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5 Ways to Heat your MRE

The MRE Side Dish Combo includes a variety of delicious sides to eat on the go.

On a campout, on-the-go, or in an emergency, Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) are a great way to get the nutrition and energy you need while you’re away from home. MRE’s are great because you can eat them absolutely any way you want.

MREs are pre-cooked meals making them safe to eat straight from the package—warm or cold.

But if you’re just not into eating your food cold (when you’ve got the choice), here are five ways you can heat up your MRE to satisfy your taste buds.

Five Ways to Heat an MRE

  • Use an MRE Heater. MRE heaters are a great way to safely and quickly warm up your Sloppy Joe, Turkey Chili, or other favorite MRE without fire. This is an ideal method to use when you’re trying to warm up your meal in an area where fires are prohibited and it’s great to have in an emergency.
  • Boil it. If you have gear with you, say, on a camping adventure, you can boil water using your camp stove. Once the water is boiling, insert the MRE (removed from its cardboard casing) into the water.
  • Use the power of the sun. If you don’t have an MRE heater and it’s daytime, a great way to heat your MRE is using the sun. Lay your MRE (outside of the cardboard casing) on a rock facing the sun (the darker the rock, the hotter it will get). This definitely isn't the quickest route to heating your meal, but it doesn't require you to carry any additional gear.
  • Lay it on your car engine. If you’re on an outdoor adventure or have left in an emergency with your vehicle, you can use your car engine to heat up the MRE. Make sure to remove the outer cardboard casing before laying the MRE on your warm engine.
  • Build a fire. Just like you cook other foods on camp outs, MREs can be heated by the blaze of a fire. Set the MRE (after having removed the outer cardboard casing) next to the fire pit on the grate, a rock, or just on the lip of the fire pit. If you’re not an expert on campfires, check out our Insight Article “How to Build a Fire” so you can be.

Do you typically heat your MREs? What’s your favorite method?

10 thoughts on “5 Ways to Heat your MRE”

  • Lisa S.

    why can't I buy MREs because I live in NJ

    • beprepared

      Hi Lisa,
      Thanks for your questions! Actually, we do ship every product we carry to your beautiful state. Somehow you must have accessed our Utah site. Please visit our web site directly at www.beprepared.com. MRE’s are recommended to use within 5-7 years, if kept cool and dry. They actually can store longer, we have a great video on our site of us taste testing a 23-year old MRE. Please visit: BePrepared.com/23yearMRE. Please let us know if you have any additional questions!


  • AR Shooter

    MRE HEATERS are in my opinion the only way to go . If it is cold outside the heater can be used as a hand warmer but , BE CAREFUL they are H O T and will burn you ! ! ! They are also GREAT to put between your outer garment and shirt . BE CAREFUL when filling the heater DO NOT OVER FILL IT

  • Mike Mazock

    helpful little hint

  • Mark T. Tsunokai
    Mark T. Tsunokai March 6, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Never reuse the MRE water left over from the heater.

  • Arthur Enloe

    How do you know if an MRE is bad.

    • beprepared

      Hi Arthur,
      The shelf life for MREs is 7 years. We suggest rotating them every 7 years just to be safe. If you've had MREs past 7 years, you can still eat it; it won't make you sick, but the flavor and some of the nutritional value may be lost. Some signs that you SHOULD NOT eat an MRE at all are bulging of the pouch and stiffness of the food within. I just felt the package of a 14-year-old Beef Stew MRE and it still felt squishy (that's a good thing). If it's hard, throw it out and get new ones.

  • Peyron

    MRE heaters are a great method. But be advised MRE Heaters do not have an indefinite shelf life. The MRE heater can be compromised by long storage and especially poor storage conditions. Test your same lot MRE Heaters by trying one before you have to depend on them. MRE's themselves can actually stay good for more than even 7 years if stored in cool dry place. I have used ones stored 15 years and they were fine.

    • beprepared

      Excellent points! Testing one of the batch of heaters is a great idea. As far as the shelf life, we've actually had executives here at EE taste test an MRE that was over 20 years old, and it tasted totally fine to them. It was stored in pretty ideal conditions, but it definitely shows the possibilities. Thanks for sharing your experience--15 years is a totally respectable shelf life for an MRE.
      We actually have a video of that taste test on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmKGkYQqdow

  • Carl bergersson

    how long will i heat it in the water?

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