You're on the go and need to heat up your food, but you don't have a microwave. What can you do? While the idea of a portable microwave is interesting, the practicality just isn't there.
Microwaves simply require too much energy for most car battery systems.
There are, however, some great alternatives for those looking for a way to heat up food on the go. There are portable stoves, ovens and food warmers that take care of the majority of your everyday cooking tasks.
Enjoy our comprehensive guide to the 7 best portable food warmers on the market today!
Why Don't Portable Microwaves Exist?
When it comes to portable microwaves, the idea, unfortunately, is more appealing than the reality.
All microwaves are designed to be used near an electrical outlet and do not have an inverter, which is necessary to operate most portable cooking appliances in a vehicle.
Without this inverter, the microwave would need to be plugged into the vehicle's cigarette lighter, which would then provide power to the microwave.
This is not an ideal solution, as your car battery is unlikely to have the wattage rating to operate a microwave.
Microwaves are notoriously large and even the small options take up a considerable amount of space.
This is not ideal for a portable appliance, as you want something that can be easily transported and doesn't take up a lot of room.
Furthermore, much of the microwave consists of the radiation technology, which also takes up a lot of room.
There are alternative ways of heating food up using less energy, and so the need has never been overwhelming. The most common place you find microwaves is in RVs because they fit a more practical position.
With that said, most RVs can power microwaves because they have a deep cycle battery and an A/C inverter. Components that 99% of automobile do not have.
Alternatives to Portable Microwaves
Option #1: 12 V food warmer
Food warmers are great for those that want to heat up their food on the go without all of the fuss of microwaves. If you're close to a car our wall outlet, then you have everything you need to heat up your food.
- Store easy
- Transport easy
- Great for reheating meals
- Options for wall and car outlet
- Will not cook food (will only heat)
- Can take between 1-3 hour to heat food
Option #2: Portable 12V Electric Stove for the Car
- Actually "cooks" the food
- Heats much faster than a food warmer
- More safety concerns
- Can take up more space
- Awkward shaped for storing
Option #3: Low Wattage Microwave w/ Inverter (12V DC to 110V AC inverter)
Can't let it go can you? Well, if a microwave in the car is what you want, a microwave in the car is what you get.
You'll have to connect an inverter to your battery. The inverter must have at least 20% more wattage capabilities than your microwave (for example a 900 watt microwave would need at least a 1125 watt inverter). Connect your battery to the inverter, connect the inverter to your microwave, and give it a go. (This is not professional electrical advice)
Best Food Warmers and Why
1) 12V Hot Logic Mini Food Warmer
Looking for a simple way to reheat your lunch? Look no further than the Hot Logic Mini! This small, but mighty device can evenly reheat fresh or frozen meals without burning or drying them out. Plus, it's compatible with most flat-bottom containers, so you can easily heat your food up with the containers you have on hand. If you spend a lot of time in the car and are sick of eating cold leftovers, a food warmer is a cheap, effective way of warming up your food without the usually downsides of portable cooking machines.
Most claim it takes about 1-2 hours to heat up fresh meals, and 3 hours to heat up frozen dishes. This food warmer also comes with a ton of color options.
2) Real Nature 12V Food Warmer
A similar yet slightly more "lunch boxey" look to this food warmer might be a more attractive look for you. It also comes with a shoulder strap if you go on long journeys with your lunch box. Plug it into your car lighter and this nifty lunch box will heat your food within a few hours.
Keep in mind, the company makes it very clear that this food warmer is not for 24v systems. This can cause overheating of the electrical plug and eventually cause safety concerns.
3) Rottogoon 12V Food Warmer
The Rottogoon food warmer is almost identical to the Real Nature model above. This food warmer however, has more color options available and has a detachable handle so you can strap it to your backpack. The downside of this model is that it only comes with a 12v car plug, not a 110V wall outlet alternative.
Keep in mind, this manufacturer was also insistent on explaining how this model is not intended for use in 24V vehicle systems.
4) Chermdoo Electric Lunch Box (12V, 24V and 110V)
Yes, another unique look to the food warmer category but also has some noteworthy qualities worth considering. First off, this food warmer actually includes a stainless steel tray for your food. This is a nice touch since most food warmers only offer the heating element and the insulated bag. It is also equipped with 12v, 24v and 110 volt options for power.
Also, the Chermdoo model comes with more accessories than any other on the market. The core of the lunch box is a heating element surrounded by a heavy duty plastic container. The container is sealed using silicone and plastic latches on all 4 sides. There is a top compartment for silverware and four plastic handles on all side for sturdy handling. Last but not least it comes with an insulated bag to put around the inner plastic container.
5) VaygWay 12V Portable Car Stove
Now we're venturing into the actual "cooking" of food. This 12 V car stove/oven/food warmer can get your food up to 300°F which means that technically speaking, it can cook your meat to safe eating temperatures. With that said, 300°F is just above a slow cookers temp range, so it's not going to cook as fast as a stove would.
If you're looking to consistently "cook" food, I would continue on down our list. However if you're looking to heat, and on occasion cook, then this model may be the perfect fit.
6) Roadpro RPSP225NS 12-Volt 2-Quart Portable Saucepan
Having a portable sauce pan can come in handy for all sorts of reasons. This Roadpro model has a 12 volt plug and is made with a convenient non-stick nonstick material. While optimal for stews and soups, it can also be used as a skillet for simple meals like hot dogs and hamburgers.
There are some varying opinions on how fast it can boil water, but I wouldn't recommend an electric stove for boiling water anyway.
7) 1 Liter Mini Rice Cooker Steamer 12V For Car
Another piece of equipment for the soup lovers out there. This heated pot is the perfect shape for any of your favorite liquid foods. However, this model also specializes in steaming so it's great for foods like rice and vegetables. It takes approximately 30 minutes to cook rice to perfection.
Portable microwaves for the car don’t exist, but there are plenty of other great options out there like portable stoves, portable ovens, and food warmers. We hope this article has helped you decide on the best option for your needs. Thanks for reading!
Founder of Robust Kitchen