Gastronorm Trays – Plastic vs Stainless Steel

Gastronorm Trays – Plastic vs Stainless Steel


Whether you’re opening your commercial kitchen for the first time or updating your equipment, you’ll need to focus on getting the essential items.

It doesn’t matter how many people your business caters for, you’ll need equipment to store food, prepare food and serve food. Only one item is versatile enough to do all three tasks.

Gastronorm trays (also known as Bain Marie trays or Dixie’s) are a must-have in any commercial kitchen. They perform several important roles – the main one being food preservation. Having your food safely stored, heated or cooled allows you to preserve the freshness and flavour of your food

Gastronorm trays are also designed to specific heights, widths and depths, which makes them easy to stack and helps you keep your kitchen organised and efficient. 

So, while it’s clear that gastronorm trays are essential, the question is ‘what type should you choose – plastic or stainless steel?’ Is one more superior than the other or do you need a combination of both? 

Let’s look at the facts of plastic versus stainless steel gastronorm trays and see who stacks up the best.

Plastic Gastronorm Trays


Plastic gastronorm trays can be made from either polycarbonate or polypropylene. They are often used as storage containers, but are also very useful for heating, cooling or serving food. 


Lightweight and super strong, polycarbonate gastronorm trays are a valuable addition to any commercial kitchen. The trays or pans can be either black or clear. The clear variety is popular as it makes it easy to identify the contents without opening the lid. This helps speed up the food prep process and is handy when your kitchen is doing a stocktake. They are also constructed from shatter-proof material making them highly durable and long-lasting.

But, how well do polycarbonate containers perform when exposed to heat and the cold? Well, the majority of polycarbonate gastronorm trays can handle temperatures from -40˚C to 100˚C. Some brands, like Cambro, have developed trays that can handle even more extreme temperatures, up to 190˚C. 

All trays have accompanying lids that can be sealed air-tight to keep food fresh and preserve the food’s flavour. Because polycarbonate doesn’t bend or warp, it can come into contact with steam without damaging the outside or the food inside.

Polycarbonate trays are pretty much indestructible, lightweight and very hygienic. Definitely an essential for your commercial kitchen. 


While they may not be as unbreakable as their plastic counterpart, they do serve a similar purpose. They can come in see-through or black varieties, can be sealed air-tight and will resist warping and shattering. This makes polypropylene an economical alternative. 

They are extremely easy to clean and share the same dimensions as other gastronorm trays, meaning they can be stacked with your other space-saving products.

Some polypropylene trays may not be as heat resistant but will be able to handle temperatures between -40°C and 70°C. 

Stainless Steel Gastronorm Trays

Stainless steel gastronorm trays (also referred to as bain marie trays) play a vital role in every kitchen. 

One of the clear benefits for stainless steel over plastic is its resistance to heat. While some plastic gastronorm trays and pans can resist up to 190˚C, stainless steel can be heated to 280˚C plus. It can also resist freezing temperatures.

As we know from other kitchen items, stainless steel is a rugged and stable product. It’s designed to last a lifetime, and, in most cases, it will. It’s also corrosion resistant, so no matter how many times you run your tray or pan through the dishwasher, they’ll keep their appearance.

You also have the option of adding perforated stainless steel trays which will allow you to steam heat your cooked food, preventing it from drying out. Stainless steel gastronorm trays are stackable, just like plastic, and are also fairly indestructible. The only thing you can’t do with stainless steel is put it in the microwave. 

The stainless steel gastronorm trays, which Stanlee carry, have a unique level of durability. They are made from 0.8mm thick 18/10 stainless steel and are manufactured with a special annealing process. This means they are super-heated during the production process which makes the pans, overall, much sturdier.  As a result they will not warp easily when used in ovens at high heat,  which is a common problem among other brands. They come in a variety of depths including 20 mm, 30 mm, 65 mm, 100 mm and 150 mm.

So, while there are some clear benefits for both plastic and stainless steel gastronorm trays, it’ll all depend on what food you’re serving and how you’re serving it. Like most kitchens, you’ll probably prefer a combination of both. 

To find out more about the range of gastronorm trays and pans available contact Stanlee Hospitality Supplies. We’re one of Perth’s largest kitchenware suppliers and our team is readily available to assist you with your enquiries.


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