The 8 Best Electric Heated Lunch Boxes
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in April of 2015. Perfect for work, camping, or a long road trip, these electric heated lunch boxes will ensure you never go without a decent meal. We’ve included those suitable for car, home, and office use, in plenty of sizes, for everyone from the very hungry to the casual snacker. The only rule is, once you get one of these, you're not allowed to make fun of the poor unfortunates with their brown paper bags. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 14, 2020:
Today we added in the MoModer Multifunctional, a well-designed choice that lets you cook soup or stew in one stainless steel compartment, and rice or eggs in the other. It’s made with safety in mind, as it automatically shuts off once the base is depleted of water. Included is a handy measuring cup for adding water, and you can choose from among three colors of trim. In all, it’s a good value for the price for anyone who could use an easy way to prepare fresh food in an office or a dorm room setting. It joins several highly rated selections, including the Crock-Pot 20-Ounce, which is from a well-known brand in food warming. This one is well suited for any commuter who prefers a hot, homemade lunch every day, as you can leave the heating element at the office and just bring home the removable primary container and its lid. Speaking of which, the lid seals securely to help prevent messy spills during transit.
We’re still partial to the HotLogic Mini Portable Oven, a popular choice thanks to its convenience and ease of use. This plug-in tote is good for cooking or reheating fresh or frozen meals. It’s insulated with a reflective aluminum lining, and features a double zipper and durable reinforced seams. You can choose from among several attractive colors, and it works with various containers of up to a 1-1/2 quart capacity that are made of glass, plastic, metal, and cardboard. For a large model that can be used as either a heater or a cooler, look to the Lifestyle by Focus 27-Quart. It features a control switch that can be set to “Hot”, “Cold”, or “Off”, as well as a power cord and a car adapter. Both cords have hidden storage compartments for when they’re not in use. It’s tall enough to hold a 2-liter bottle, and is also capable of storing up to around 30 cans of soda. Its ergonomic handle makes it easy to carry, and a removable divider can be used to create two separate compartments for organization.
October 23, 2019:
At this time, concerns have been raised about the safety of the RoadPro 12-Volt, with occasional reports of electrical issues that could create a fire hazard. Although the chance is slim, we've opted to remove it, but we have kept the similarly shaped Koolatron 12-Volt. This model is for car use only, making it helpful for those true road warriors. For office use, the HotLogic Mini Portable Oven and the Crock-Pot 20-Ounce both remain hard to beat. We especially like the former for its fun range of offered colors and uncomplicated functionality, although it's important not to leave very thin, flimsy plastics inside it for long periods (they can melt). And because it resembles many other lunch boxes for adults, it won't draw any odd looks or attention. Finally, we removed both the Smart Planet with Spork and Smart Planet Collapsible, which have now become difficult to find, opting instead for the Knox 27-Quart. Yes, it's quite a bit larger than most, but if you have the room for it, it can be useful in many situations — not just at lunch time.
Itaki Classic This handy device lets you heat up leftovers or cook from scratch in as little as 30 minutes in the office, classroom, or even any vehicle that has an outlet. Its compartmentalized design allows you to prepare multiple dishes at the same time, for a full meal. Included are food containers, a measuring cup, and an egg rack. It’s available with your choice of blue, orange, pink, or purple trim. itakico.com
Zojirushi Vacuum Insulated Tiffin Box To be perfectly clear, the Zojirushi Vacuum Insulated Tiffin Box is not, in fact, electric; however, it boasts excellent heat retention even after six hours and so is a popular alternative when no electrical outlets are available. With each set, you'll get four bowls, but note that these are not microwaveable. zojirushi.com
Not Your Average Lunch Box
When you are ready for your lunch, it is hot and waiting for you to devour it.
The electric heated lunch box goes beyond the original school lunch box designed with a simple handle and clasp for children to carry their food with them throughout the day. Many average lunch boxes are insulated, but the heated lunch boxes take things one step further and heat your food as well as store it.
An electric heated lunch box is a lot like a portable slow cooker, only most of them work much faster. They are great for trucker drivers, campers, or people who are frequently on the road. They are even perfect for people who want to take a hot lunch to the office but hate waiting to use the microwave.
It works well to simply reheat leftovers or it can completely cook your food from raw as you work or drive. When you are ready for your lunch, it is hot and waiting for you to devour it. Many heated lunch boxes serve multiple purposes. Not only are they great for cooking or reheating your food, they are perfect for storing it and keeping it hot for long periods of time.
They contain a concealed heating element that is protected by heat resistant materials. Some models are even insulated to keep food cold if your heart so desires. Others are specially designed to keep medicines and other sensitive items at the proper temperatures.
Depending on the lunch box that you purchase, you can plug it into a wall outlet, a car cigarette lighter, or both depending on your preference and specific needs. Some come complete with on/off and temperature switches while others are simply plug and go.
Time To Hit The Road
An electric lunch box might be just the thing you need to sync your meals with your busy schedule so you can maintain a healthy diet. If you are in the market for an electric heated lunch box, consider your needs and desired features before making your final purchase.
Finally, and most importantly, check the safety certification and features.
First, if you intend to use your lunch box to cook full meals, make sure that the one you choose cooks thoroughly and doesn't simply reheat or insulate. There are some heated lunch boxes that claim to cook food from a raw state, but they don't reach the level of heat and power that is needed to achieve this.
Second, if you are a frequent traveler, consider a lunch box that comes with a car adapter that can plug into the cigarette lighter. Some heated lunch boxes come with only an AC adapter. These are great for people who spend a lot of time at work and want to save money. But they are inconvenient for campers and truck drivers.
Third, look for one in the proper size. Electric lunch boxes come in a variety of sizes. Some will cook only single person meals while others are large enough for storing and cooking for two or more people. If you frequently travel with your entire family, you will need to purchase one of the larger-sized lunch boxes.
Fourth, check the casing and heating capabilities. Make sure that the casing will hold up to continuous, frequent use and that it is compatible with the contained heating element. Ensure that your lunch box heats properly and works well with the foods that you plan to prepare.
Finally, and most importantly, check the safety certification and features. Ensure that it has been properly inspected and tested so that you can rest easy while you wait for your meal. Always make sure to follow the recommended safety instructions included with the product.
A Brief History Of Electric Heated Lunch Boxes
The creation and use of the lunch box began in the mid nineteenth century when working class citizens began carrying their lunches in metal pails. They eventually became a negative status symbol. If someone carried a metal pail to work, it meant that he couldn't afford to buy a hot lunch.
It wasn't long before children decided they wanted to copy their fathers, and they began putting their food in used tobacco or cookie tins. In 1902, the first metal lunch boxes were released by the Aladdin company and marketed to children.
In 1935, Mickey Mouse was the first cartoon character depicted on a lunch box.
Soon, the Aladdin company began putting favorite popular characters on lunch boxes to increase interest and sales. In 1935, Mickey Mouse was the first cartoon character depicted on a lunch box. These character lunch boxes quickly became a hot commodity among children who often traded with their classmates for new models or their favorite characters.
Less expensive, vinyl lunch boxes hit the market in the 1960s, but it wasn't until the 1980s that molded plastic lunch boxes literally gave the metal ones a run for their money. The Aladdin company stopped production in 1998. As of 2012, Thermos was still producing popular metal designs. Vintage lunch boxes are considered classic collector's items today.
Today, the lunch box is less of a novelty and is produced for practical purposes. Many of today's lunch boxes are made with insulation to keep food hot or cold and are again appealing to the adult working class, as they have lost their negative stigma.
The electric heated lunch box has revolutionized the modern lunch box industry by bringing an extra element of convenience to meal times. Not only do they help busy people maintain a healthy diet, but they are economical and easy to use.