Best Electric Lunch Boxes


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Oct 31, 2023

Best Electric Lunch Boxes

We evaluated models by Crockpot, Hot Bento, LunchEaze, Steambox, and Uvi to find

We evaluated models by Crockpot, Hot Bento, LunchEaze, Steambox, and Uvi to find the best ones to heat meals on the go

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Some people are not sandwich or salad people, and that's okay. But your preference for a hot midday meal can make lunches away from home a bit tricky. Maybe you don't want to eat fast-casual takeout every day and have no microwave access.

Electric lunch boxes are gaining popularity and might be ideal for adults who eat prepared lunches away from home. You pack up these portable food containers in the morning and take them wherever you go, whether that's an office, a campus, or an outdoor worksite.

Some of them are cordless and don't need an external power source to heat up food. Corded models are lighter, cost less, and require an outlet to power up.

All great, in theory, but we wanted to see if electric lunch boxes could heat up food to safe temperatures in an appropriate amount of time and keep food chilled until then. To find out, we purchased six models priced between $40 and $270. In addition to the food safety factor, which we tested in a temperature-controlled lab, we toted lunches to the office to assess for usability.

We purchased six popular electric lunch boxes. Half are cordless and heat up food using a rechargeable battery, and half have a power cord that you plug into a standard outlet. We evaluated each model for five factors.

Each model was assessed with cold, cooked foods, which ranged from easy to relatively challenging to heat up split pea soup, kung pao chicken and fried rice, and frozen lasagna.

Then we tested them in temperature-controlled chambers set to 73° F and 95° F to see how well they would keep food chilled when left at room temperature and outside on a hot day.

The Department of Agriculture recommends that cold foods be kept at 40° F or lower and that hot foods be held at 140° F or higher. Foods should not be left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour in temperatures above 90° F.

None of the lunch boxes were able to maintain an internal temperature at or below 40° F (although none make claims to) after only 20 minutes at room temperature. For this reason, we recommend that users heat up their food within 2 hours or pack their lunch boxes in well-insulated cooler bags with ice packs. Chilling the food tray in the refrigerator before you leave for the day helps keep food cold longer. Freezing your meal would be the safest option if you choose a model that can heat up frozen foods. (Half of them can.)

Members can read on to see which electric lunch boxes came out on top.

A note on lithium-ion battery-powered devices: While rare, lithium-ion batteries can catch fire or explode under certain conditions. Make sure any electric lunch box you buy is certified by UL Solutions. Also, remember to use the manufacturer-supplied charging cord. If your factory charger or cord gets damaged or lost, it can be tempting to buy a cheap replacement that isn't built to the same specifications as the original equipment, but doing so can damage the battery and cause a fire.

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We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.

Heat time and temp: Safety: Ease of use: Portability: Appearance A note on lithium-ion battery-powered devices: