8 Creative Ways to Heat an MRE

Written by Jonathan Dick

MREs – Meals Ready to Eat – are durable pouches of food first created by the military. These metalized pouches can withstand a lot of wear and tear. They’ve also come a long way in taste.

The great thing about MREs is that you can eat them cold or hot! However, I would probably recommend eating them hot – no one feels fully satisfied with a cold MRE.

Our newest MRE meals come with water-reactive self-heaters. However, if you get an MRE that doesn’t come with a heater, how can you heat them up? Check out some creative ideas on how you can heat up an MRE.

Before opening up the MRE throw the metalized bag into a pot of boiling water and allow the contents to heat up. Carefully take the package out after a few minutes and open the contents. The food inside will be heated and ready to warm your belly.

Soldier eating an MREOn the Car
If you have MREs in your emergency car kit, you can easily throw them on top of the engine and take the heat from your car. The metal bag will transfer the heat to the food while keeping the grease and fumes out.

Clothes Iron
You can even heat your MRE with a clothes iron! Because some irons are too hot, you may need to wrap your food in a cloth to buffer the metalized bag from burning. You can also put the iron on a lower setting and rub it along the bag. Be careful not to melt the bag – that’s too hot.

Now, we haven’t tested this one out yet but we thought it was an interesting idea – using the dishwasher to heat up your MRE. The idea is that you put the MRE in the top rack of your dishwasher and let it run through a cycle with the dishes. Depending on your dishwashers heat/dry system this would probably work. If not, you’d have a really clean MRE.

Coals & Rocks
When you’re out camping, simply place the MRE on some rocks next to the fire. White hot coals would probably burn through the MRE bag but if you placed flat rocks down and then placed the MRE on top of that – it should do fine.

Like we mentioned above, you can place your MRE on the engine of your parked car. However, you can also get a lot of heat to prepare your MRE off the tailpipe of your car. Balance the meal on top of the tailpipe and let it heat for a few minutes.

If worse comes to worse, you can always use your own body. Let’s say that you were out snowmobiling (I’m jealous) and wanted to heat up your MRE. Besides possibly using the motor on your snowmobile, you could also put the MRE inside your coat near the hotter parts of your body to heat it up a bit. It probably won’t get it as hot, but it’s better than a frozen MRE.

Sun Cooking
You can also use the sun to heat up your MREs. Whether it be with a sun oven or placing it on a rock in the desert sun, they’ll heat up pretty quickly. We’ve also heard of people fashioning tin foil to reflect into a single area that would transfer the sun’s heat to the MRE’s metalized bag – thus heating up the MRE.

How have you heated an MRE?
We’ve listed a few ideas that we’ve heard of, but what do you know? Comment below to tell us how you have, or plan to heat up an MRE.

Updated October 5, 2012


  1. james wrote:

    In the car/van while driving or parked, put MRE on defroster vent on dash and place a towel or large hat over it to collect the heat. Acts like an oven and is fast. Piping hot in about 10-15 minutes.

    October 6th, 2012 at 6:13 am
  2. Lauralyn Budge wrote:

    If you have power for a dishwasher, my guess is you have power to a stove or microwave too.

    October 6th, 2012 at 6:19 am
  3. BH wrote:

    I have been dehydrating mushrooms, etc. on a sizzler pan that I place on top of the black top of my outdoor wood burner. In no time, the sun, the black surface and sizzler pan do the job—in peak of summer heat, a few hours only!

    October 6th, 2012 at 7:56 am
  4. Janet Legerski wrote:

    I have a blood circulation disease that I get cold real easy and the armpit way of heating mre’s wouldn’t work for me, because it would bring my body temperature down faster than warming my meal up. But it would work for people who have good circulation. Just saying.

    October 6th, 2012 at 10:54 am
  5. J.M. Smith wrote:

    C-4 works well….when shaved and lit on fire. It burns well, but probably not available to most civilians!

    Pocket warmers work…the kind you activated by opening the package and shaking them a bit. Wrap the MRE in some foil with a pocket heater on each side of it. Takes a while but it works.

    If you live where it’s colder and have a radiator in your house, that works well. Here is Texas in the summer, we just put them out on the asphalt, but that’s when we’d also rather eat them cold!

    October 6th, 2012 at 11:33 am
  6. Gene wrote:

    On a sunny or even partly sunny day, you could heat MRE’s on the dash of your closed car. We have often heated homemade rolls on the dash and had nice warm rolls for lunch at our farm, which we do not live at. We put them in there when we arrived and a few hours later, presto! Warm rolls. YUM.

    October 6th, 2012 at 1:45 pm
  7. Rich Rand wrote:

    A solar heater using your vehicle windshield facing south. This worked for me back in the 70’s with my old 69 Dodge van when I was at work. Of cours, canned goods preceded MRE’s then. Later at the beginning of this new century I found this technique, an old principle of science, to work just as well with MRE’s. Before you punch in at work, prop it up in the windshield and by noon, provided the sun is out, you’ll have a heated meal using free energy. Now how environmentaly cool is that?

    October 6th, 2012 at 2:05 pm
  8. John Z wrote:

    Outside on a black metal container. Summer Mosul Iraq aprox120 f. Took about five minutes

    October 6th, 2012 at 2:13 pm
  9. Vicci Thompson wrote:

    In winter, you can place the MRE on top of your home radiator or radiant heater.

    October 6th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
  10. Gary Johns wrote:

    I was coming home from a camping trip one winter and used my Jeeps windshield defroster to heat one. Just chuck it up there turn on the defroster and remember to turn it over every 10 to 15 miles. Not as radical as using the engine compartment or tail pipe but it worked.

    October 6th, 2012 at 5:29 pm
  11. Ken wrote:

    Before I retired from welding,we used to put cans of soup or stew and MREs in our welding rod warmers.By lunch time,I had a hearty hot meal!

    October 6th, 2012 at 5:51 pm
  12. Juan wrote:

    I used to heat my MRE’s n the heatin system of my armored personnel carrier.

    October 6th, 2012 at 6:47 pm
  13. Mark Coolidge wrote:

    Over the last 30yrs I have driven a variety of trucks for a living and the manifold trick works well. There is even a cook book on the subject.


    As with all things it is the prep work that insures success.

    October 6th, 2012 at 9:04 pm
  14. mrs julie a neary wrote:

    watch out for burst packets altho if you are careful they sound ok perhaps take your metal cooking pot the flat tray type to balance the item in except the tailpipe i should think…it puts somewhere for a burst to run if it does

    October 7th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
  15. mrs julie neary wrote:

    watch out for burnt fingers you could do with a cloth if heating the meal inside the bag

    i do mine in a tray or the boiling water and use tongs or a fork poked thru a corner to remove

    BUT out in the outback with nothing more than a backpack and an emergency meal pack

    you might not have them to hand

    October 7th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
  16. Varian Wrynn wrote:

    On the edge of the fire pit; on the grill above the coals; turned sideways above my crotch/under my belt; clipped to my backpack. All are variants of the above.

    October 8th, 2012 at 8:31 am
  17. OCDan wrote:

    On a hot afternoon- simply putting it on the dashboard in the hot, locked-up car did the trick.

    October 8th, 2012 at 10:22 am
  18. Shades wrote:

    Just warp in a hot towel.

    October 25th, 2012 at 9:39 pm
  19. steveme wrote:

    Trying to wrap my mind around a scenario where I would have to or even be able to use the dishwasher instead of multiple other ways.

    May 20th, 2014 at 9:17 am
  20. Mtmiser wrote:

    A safety note. The ink on the mre pouch is poisonous. Never use water you used to heat a meal for rehydration of other food or as a liquid you consume. Do not eat from the pot you boiled it in until washed properly….

    October 30th, 2014 at 4:54 am
  21. Natalie wrote:

    I use the metal seat of my boat while fishing off the coast, take an hour or so. :)

    October 30th, 2014 at 5:06 am
  22. MJ Dean wrote:

    My father served in US Army, WW1, and was part of the Siberian Expedition, guarding the railroad being built between Moscow and Vladivostok. He said he kept his dark Russian bread from freezing by keeping it down inside his sleeping bag and warming it with his feet. Never did tell me if the bread was wrapped in a bag or cloth…

    October 30th, 2014 at 3:52 pm
  23. Bubba wrote:

    If you are on a boat, try hanging the MRE in a crab net under the outboard motor cooling water exhaust. I used to heat up cans this way.

    October 30th, 2014 at 6:13 pm
  24. Ron S wrote:

    If you have a coffee pot(one you use over an open fire just take off the lid and place it in place of the lid, after it is done perking,of course.

    October 30th, 2014 at 9:52 pm

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