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7 Best Portable Food Warmer Reviews & Buying Guide

⭐ BEST OVERALL ⭐🥈 RUNNER-UP 🥈💵 BEST VALUE 💵
Carlisle FoodService Products Cateraide Plastic Insulated Food Container, Portable Food Koolatron 12V Heating Lunch Box Stove, 1.6 Qt (1.5 L), Electric Lunch Box for Car and Home 110V & 12V
Carlisle Insulated Portable Food Pan WarmerPortable 12V Food Warmer & Cooker for TruckersPortable 12V / 110V Food Warmer for Work

Whether you’re bringing a food dish over for the holidays or you just want to keep your lunch warm, a portable food warmer is a must-have. They come in all different shapes and sizes, so we reviewed the best of the best to come up with our top seven. We considered price, size, and effectiveness to help you find what you’re looking for.

⭐  BEST OVERALL  ⭐

Carlisle is a big name in the catering industry, but you don’t need to be a caterer to take advantage of the Cateraide food pan carrier. It’s great for transporting temperature-sensitive food to parties and get togethers, especially when the kitchen is full and the oven is in use.

By using commercial-grade polyurethane insulation and an air-tight gasket seal, the Cateraide is able to retain heat and keep your food at its desired temperature for up to six hours. All you have to do is set it off to the side and serve the food when you’re ready. No need to throw it in the oven.

Not only does it have excellent heat retention properties, but it’s also one of the most durable food pan carriers on the market. The outer shell is molded with hard plastic to form one solid piece, handles and all. The only moving parts are the hinges. It’s extremely durable and is built to last a lifetime.

The interior also has rotomolded shelves that allow you to carry various sized food pans. It can hold a maximum of (5) 2.5” deep full size pans or (10) 2.5” deep half size pans, giving you the option to mix and match different sized dishes.

Overall, we think the Carlisle Cateraide is the best portable food pan warmer available. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but it’s one of those things that you buy for life. As long as you don’t take a baseball bat to it, it should last you a lifetime. And even then, it would still probably hold up.

Key Features
Multiple colors
Holds up to 5 full size food pans
Keeps food hot or cold up to six hours
Durable molded polyethylene material
Ergonomic handles for easy carrying

Material: Polyethylene / Polyurethane
Dimensions: 24” x 16.75” x 25”
Weight: 30.5 lbs

🥈  RUNNER-UP  🥈

The Koolatron 12V lunch box is more than a portable food warmer – it’s a portable oven. It’s great for not only truckers or construction workers on the job site, but anyone who wants to enjoy a hot meal in their vehicle.

It plugs directly into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter and reaches temperatures of up to 300ºF. Not only can you keep your meal warm, but it gets hot enough to cook food like hot dogs, grilled sandwiches, and rice.

It works by heating the bottom half of the lunch box and reflecting heat off of the metal interior, acting like a portable oven that can get hot enough to cook food. We recommend using the small, disposable aluminum loaf pans inside the lunch box to make clean-up a bit easier.

Not only is the interior solid stainless steel, but the exterior shell is constructed with hard plastic and is just as durable. You can throw it in the back of your truck without worrying about damaging it. The thick latch on front adds to its ruggedness and ensures that it stays sealed when heating your food.

Key Features
12V plug for vehicles
Reaches temperatures of up to 300ºF
Not only warms food, but cooks food as well
Stainless steel interior

Material: Plastic exterior, stainless steel interior
Dimensions: 11” x 8” x 8”
Capacity: 1.5 liters

💵  BEST VALUE  💵

The Heige lunch box is not only the most affordable portable food warmer on our list, but it’s also the most versatile.

It comes with a removable 12V car plug and a removable 110V standard plug so that you can keep your food heated whether you’re in the car or at the office. It also comes with a 2-in-1 compact metal fork and spoon so you won’t have to worry about remembering to bring silverware.

The the white plastic outer shell has colored accents on the handle and latches, of which you can choose from gray, green, or blue. The interior holds a form-fitting, stainless steel pan, as well as a nested plastic partition, both of which are removable and make clean-up a breeze.

When you’re ready to heat your food, simply plug it in for about 30 to 45 minutes and you have a hot meal. It’s that easy!

Key Features
Multiple colors
Made with non-toxic, food grade plastic and stainless steel
Can be plugged into a car or a standard outlet
Removable, easy-to-clean parts
Comes with 2-in-1 fork and spoon

Material: Non-toxic plastic, stainless steel
Dimensions: 9.26” x 6.5” x 4.13”
Capacity: 1.5 liters

 

Similar to the Carlisle Caiteraide we reviewed earlier, the Cambro EPP400 keeps multiple full size pans warm during transportation. The main difference being that the Cambro is made of lightweight insulated foam instead of hard plastic.

It weighs less than 10 pounds and has built-in handles on top, allowing you to carry it with ease. The front of the door has a section for changeable color swatches, which helps in identifying the contents of your food warmer, should you have multiple.

It’s made of styrofoam, so it can’t take a beating like its plastic counterpart, but it still keeps food warm (or cold) for up to four hours. If you’ve ever had a styrofoam cooler then you know how well they work.

The interior has built-in ledges that can hold up to five full size pans or 10 half size pans. It also comes with an adjustable, removable shelf that can hold irregular dishes.

Key Features
Color coded
Holds up to 5 full size pans
Lightweight foam material
Keeps food warm up to 4 hours
Comes with removable shelf

Material: Styrofoam
Dimensions: 25.98” x 17.32” x 25.59”
Weight: 9.5 lbs

 

The Hot Logic food warming tote plugs directly into your vehicle and requires no monitoring whatsoever. There are no temperature gauges or dials to fiddle with. Just plug it into the 12V port and leave it for up to 12 hours.

It isn’t just a portable food warmer, though. It’s a portable oven as well. It excels at heating up leftovers but it can also cook frozen meals! It will take longer to heat up frozen food, but since you don’t have to keep an eye on it all you have to do is plug it in earlier.

Another great feature of the Hot Logic is that it comes in nine different colors and patterns. It has a stowaway pocket on back for the cord and a solid stitched handle for durability and easy carrying. The heating element is located on the bottom interior of the bag and the rest of the interior is lined with foil for maximum heat reflection and retention.

Key Features
Lots of colors available
Plugs into your vehicle
No monitoring required
Heats food for 12 hours

Material: Canvas shell, foil lining
Dimensions: 9.5” x 7.5” x 3.5”
Weight: 1.1 lbs

 

Equipped with a standard 110V plug, this portable oven is ideal for traveling or for break room lunches. It plugs directly into a wall outlet and has an automatic temperature control so you don’t have to monitor it.

A small heating plate fits snugly into the bottom of the lunch box and the foil lining helps trap heat to cook your food. It slowly heats up to a max temperature of 239ºF, then it will reduce to 149ºF and keep warming your food between these two temperatures.

All types of food containers are safe to use with this portable oven, including glass, plastic, cardboard, metal, aluminum foil, and ceramic. Just make sure that the containers are sealed so that the moisture from the food doesn’t escape while being heated.

It comes in black, green, and orange and has an adjustable handle so you can carry it on your shoulder, grab it with your hand, or clip it onto a bag. When not in use, it collapses to save space.

Key Features
3 ways to carry
Collapses to save space
Automatic temperature control
Thick aluminum lining
Cutlery pocket

Material: Nylon shell, foil lining
Dimensions: 9” x 6.75” x 3.5”

 

The Kibaga food delivery bag isn’t just for delivery drivers, it’s great for picnics, parties, or it can even double as a cooler.

It has a durable exterior canvas shell and the interior is lined with a thick layer of foil insulation to keep hot foods hot or cold foods cold.

The two longer handles allow you to carry it like a standard bag, while the two smaller side handles let you carry it like a cooler. It has a zippered top and is large enough to fit five large pizza boxes. It also collapses to save space when not in use.

The Kibaga delivery bag is a budget-friendly alternative to the Carlisle or Cambro food pan carriers.

Key Features
Fits 5 large pizza boxes
Collapses to save space
Keeps food warm for hours
Prevents leaks

Material: Canvas shell, foil lining
Dimensions: 23” x 14” x 15”
Weight: 3.7 lbs

How To Find The Best Portable Food Warmer – Buying Guide

food-dishes

Power Output & Connectivity

Portable food warmers have two types of power cables: 12V connectors for cars and 110V connectors for indoor use.

The 12V car cable plugs directly into your car’s cigarette lighter. It heats your food while you’re driving, which is perfect for bringing over a hot dish during the holidays.

The 110V connector is a typical cable that plugs directly into a standard wall outlet. This type of connection is great for heating your lunch in the break room. Turn it on an hour or so before your lunch break and you’ll have a nice, hot meal when it’s lunch time. Don’t be surprised when your co-workers copy you and get one for themselves!

Size

To find the right size food warmer, you’ll need to ask yourself what you’ll be using it for. Do you want a quick, easy meal for 1-2 people that you can heat without monitoring? Or do you want to transport large quantities of food in full sized pans?

For an easy meal, you’ll want an electric lunch box. These are relatively small but can hold enough food for at least one person, sometimes two. Some of them have separate compartments inside, but most don’t, allowing you to fit a small pan or food storage container inside.

For transporting larger quantities of food, you’ll obviously need a bigger food warmer. These often use heat retention technology instead of electricity. Some of the larger delivery bags are big enough to hold full sized pizza boxes, while the pan carriers have built-in racks that are capable of holding multiple full-sized food pans.

Material

Most of the electric portable lunch box warmers have a canvas or nylon exterior shell and a foil lining. The shell is soft and durable which helps prevent punctures, rips, and stains. The foil lining reflects the heat generated from the electricity and warms/cooks the food like an oven.

Some of the portable pan warmers are made of a lightweight, yet durable, styrofoam that does a great job at retaining heat.

Other pan warmers are made of single-molded plastic that also relies on heat retention to keep food warm. The main difference being that the molded plastic is much heavier and much more durable than the styrofoam.

Safety

Portable food warmers are relatively safe, for the most part. Many of them have an auto shut-off feature, as well as a max temperature threshold, which allows you to heat your food without having to keep an eye on it.

Some models don’t have an auto shut-off, so you’ll need to keep it in your site to prevent over-heating.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

woman thinking

Do they make USB food warmers?

Unfortunately, companies don’t make USB food warmers because the electrical output from a power bank or a computer is not strong enough to heat the food.

Can I leave my portable food warmer unattended?

Whether you leave your food warmer unattended or not depends entirely on your specific model. Some are completely safe to leave unattended, while others require you to keep an eye on it.

How do you keep food warm while traveling?

The best way to keep your food hot while you’re on the road is to use a portable food warmer that plugs directly into your car’s cigarette lighter.

Will my car battery die if I leave my food warmer plugged in with the car off?

Every vehicle is different, but most people don’t have a problem leaving their food warmer plugged in for a few hours. It only draws 12V, which is not enough to drain a healthy car battery.

Conclusion

We hope that this review has helped you find the best portable food warmer. As you can see, there are plenty to choose from, each with their own unique features.

The best overall is the Carlisle Cateraide. It comes in multiple colors, it keeps food hot for up to six hours, and it holds up to five full size food pans.

The next best thing is the portable 12V food warmer. It plugs directly into your vehicle, it reaches temperatures of up to 300ºF, and it’s perfect for truckers or anyone who travels.

The best bang for your buck is the portable 12V/110V combo food warmer lunch box. It comes with both a vehicle plug and a standard plug, there are various colors to choose from, and it include 2-in-1 fork and spoon.

If none of these portable food warmers fit your needs, then we also gave you four great alternatives to choose from.