How to Select an Insulated Tray

When it’s time to select an insulated tray for your facility, there are three critical components that must be considered:

What’s your Menu?

How do you serve your inmates?

And how do you transport your meals?

The first step is to analyze your menu and determine the appropriate tray layout. Tray configurations can range from 3-6 compartments depending on your menu requirements (6 being the most popular). It is best to begin by analyzing your meal schedule for a month. From there, determine what is the highest number of items you serve in one meal and that will tell you how many compartments you’ll want to get in your tray. The final consideration is your flatware and condiments, there are trays with flatware compartments(check out the Gorilla Tray or Marathon Tray)  and tray’s without them (see the Gator Tray or Grizzly Tray).

Next, you need to determine how your meals are served. If you serve in a cook/chill or re-therm environment we recommend that you research trays with a wide temperature range, like the Cook’s Flex Trays–best for high security environments. With the cook/serve method, first determine if you have a cafeteria style environment or you transport to a pod. Depending on your situation, you need to consider tray stacking and ways to avoid overflow.

Finally, the tray you choose is influenced by a wide variety of elements-from what you serve to how you serve it. You can transport your trays in an open or closed tray delivery cart (see Cook’s Brand Carts). It is critical you keep temperature around 180 degrees so you can deliver and serve at a minimum temperature of 140 degrees.

Cook’s has an extremely deep assortment of insulated trays to meet all of your correctional serving needs, for more information visit the Tray Buying Guide or check out the wide selection of trays available at

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