Hot Cooking Surface Built Into a Wood Tray

Puzzling over an odd problem: How to put a heated stone or iron cooking surface into a wooden tray for use at a restaurant table. Interesting suggestions here for insulating materials, air spaces, et cetera. January 19, 2012

I have been asked to make serving trays for a nice restaurant in town. The trays are for a dish they serve called The Rock Fillet (itís fantastic, but I digress). Basically it's a tray (12Ē x 18Ē) that receives a 450 F flat rock. A raw steak fillet is placed off to the side of the rock and you cook your own steak at your table. They have some that were made 10 years ago and the company who made them is long gone. My challenge is to find a product that will hold up to the temperature and allow the diner to cut the steak on one half of the tray and cook it on the rock on the other half.

I found this product, Richlite, that I think will work, but it costs about $1000.00 for a 3/4Ē x 4í x 8í sheet. I havenít given the owner a cost yet, as Iím just doing the research now. Any ideas to help me lower my material costs?

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surface Forum)
From contributor R:
Think about wood handles on cast iron pans. This is done all the time. What you need is an intermediate material between the rock and the wood, preferably an insulator rather than a conductor like metal. The change in material will dissipate the heat and allow the wood to act as an insulator rather than just burning.

A few ideas: glass, silicone, cork, sacrificial piece of wood (like when you order fajitas), ceramic. Glass would probably be the best as it is an insulator and has a very high melting point.

From contributor T:
Bamboo with two strips of aluminum or stainless steel to get an air gap.

From contributor A:

What were the old trays made from?

If you are making a wood tray, why not just inlay some metal strips that stick up above the wood to set the rock on so that there is an air space between it and the wood? You could also inlay a ceramic floor tile into the wood. Look for a porcelain tile with a little texture to keep the stone from sliding around (floor tiles).

I wonder what kind of liability issues this restaurant has when they are sending 450 degree rocks out to their customers. Do they have a children's plate?

From contributor P:
I will be damned if I am going to go to a restaurant that I have to cook my own meal!

From contributor G:
Never had fondue?

From contributor N:
As mentioned above, there are insulating materials that are extremely thin, yet very effective. I remember seeing a guy hold a blowtorch to his hand with only a 1/8" piece of some of this stuff protecting it. Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the stuff (it was not asbestos based), but you're certain to able to find a description and seller somewhere on the net. Glue the material on the bottom and sides and you're good to go.

From contributor G:
Contributor N caused a couple of my memory cells to kick in. Aerogel is that material.

From contributor T:
Nomex by DuPont. Also called Aramid. Same stuff the Ove Glove is made of. They use silicon as a non-slip grip on them. You could use a 106 high temperature silicone as non-slip grip on the Aramid fabric. Aramid is an insulator for temperatures up to 600 degrees F.