Preparedness blog

8 Ways To Heat MRE Meals Without A Heater

By Jeff and Amy Davis
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The MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) is a long standing food storage favorite. They’re nutritious, convenient, and better tasting than ever before. With an entree, side dish, dessert, and accessory pack enclosed, all you need to eat an MRE is the meal pack and a heat source. But what if you don’t have an MRE heater?

Rest assured, there are plenty of ways to heat MRE meals in a pinch if you don’t have a standard heater. Many MREs, like our MRE Ultimate Full Meal, include a heater to conveniently prepare your meal. However, that’s not always the case. You may already have heater-less MREs in your food storage, or maybe you’ve ordered a meal that doesn’t include a heater. While they can be eaten hot or cold, you’ll probably enjoy the meal much more if it’s heated. First, let’s see how a meal is heated with a standard heater.

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How to Heat an MRE With a Heater

Watch the video below to see how an MRE is heated with a standard heater, or read a step-by-step guide.


8 Ways to Heat MRE Meals Without a Heater

Boiling The Pouch
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.

On the Car's Engine
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.

Use a Flat 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.

In the Dishwasher
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.

On 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.

On a Car's Tailpipe
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.

Use Your Body Heat
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.

Under The Sun's Heat
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 MREs Without a Heater?

We’ve listed a few ideas that we’ve heard of, but we’d love to hear ways you’ve gotten creative with heating your MRE meals! Comment below to tell us how you have, or plan to heat up an MRE.


Update: The Ready Store still has ample stock of MREs, with 1-12 month supplies available. Order your full meal MREs today.

9 years ago
9 years ago at 6:13 AM
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.
Lauralyn Budge
9 years ago at 6:19 AM
If you have power for a dishwasher, my guess is you have power to a stove or microwave too.
9 years ago at 7:56 AM
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!
Janet Legerski
9 years ago at 10:54 AM
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.
J.M. Smith
9 years ago at 11:33 AM
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!
9 years ago at 1:45 PM
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.
Rich Rand
9 years ago at 2:05 PM
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?
John doe
5 years ago at 2:28 AM
"Environmentally cool"? Really moron? You should have stopped while you were ahead. What you did is smart, simple and effective. The "environment" has no place in this conversation. What are you.....some Lib from Seattle?
Marla Stevens
3 years ago at 5:45 AM
People responsible enough to prepare for emergencies, including SHTF situations created by the environmentally callous, live across the wide political spectrum. Part of prepping is learning to live better with one's neighbors, whoever they end up being. Smart preppers know that no one is an island and that their lives might well depend on their being socially tolerant folks.
Marla Stevens
3 years ago at 5:46 AM
People responsible enough to prepare for emergencies, including SHTF situations created by the environmentally callous, live across the wide political spectrum. Part of prepping is learning to live better with one's neighbors, whoever they end up being. Smart preppers know that no one is an island and that their lives might well depend on their being socially tolerant, good-hearted, pleasant folks.
3 years ago at 11:12 PM
don't be an arse, John. You sound like a sisterhumping trailer trash white male moron.
John Z
9 years ago at 2:13 PM
Outside on a black metal container. Summer Mosul Iraq aprox120 f. Took about five minutes
Vicci Thompson
9 years ago at 2:18 PM
In winter, you can place the MRE on top of your home radiator or radiant heater.
Gary Johns
9 years ago at 5:29 PM
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.
9 years ago at 5:51 PM
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!
9 years ago at 6:47 PM
I used to heat my MRE's n the heatin system of my armored personnel carrier.
Varian Wrynn
9 years ago at 8:31 AM
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.
9 years ago at 10:22 AM
On a hot afternoon- simply putting it on the dashboard in the hot, locked-up car did the trick.
7 years ago at 9:17 AM
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.
7 years ago at 4:54 AM
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....
MJ Dean
7 years ago at 3:52 PM
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...
7 years ago at 6:13 PM
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.
Ron S
7 years ago at 9:52 PM
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.
5 years ago at 10:11 PM
I just use the boiling water- after it's heated you still have the water for coffee, tea or other hot foods/drinks or for cleaning. If it's water from an outdoor source you've also taken care of most biological contaminants as well by boiling it.
Tyler Perry
5 years ago at 3:20 PM
Turn on the seat warmer and sit on the package like you are nesting works every time!
Lamont Shkreli
3 years ago at 4:06 PM
Please support this petition for an honorable cause
2 years ago at 10:07 PM
I use to heat mine on the burning debris of napalm smoldering villages during black ops missions in various undisclosed places. Also one time in a rain forest I set one in this little circle of sunlight that was peering through the canopy and just as I expected the small diameter of the ray made for a concentration of heat like that of a magnifying glass. I just let it set there about 15 minutes while I went to set some charges and made a few booby traps. But my most ingenious moment heating one of these suckers was the time I traveled into space to the sun, got there pretty quick in one of our area 51 alien spacecrafts that i have access to, but I digress, when I arrived I just slung it out the window on a string over a coronal mass ejection and it was ready instantly.