Traditional chafing burners usually look like small hot plates or the top of a stove burner in that the fuel sits in a small spot with the four metal strips going from the corners into the middle of the burner. On one side, you have the controls for the burner. With this type, you need a can of chafing fuel to use as the heat source. While this is the most traditional option, it’s not the only one available.
Trouble with Traditional
The most significant issue with traditional burners is that the can of fuel sits on top of it and the dish is placed over it. Therefore, if the chafing dish is low-profile, you may not be able to use wick varieties and may instead have to use gel fuel. Gel fuel is more dangerous than wick fuel because if the gel fuel gets knocked over, all of the gel is flammable and can spread fire across the table. Wick varieties are slightly safer because the glycol isn’t flammable without the wick, so only the wick and glycol that touches it is flammable.
Regardless, both options produce toxins and can cause black smoke residue to appear on the chafing dish, which is unsightly and can be challenging to clean.
Most people are only familiar with gel and wick fuel cans, but there is another option. Many manufacturers are coming out with burners and fuel sources that are safer. The fuel is injected directly into the burner, which means fuel cannot escape. Fewer toxins are produced, which means it is safer for the environment (inside or outside). Along with such, the burner uses an induction-style heating element, so no flames protrude from the burner. You get a cleaner burn, but you also have a more presentable table because you don’t see flames shooting up from under the food.