Hot Dog Cart Q and A: Chili Pan Setup

by · 51 comments

cd

Today’s Hot Dog Cart Q and A is from Renee Crenshaw. Renee writes:

Q: Hi Steve,

I got a lot of good info out of the propane/electric thing.  I have a question that I’d like to ask also – it’s something that’s bugged me since I first got started last summer.  How does everyone keep their chili from burning in the pan?

After much trial and error, I came up with a workable solution, but I’d like to see how everyone else is doing it…..

Like I said, it took a lot of trial and error, but what I ended up with was a very rudimentary “dutch oven” type of set up.  I use a heavy glass bread loaf pan to put the chili in and set it into a 1/2 pan with some water in it.

You have to be careful not to put too much water in as it will boil over into the chili.  Watered down chili is a real turn off which happened to me a couple of times!

I’m thinking of modifying it even further by building a metal stand to put the loaf pan on for two reasons – one so I can put more water in, thereby heating the dogs and the chili at the same rate of time, (the way it is now, the chili is boiling way before the dogs are hot), also because the loaf pan sits so far down in the 1/2 pan that it’s awkward to spoon the chili out.

Hope this all makes sense.

Renee

*************************************

A:  Most hot dog carts come with three to five 1/3 size pans, or some combination thereof, usually positioned directly over the burners. This is great for rapid heating of water, but for warming chili, cheese, or sauerkraut…not so much. The direct heat is just too much and the contents of the pan quickly start to burn and stick to the bottom.

I solved that problem on the E-Z Built Hot Dog Cart by designing it with a true steam table.

Instead of pans over direct heat, the E-Z Built cart uses a six inch deep full size “spillage pan” which is  slightly larger in all dimensions than a standard full size pan. Spillage pans are designed to accept standard fractional size pans (1/3, 1/2, etc.)

Here’s how it works:

Add an inch or two of water to the 6″ deep spillage pan, then drop in any combination of 4″ deep pans that you wish. I use two 4″ deep perforated pans with hinged covers, one to steam the buns, and one to keep the dogs warm (I don’t serve chili or cheese). Since the pans are over hot water, never in direct contact with the flame, nothing burns or sticks to the bottom.

The E-Z Built also comes with a separate 1/2 size pan over direct heat for fast boiling.

spillage

You could use the spillage pan set up with two 1/3 size pans for dogs and buns, and two 1/6 size pans for chili and cheese.

What is your set up? Let us know in the comments!

-Steve

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric Moore

What I used last season was a 1/3 size 6″ deep pan filled half way with water and then I set 3-1/9 4″ deep pans inside giving me 3 hot topping choices. I had chili, sauerkraut and Sabrett Red Onion sauce. I’ll be expanding on that even further this season giving me the option for up to 9 hot toppings. The chili never burns as long as you follow Steve’s directions in his book and never let your water evaporate.

Reply

Cyberdog International

Hi Renee, that’s an interesting situation you found yourself in.
I don’t often serve chili, but when i do, the best solution I found is to place a small wooden cutting board inside the steam pan i am using to heat my chili. The bottom of the pan heats the cutting board, and the board heats the chili.
This takes a bit longer to heat, but it works great as a food warming solution.

Mike Croney

Reply

Eric Moore

I use a 6″ deep 1/3 size pan with 3 of the 4″ deep 1/9 size pans giving me 3 hot topping options. I fill the 1/3 pan up to the bottom of the 1/9 pan in the morning and as long as you follow Steve’s guidance in his book and never let your water totally evaporate that chili of yours will never burn.

Reply

AJ Ramos/ Triple Play Hot Dogs

I had the same problem, came up with the same solution as Renee, I actually used 2 small round pans inside a half pan with a little water and it works pretty good, I keep it in the middle compartment which is not under direct heat. until I get a bigger cart that will have to do.

Reply

duggsdoggs

I have the Big Dog Cart from Ben’s Carts and I did attempt to serve chilli once and guess what happened. It was a mess, not only a pain to clean the pan but chilli was everywhere so I solved the problem, I don’t serve chili any more. The truth be told, I don’t have very many people ask for chilli anyway. I do serve hot sauerkraut that I warm up in a throw away pan that I wrap/cover in foil(I place it my steam table pan with my cooked doggs. I tried to do the chilli the same way but it was still a mess. I also found that people love that can cheese by kraft, you don’t have to keep it cold and it’s quick and easy and taste good.

Reply

david klinger

i use a slow cooker it holds about a gallon of chile and would never burn it even on the temp needed to pass health regs. ofcorse thats elec.

Reply

steve

Duggsdogs,

I believe that Ben’s Big Dog Cart can accomodate the spillage pan set up I described. Give it a try, you’ll like it.

-Steve

Reply

mainjack

I offer chili and cheese, even though very few people in New England want it. I also struggled with the burning problem. I now put chili and cheese into ball jars and place them into water in a 1/6 pans. Probably similiar to what Renee is doing. I use a small ladle with steam pan lids that have holes for the handles to come through the top. The Ball jars clean up very easy at the end of the day. This is kind of a jeri-rigged system, but it is working for me.
One word of caution…you need to put the ball jars into the water as soon as you turn on your heat so that they heat up gradually. Otherwise the jars will crack.

Jack

Reply

Jim Lester

I had the same problem with scorching. The middle pan on my cart in not over direct heat so I have two loaf pans one I turn up side down and surround with water the other I fill with chil and set on top of ist pan it works real well no more scorched chili and clean up is a breeze.
have a weinerful day
Jim “THE GREAT AMERICAN DAWG WAGON”

Reply

russ ("Grateful Dawg")

Gee, I never had that problem. Chili is a big part of my operation, as my chili/cheese Dawgs are my biggest selling item. I pour a gallon of water into the big bottom steamer pan, and over that, from left to right are the dogs (in about an half gallon of water), a second big, though not as deep pan for my BBQ, then the half size pans, one for chile, one for the velveta/hatch tomato mix. When the last 2 are steaming hot, I turn off that burner. When I started last April, I put a lot of effort into my home made chili. The health dept. nixed this, so I have been using Hormel beanless with my own BBQ sauce mixed in. I use this chili for both the Dawgs and the Frito pie.

Reply

Jason

I have a steam table built from Steves EZ Built Cart plans and it is fantastic! As Steve has mentioned one pan is directly over the heat for rapid boiling and I use three 1/3 size pans in the spill pan which has about 3 inches of water in it. This acts like a double boiler, I go through a gallon of chili a day and could never make it without this set up, I also use the steam table for my saurerkraut, red onion sauce, Brats, or anything, it works great!

Reply

Millies Dawgs

I have two small stainless steel bowls that I put in the bin with a half inch of water in the bin and that warms the chili up nicely and cleans up nicely. Sauerkraut is in the other bowl and when they get low I add more from the cooler.

Reply

Jack

I did some looking and came up with disposable pan liners that are approved for use up to 225 F. And they are only about 2 cents per, making them a great option to keep the pans clean, but the chili and cheese sauce warm. Nice thing about them is you can store the left over product for the next day in the same liner, so you waste less. You could even fill them first and break them out during the day as you need with smaller serving sizes rto further minimize waste.

Anybody have any ideas against pan liners?

Reply

Lucky Dawg

We use a 1/3 deep pan, filled 1/3 to 1/2 with water. This is over direct heat. I then use three 1/9 deep size pans which sit in the hot water. These are the high temp plastic ones with slotted lids. They fit perfectly in the 1/3 pan. This lets me have hot chili, kraut and cheese, and the best part is the easy clean-up because of the plastic pans. Hope this helps some. Good Luck!

Reply

Jim Mercer

I’m glad to see this posted, because it’s something I had wondered about as well. I had figured on a ‘double boiler’ type solution myself.

I ordered the ez-build cart plans on Saturday, and I’m really anxious to get started on it.

I have a very specific vision for my hot dog cart,
and the business as a whole. I’m modeling it on the antique images of early 1900′s carts, and will embellish it suitably. I’ll be sure to send Steve pics and document the construction on my blog. I’ve been a war-game modeller and painter for years, so hopefully that experience will help.

68 days and counting!

–JM

Reply

Pocono Hot Dog

We use Two types of Chili. Our “World’s best Chili Sauce for our Carnivour Crowd and Our “Not Chili” for our Vegan Friends.
We keep it piping hot by doubling the Third Pans.
Keep water in the bottom pan. Stirring frequently keeps it hot. We always keep a squeeze bottle of Water to keep it moist. As the Chili evaporates we replace it a little at a time. You do not want to dilute it. During the evaporation process only the water escapes but the spices etc. remain. If you do not replace the moisture your sauce will be concentrated.

Reply

Jim Lester

Steve Question? where can i buy a 6″ full size bottom pan
Jim

Reply

Jim Lester

Steve question # 2 do they make perforated 1/3 pans?
Jim

Reply

Bill

I have electricity so I use 2 small 4 qt crock pots. If there is still a lot left over, the bowls lift out and I put them in the fridge. Works great.

Reply

Marc

Because I’m in southeastern Michigan area, I leave the chili to the folks at the Coney Islands. BTW, Detroit’s own Leo’s Coney Island just invaded Chicago. That one place you won’t find a poppy seed bun.

Reply

RogerDog

I believe these responses help build a case for having an electrical supply available as the simple and cheap use seems to be a small crock pot.
My second ( slowly being built..) Cart I am using Steve’s pan configuration with propane so I’m not opposed to LP gas. Hey, whatever works, right?

Reply

Terry/ The Hot Dog Guy

When I have chili and cheese (depending on the location) I have 2 – 1/6 pans that I coat with cooking spray. They are not over direct heat, but the heat from the adjacent pan keeps it hot enough to pass health requirements. Frequent stirring will keep the product from developing a “film” and cleanup is a breeze. I don’t keep any leftover product at the end of the day.

Reply

Hot Diggity Doggs

In our area chili is a big item for us. We use shredded cheese. It works very well for us. The chili is in a 1/3 pan which sets in a spillage pan of water. Also clean up is very easy because my wife sprays the chili pan with pam before putting chili in it.

Thank You
Roger and Alice

Reply

duggdoggs

Steve, I will try your idea. Thanks for your blog site. This site has been a help to me, when I do something right it’s cool to look on here and see what everyone else is doing. When I do something wrong, I can see that I am not the only one that did it wrong. Keep up the good work. Oh I just started serving a 1/4 lb hotdog, great profit margin and it taste good too.
Michael Wood
duggsdoggs@yahoo.com
“good good”

Reply

Hot Dog City

We agree that the best way is to double pan with your chile pan down in the wate pan. And yes you still have to stir every now and then and you do have to replace some mosture to the chile because it will thicken up toward the end of the day. We are in the south and we have to serve chile to please the customers. Also the Kraft cheese in the can works great. Unless you are boiling the dogs the best way is everything over top of water.

Reply

Hot Dog City

Don’t know why I keep spelling chili with an e…

Reply

Karen

I also use the canning jars placed into water for my chili, cheese, sauerkraut and red onion sauce.
I have been told my dogs are the BEST people have ever had.
“Wicked Good Dogs”
Arizona

Reply

Cindy

I have to say, I am a little jealous of those who can use a crock pot. The Health Dept. here won’t allow it due to the low temps.

Thanks everyone for the great advice!

Reply

John J

I have 4, 1/3 pans and the second and 4th are indirect heat. The 1st and 3rd I boil the dogs and the 2nd is for a steamer insert and the 4 th is for chili or cheese…I also have 2, 1/6 pans at the far right. The pan closest to you gets hot but the back one doesnt. I also have a 18×18 griddle for sauteing onions and peppers(along with frying the dogs) so I use the colder of the 2 1/6 pans to keep the peppers and onions warn and the front to cook the sauerkraut.

Reply

JACK

CHILE vs.CHILI spelling …. CHILE CON CARNE is …. ” Chili with beans. both spellings are correct. however, “CHILE ” … is a country in South America . and most people identify the food recipe as ” CHILI ” as in CHILIS RESTAURANTS.

Reply

Ron DeRoest

Jim Lester,

They do make 1/3 size perforated pans though they are pretty rare and VERY expensive. I saw them at my local restaurant supply last week for $45 each. The 1/2 size perforated were about half the cost. At that price, I would probably make my own perforations in a standard pan. :-)

Reply

Jeff D.

Jason, Do you have a website? I really like your cart setup and would like to see more pics and info. And sorry everyone, I don’t have any advice on heating chili because I haven’t started my biz yet. Thanks.

Reply

settie

Hello
I am just starting out and would like to know who is the best manufacturer for the best price on hot dog carts/ Also I am looking for the same for a either combineed or separate cart for french fries/ with a grease trap built in?

Reply

Steve Pruner

Here is how we have setup our carts for chili: We have one full-size divided up with two 1/3 size pans for steaming buns and the other 1/3 space with two 1/4 size 4″ pans. (you have use a divider bar to support the two 1/4 size pans.) Since the 1/4 size pans are only 4″ deep they don’t burn. We put chili in one and I am using the other 1/4 pan for warming cheese.

Reply

Renee's Dogs

Wow! What great feedback people! It looks like we pretty much are all in agreement that it has to be some type of “pan in a pan” arrangement with water. You’ve given me some great ideas too everybody. I love the pan liner idea too.

Steve, maybe we could get everyone to send in a picture of their pan arrangments? I’d love to see them.

Also – most important. I have NOT been able to find a local supplier that carries a good selection of pans. Where do you order yours from? I especially would love to have a domed lid for my buns but haven’t been able to find any either locally or on-line.

Maybe a subject for another issue?
Renee

Reply

DAVID

Thanks that Is Great Info…
I’m thinking of having in Chili Sause dogs
And sla Dogs
We Have a location now @ a Market in June but have a few weekend gigs coming up.
I can;t wait..
Steve your site is the best you have helped many people
Thanks
David & Ava A.R.A. HOT DOGS.
a.r.a@sympaitco.ca

Reply

mikes hot dog heaven

Try this one,Go to your nearest truck stop,and get a 12volt crock pot,hook it to your battery that you have in the E-Z built for the h2o pump and viola! these cost about 20 bucks and hold about 2 cups just right for a small cart.

Reply

Tony/What A Tasty Dog

To Jim Lester, and any one else interested, Here is a website that sells restaurant steam pans at a very low price. http://www.webstaurantstore.com/ you have to hunt around a little to find what your looking for, but it’s worth it. Here’s the link for 1/9″ steam pans. http://www.webstaurantstore.com/2-1-2-deep-1-9-size-standard-weight-stainless-steel-steam-table-hotel-pan-anti-jam/92220929.html
Best of luck every one.
Tony
whatatastydog@yahoo.com

Reply

steve

***QUESTION FROM STEVE***

Did anyone have trouble accessing the site yesterday?

Please answer yes or no…

Thanks!
-Steve

Reply

WienerKing

We sell chili and kraut and spray the pans with pam first. Our pans are not over direct heat so as long as we stir often – which we do to get the smell out there we don’t have any problems and the pam is awesome to use. We also have cheese in the can from Kraft – the health department doesn’t allow cheese if it has to be kept cold.

Reply

Johnny's Mighty Dogs

Here in the northeast, a suburb of New York(New Jersey), we sell a ton of Chili-Cheese Dogs. I would have to say a little better than half of my daily sales are Chili and some other topping. Although my setup is not that elaborate it does the job. After seeing Dave’s setup I must admit I am a bit jealous. It is very clean and neat and has a professional appeal. I make my own Itailian style chili and have been told by many of my customers that is the best they have tasted. I guess that is why they continue to come back and even recommend their friends to visit me. I use a full pan which is 6″ deep over direct heat. I fill the pan about 1/3 of the way full with water and place 3 round cylinders in the water. I use the largest for my chili and the other 2 for saurkraut and red onions. Once the water is hot I turn down the flame to pilot only. I reheat as needed which is not often due to the close relation to the 3/4 pan I use for my dogs. It has worked very well for me so far . As for the cheese, I find that using Kraft Cheese Whiz in a squeeze bottle works well for me. I place the bottle in with my steamed buns and the heat keeps in ready to use. I watch for it when it goes on sale and buy 10-12 bottles at a time. It comes in a manageable 12 oz. and lasts quite a long time. I will try to send Steve a picture or two of my setup. Hope this helps!

Reply

mainjack

I didn’t have any problems with site access

Jack

Reply

Suzanne

What does everyone do with their tongs? Anyone have a solution for placement on the cart?

Reply

k dogs

IT IS the buns that are getting to me.I put them in the two pan steamer on my cart but they get hard.that nicesoft bun really makes the dog.HELP

Reply

k dogs

Tongs Iput mine in aheavy duty container that can sit on my cart put really hot water in it and away igo u can change the water out an all is CLEAN

Reply

Jeanie looney

Thanks so much for the great ideas. We have had some not so good experiences with the chili. Got some great ideas we will try. the tong question was helpful as well. Do most of you use hot dog trays, or just foil sheets?

Reply

steve

Hi Jeanie. I use wax sheets.

Boo Hargis

I’m lazy!!! I hate doing dishes, but I’m am sanitary and health conscious!!! So, I’m going to look into the throw-away pan liner idea. I hate scrubbing pans. I just want to wash them in dish detergent and be done with it.

Reply

steve

Me too Boo. By the way, I answered your email this morning. ;-)

Doug's Dogs and Catering

Has anyone tried keeping chili and cheese in squeeze bottles in a water bath on the indirect heat side of the steam table?

Reply

Steve

Yes, I have. The cheese works great in squeeze bottles. I like to use the clear ones do I can see whats inside. For chili I found the squeeze bottle nozzle to be too small, even after cutting it down. I went to a 16 oz water bottle with a flip lid. The opening is about 3/4″ in diameter which works great.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: