The $35 Find I Bring to Every Party I’m Invited To

updated Jul 5, 2023
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Chafer dish, catering
Credit: Photography By Tonelson / Getty Images

At the end of 2021, I was at the grocery store when I stumbled upon a sturdy, plastic carrier that was designed to hold a disposable half-size aluminum pan. At the time, I thought this would be a fun Christmas gift for my sister, who’s active in her community and is constantly bringing meals to various events throughout town, so I grabbed it on my way to the checkout lane. Plus, it had an adorable name — Fancy Panz

The plastic carrier tray turned out to be a great impulse buy because she told me she immediately fell in love with it and uses it several times a week to cart goodies to and from parties and potlucks. I always love it when a little gift turns out to be a big win!

Fast forward to the beginning of March when I was attending the Inspired Home Show in Chicago, a trade show that showcases the latest and greatest in kitchen gear and homewares. Lo and behold, I spotted Fancy Panz, the same brand that makes my sister’s favorite tray — and now, mine. As a bonus, I was lucky enough to chat a bit with co-founder Jane Casey, and it was exciting to learn that this product, which was already a hit in my family, also happened to come from a woman-owned company. 

What’s So Great About Fancy Panz?

In addition to the Classic version that I’d bought for my sister and fits a half size foil pan, there is also a carrier to accommodate an 8-inch square pan, as well as a 9 by 13-inch cake pan. The Fancy Panz come in several colors including Charcoal and White, as well as bolder shades like Hot Pink and even Gold Swirl. They open on one side via hinge so you can easily set a disposable aluminum pan inside, and have a see-through plastic lid that you can keep on for stackability, or remove for a beautiful serving presentation; it doubles as a trivet too. Once you’re done with the carrier, wash it by hand or toss into the top rack of your dishwasher.

Credit: Kristina Vanni

However, what got me really excited from the trade show was the Fancy Panz Premium, a new version that’s still designed like the Classic to fit a half-size foil pan, but is a little deeper. The extra depth accommodates the included gel pack that ensures salads stay nice and crisp while casseroles stay warm until you’re ready to serve. Simply pop the pack in the freezer for cold dishes, or the microwave for warm meals. 

Credit: Kristina Vanni

To make the carriers even more functional, there are additional inserts you can purchase that fit perfectly inside, like one for deviled eggs that can fit right on top of the chilled gel pack. Not only do your deviled eggs stay at the perfect serving temperature, but each one is safely nestled into its own little bed for easy transport. 

The Fancy Panz Premium also comes with an aluminum tray and a serving spoon for ease and convenience. Additional foil trays are easy to find at a grocery store; for the Classic and Premium carriers, you would grab a half-size foil pan measuring 11 3/4 by 9 3/8 by 2 1/2. The cake pan accommodates a 9 x 13-inch tray and the square model uses an 8-inch foil tray. 

Credit: Kristina Vanni

I’ve already used my Fancy Panz Premium for a chilled mixed greens salad, a hot pan of lasagna to serve a crowd, and, of course, the deviled egg insert for appetizers. With so many celebrations coming up, it’s definitely getting a ton of use this season.

At the show, I also saw a prototype for a charcuterie insert with little compartments to help design and organize your spread. Sit that on top of the cold gel pack, and not only will your charcuterie board travel with ease, but everything stays cool for picnics, potlucks, and more. Given my love for Fancy Panz, I’ve already added one to my cart — and a second for my sister! 

Buy: Fancy Panz Premium, $34.99