Help Please....How to hold Polenta in steam table

Joined May 14, 2010

I am the chef at a Mountain Lodge in Oregon and are in the process of developing our menu.  One starch that crossed my mind was polenta.  The only concern I have is holding it for service.  Our saute station is rather limited in burners and size and quite frankly polenta to order, even though it only takes about 5 mins to make a single batch, is out of the question.  Is it possible to hold that in a steam table by maybe adding more liquid to account for the continual cooking in the steam table?  Just wondering if anyone has prepped large batches of polenta at a time for service.

Thank you.


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
I assume you mean soft polenta?  No I haven't.  I'm no help!

But I've done grilled or sauteed polenta.  Just make it, shape it in a sheet pan or loaf pan, slice, and either grill to order or throw it on the flat top.
Joined May 14, 2010
Yes, soft polenta.  Like I said it seems very difficult doing that due to it stiffening up during service.  Thank you for your response.
Joined May 11, 2010
We used to have a soft polenta on the menu. The problem with a '5 minute' polenta is the cornmeal still isn't fully cooked and has a grainy texture, it needs 10 to 15 minutes cooking to really develop, thus not really good for an ala minute dish. When we cooked ahead and placed in the steamtable we had to continue adding liquid all night long and the product at the end of shift was very compromised. We tried precooking and rehydrating on the fly which worked best but still not ideal. We eventually removed it from the menu as we had more sub requests than actual sales ("instead of the polenta could I get it with angel hair?")

good luck with the menu


Founder of
Staff member
Joined Oct 5, 2001
What we used to do was cook the polenta ahead of time and add our flavors to it (pancetta, parmesa etc). We would then put it into a buttered pie pan to cool. When it came time to serve we would take a slice of polenta and fry it and serve it that. 

The other way I have done it was to make a batch of creamy polenta and put that in a baine marie pot covered with plastic in a steam table. When it was time to serve the plate we would do quennels of polenta on the plate. For creamy polenta we would heat up some cream and add some of the polenta to it. I would experiment with the different methods.

Personally I preferred the fried polenta it was very tasty and looked great on the plate.
Joined Feb 10, 2010
Soft polenta won't stay soft.  The grains seem to keep absorbing the liquid.  I found that preparing into a tray, cutting it into a shape, and either frying it, or, putting it into the oven to re-heat and brown was the best practical option.  That way, we also could prep that up for 2 days in advance, as it keeps in the fridge.  the book "Food Science" by H. Mcgee might be helpful to you.
Joined May 17, 2010
I haven't cooked a whole lot with polenta but agree with what chefbcr says. continually adding liquid only comprimises the end product. We use grits at work which are a courser grind of corn meal and they can stay soft and creamy all night in the steam well.
Joined May 14, 2010
Thank you everybody for your advice.  I decided to run a special with polenta and held it all service in the steam table.  Instead of doing a standard 4 to 1 ratio, I went with the 5 to 1 ratio to account for the absorption.  Also, I held it in a 1/3 pan inside of another 1/3 pan filled one quarter of the way with water inside of the steam table.  So it was less harsh on the polenta itself.  Worked great, and plan on using any leftover polenta for grilled polenta appetizers or vegetarian entrees.  But I do plan on using coarse grain as opposed to the medium grits I am using now, great idea. 

Thanks everybody.

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