas or between a kitchen and serving line to help maximize your operation's efficiency.
  • Door Type: Models with solid doors create minimal ambient heat and are incredibly energy efficient, while those with clear doors allow you to easily see the unit's contents without opening the door.
  • Door Configuration: Full height doors give you instant access to the cabinet's entire cavity, while half doors (also known as dutch doors or split doors) can be opened just one at a time to retain as much heat as possible within the cabinet.
  • Insulation: Cabinets are available with insulated and uninsulated designs. Uninsulated cabinets are more economical up front and tend to fit best in low volume operations. Insulated cabinets are cooler to the touch and their excellent heat retention saves you money in the long run. They are also better equipped for transporting food to off-site catered events because the product will stay warmer for longer.
  • Controls: As with any piece of commercial equipment, controls are a key consideration. Manual controls are an economical choice that requires more regular monitoring, while thermostatic controls provide more precise temperature controls. Some models have intuitive digital controls, while others have simple analog controls. It's also important to consider the location of the controls. Many operators prefer top mounted controls because they're more easily visible and accessible, and are also less likely to sustain damage during cleaning and transportation.

Holding Cabinet Interior Options

Different interior configurations hold different quantities and styles of pans. Some are ideal for any pan type, but others can only hold sheet pans. Keep reading to learn the pros and cons of each available configuration.

Universal Slides

Holding cabinet with universal pan slides, holding full size hotel and sheet pans
Holding cabinet with universal pan slides, holding full size hotel and sheet pans

Universal Slides

  • Fully adjustable; can accommodate full size steam table pans of any depth and full size sheet pans
  • Pans can be bottom loaded so there's no interference if the top is covered with foil
  • Come in multiple pieces; can be more difficult to remove for cleaning and are easier to misplace
  • Tend to be more expensive than alternatives

Fixed Wire Slides

Holding cabinet with fixed wire slides, holding pans full of rolls and vegetables
Holding cabinet with fixed wire slides, holding pans full of rolls and vegetables
  • Hold shallow full size steam table pans and full size sheet pans
  • Pans can be bottom loaded so there's no interference if the top is covered with foil
  • One piece rack that can be removed for easy cleaning
  • Deeper pans can't be used
  • Limited clearance can interfere with dough rising

Lip Load Slides

Cabinet with lip load slides, holding full size sheet pans
Cabinet with lip load slides, holding full size sheet pans
  • Designed for maximum holding capacity of full size sheet pans
  • Pans are loaded by the lip, letting you use the pan's full width without worrying about dough rising and sticking to the slide above
  • Will only hold sheet pans


Cook and hold cabinet with adjustable wire shelves inside
Cook and hold cabinet with adjustable wire shelves inside
  • Allow you to use pans of virtually any shape and size
  • Great for foil pans full of heavy, dense foods since there's support across the entire bottom of the pan instead of just the edges
  • Shelves take up more valuable space within the cabinet, limiting your capacity

Specialty Cabinets

If a holding cabinet, proofing cabinet, or holding / proofing cabinet doesn't offer what you're looking for, there are some other more specialized cabinets that may be worth considering.
Alto-Shaam 500-PH/GD Hot Pizza Holding Cabinet - 120V, 1000W

Pizza Holding Cabinets

Similar to standard holding cabinets, but specially designed to hold pizza pans or pizza boxes.
Alto-Shaam 1000-SK/I Full Height Cook and Hold Smoker Oven with Simple Controls - 208/240V, 5800/6500W

Cook and Hold Cabinets

These units cook food slowly and at low temperatures (generally, up to ~350 degrees Fahrenheit), before automatically switching to holding mode to keep the product at safe temperatures without overcooking. This allows operators to cook overnight, minimizing the labor needed for the cooking process.

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Metro C5R9-SB Single Door Refrigerated Cabinet with Adjustable Bottom Load Slides - 120V

Refrigerated Holding Cabinets

Designed for on-site holding, transportation, and serving of chilled food and beverages. While they're not made for long-term storage to replace refrigerators, these units are built to withstand the shock and vibration associated with mobile applications.

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Doyon ER236 Two Section Roll-In Retarder Proofer - 7.2 kW

Retarder Proofers

These units feature a refrigeration mode to retard the dough's rising, allowing it to slowly rise overnight before automatically switching into proofing mode. This saves time and money on labor.

Doyon CAOP12 Two Section Circle Air Electric Oven Proofer Combo with Rotating Racks - 208V, 3 Phase, 29.7 kW

Oven Proofer Combos

Oven proofer combos are exactly what they sound like--a combination of an oven and a proofer! There is a cavity for proofing, and then a separate oven cavity that allows you to proof and bake your dough in the same space-saving unit.

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