Best Heated Lunch Boxes

Updated October 2019
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

13 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
114 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

Buying guide for best heated lunch boxes

Last Updated October 2019

There's something satisfying about eating a hot meal at work and using up those leftovers, but if you don't have access to a microwave, you'll end up eating tepid soup or cold pasta. A heated lunch box is a great alternative when you won’t be able to reheat or just prefer to keep your food hot. Just turn it on a little while before you want to eat, and it will warm your food to a toasty temperature.

Heated lunch boxes aren't extremely common gadgets, so you might not know much about them. Before you buy, you'll need to consider a wide range of factors, such as the overall capacity, how your lunch box is powered, and whether you’ll want compartments to separate your food. Plus, you want to consider where you’ll use it and if its design and color are going to suit your preferences.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about heated lunch boxes. If you’re ready to buy, consider one of our recommended models, and you'll soon be savoring a piping hot meal — no on-site hassles required.

Heated lunch boxes generally use a fairly low voltage, which heats your food through without drying it out.

Key considerations

Power type

Heated lunch boxes run off one of two power sources: a standard power outlet or a 12-volt car adapter. Which one is right for you depends on where you'll be consuming your lunch. While the majority of models are powered one way or the other, some include separate adaptors, so you can power them either way as needed.

Heating time

Check how long any heated lunch boxes you're considering take to heat up food. The majority range between 15 and 30 minutes, but you can find a few outliers that are slightly quicker or slightly slower. You should also remember these times are estimated and based on the lunch box being completely full, so it's always worth checking on your food every now and then, especially if you've only half-filled it.

Capacity

The majority of heated lunch boxes are designed to hold an average amount of lunch for one. However, this might not be enough if you have a large appetite or you want to share. The internal capacity is often stated in liters, but you may be able to find out the internal dimensions as well.

Materials

The vast majority of heated lunch boxes have a hard plastic exterior, though you can find a small number with insulated fabric exteriors, which are a bit like soft-sided coolers. On the inside, you’ll often find a removable metal food tray (usually stainless steel or aluminum), or the interior could have a metal lining or simply be made from molded plastic. 

EXPERT TIP

You should only reheat food in a heated lunch box. It can't cook food from scratch.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Internal separation

Some heated lunch boxes have separate compartments to store your food in. This is great if you like to keep different foods separate. For instance, if you have rice and curry, you might like to keep the two separate and mix them together later. Other heated lunch boxes have just one large internal compartment, which is less versatile.

Leak-proof lid

Ideally, your heated lunch box should have a leak-proof lid. If your heated lunch box isn't sufficiently leak-proof, you'll need to be careful to carry it upright, or you'll be limited to the types of food you can bring.

Color

You can find heated lunch boxes in a variety of colors, though they tend to be fairly plain, without any bold patterns. A large amount of heated lunch boxes on the market are available in several colors, so it makes sense to choose one based on its other merits first and then select between the available colors.

Cool-touch exterior

A quality heated lunch box should have a cool-touch exterior so that you won't scald yourself on the outside of the box when it's finished heating your food.

DID YOU KNOW?

Heated lunch boxes can help you save money by avoiding eating out on your lunch break. They also prevent waste, as you can bring your dinner leftovers to eat at lunch.

Heated lunch box prices

What's the average cost of a heated lunch box? We wouldn't recommend spending any less than $20 to $30 on a basic heated lunch box as lower-priced models might not be particularly reliable. Mid-range models cost between $30 and $40 and may be slightly larger and more durable than basic choices. At the high-end of the price spectrum, you'll find heated lunch boxes costing roughly $40 to $60. These are generally large and rugged with all the bells and whistles.

Tips

  • Check the overall dimensions of your chosen heated lunch box. It should be compact enough to be easily portable and fit in your bag or a tote to take to work.
  • Decide whether you need a heated lunch box with insulation. Insulation is advisable if you might not manage to get around to eating your food as soon as it's heated through. A sufficiently insulated model should keep your food piping hot for at least an hour or so after heating.
  • Pick a heated lunch box that complies to any relevant safety standards. It should have been tested and inspected for safety by the manufacturer. If not, it may not be safe to use.
  • Find out how you will know when your food is heated through. Check the manual to discover if the unit indicates in any way when it's done heating. Some heated lunch boxes either have an indicator light or let out a beep when they're finished — but not all do.

Some heated lunch boxes have extras included, such as compact knives and forks or carrying cases.

Other products we considered

The Gideon Heated Electric Lunch Box has a spacious interior that you can either put your food directly into or line with foil for easier cleanup. It has a 12-volt adapter that runs off the cigarette lighter port in your car. We also love the Yescom Portable Electric Heating Lunch Box, with its 1.5-liter capacity and additional food container for soup or any items you want to keep separate from the main dish. If you're looking for something a bit different, the Hot Logic Mini has a soft fabric exterior with a Pyrex dish that fits inside. It plugs into a standard outlet, but you can also use it in your car with a power inverter.

You can find some heated lunch boxes with temperature control, which gives you more input over how you warm your food.

FAQ

Q. Are heated lunch boxes safe?
A.
Heated lunch boxes tend to run on a low voltage and are generally safe to use. Of course, you'll always find a few unreliable models out there, but as long as you avoid the cheapest offerings and select ones that have decent reviews, there's no reason to be more worried about their safety than any other electrical appliance.

Q. How do I clean my heated lunch box?
A.
It probably goes without saying, but, unlike a regular lunch box, you can’t wash your whole heated lunch box because of the electrical components. The easiest heated lunch boxes to clean are those with a removable food tray or container, as you can wash it either in the sink or dishwasher, dry it, then return it to the body of your lunch box. Those without removable trays will need to be wiped down, which doesn't get them as clean and is more inconvenient.

Q. Are heated lunch boxes easy to use?
A.
Yes, the majority of heated lunch boxes you simply plug in and leave for 15 to 30 minutes, so they're extremely easy to use.

The team that worked on this review
  • Alvina
    Alvina
    Photographer
  • Amos
    Amos
    Director of Photography
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Austin
    Austin
    Writer
  • Branson
    Branson
    Videographer
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Production Assistant
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Lauren
    Lauren
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey