If you spend a lot of time out on the road and enjoy your lunch nice and warm then a portable microwave oven is the ideal addition to your truck or car if you’re tired of cold food. The space constraints and power requirements make it a challenge to find the ideal product though.
To be honest, there aren’t a lot of portable microwave options. Your main options are going to be a small microwave that you run from your car battery via an inverter, or a 12V microwave or a 12V food warmer. We’ve reviewed some of the best portable microwave oven and portable food heaters that will fit perfectly into your vehicle.
Here’s a quick look at our favorite ways to heat food in a car or truck.
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If you’ve got a fair amount of space in your truck and you want a portable microwave that will do more than just simple reheating then this is one of the smallest microwave options on the market.
It’s just over 15″ wide with a depth and height of about 14″. This makes it the best compact microwave oven for car use.
The 0.5 cubic foot capacity is enough to get a full sized plate in there so you’ll have plenty of space for your lunch. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that it runs on 110V AC which means you’re going to need to power it via an inverter. It puts out a maximum of 750W so you need to bear that in mind when choosing your inverter.
You’ll also need to think about how much drain that will put on your battery if you’re running it for a long time.
Also, you’re going to need a decent set of cables running from your battery to the inverter. Don’t think that this is the kind of microwave you can run from your 12V lighter socket.
If you’re willing to set this up properly though then it’s a great portable microwave option. This is ideal for use in a truck, RV, camper or even a boat.
Considering that water boils at 212 degrees you could technically cook some rice in this if you wanted too.
The real benefit of this portable cooker is that it’s a true 12V oven that plugs directly into your 12V lighter socket. It draws 12 Amps though so you need to check if your socket is rated for that kind of current. Alternatively, you can run a 15A fused power cord to your battery.
It uses 8″ x 3.75″ x 2.5″ aluminum disposable pans to hold the food your cooking. We really liked how hot this portable oven got and how easy to clean it is. That being said, it does get a little too hot so don’t forget your food in it unless you enjoy burnt food.
This is a great option if you enjoy a hot meal but don’t have time to stop. It’s also great for camping or tailgating. The construction isn’t the best quality though and the latch will probably break at some point. This makes it more suited to a road trip rather than everyday construction use.
Also, it tends to draw a little too much power for your average car lighter socket. At this low price you probably won’t mind too much if it only lasts a few months to a year.
You simply slide your food container into the portable oven and then select either the high or low power mode via the switches.
The High setting will get you up to 280 degrees with the Low setting delivering up to 175 degrees. It comes with 3 disposable aluminum foil containers but you can use any oven safe container in this unit.
Just bear in mind that this is a very small oven. The containers it comes with are 7.5″ x 5.31″ x 1.97″in size and they just fit into the oven. It only weighs 3.75 pounds so if you’re looking for a compact portable oven for your truck then this is hard to beat.
It also has a collapsible handle that adds to its portability. If you’re using it every day you’ll probably get around 12 months use out of it before you’ll need to replace it.
At around $50 it’s pretty cheap and still a good deal if you need to heat food in your truck.
This is the 12V version of the very popular Hot Logic food warmer series. Those are also great products but require a small inverter to be used in your vehicle.
The Hot Logic Mini is powered by a standard 12V cigarette lighter socket and gets up to around 175 degrees F.
It takes around an hour to reheat food sufficiently and it is lined with aluminum foil to improve heat retention.
This portable food warmer is flat bottomed so it accommodates a range of different flat food containers of up to 8.75″ W x 6.75″ L x 2.5″ H in size.
It’s made from fabric which makes it easy to pack away or fit into a tight spot but it does make it feel a little flimsy. It’s got a convenient carry strap and it is made from good quality material.
At 1.2 pounds this is one of the more compact portable ovens we’ve seen that actually get the job done.
Portable Microwave and Portable Oven Buying Guide
Do you need a portable microwave or will a portable oven do the trick? If you’re camping or in an RV then it makes sense to get a portable microwave because you’re probably going to be doing more than just warming food. The compact unit from Whirlpool is probably your best bet.
If you spend a lot of time in your car or truck and need to warm your lunch then a portable microwave may not be the best solution. In that case, you should rather opt for a 12V portable oven or food warmer.
While these products don’t have all the features of a portable microwave, they get the job done when it comes to warming your precooked lunch.
Some of these portable ovens get hot enough to actually cook. If your food needs to get up to around 280 degrees and stay there for a while then a 12V portable oven will manage that just fine.
Power Supply Considerations
To be truly portable your oven needs to run from 12V, preferably straight from the lighter socket in your car. For simple food warmers this normally isn’t an issue. If you’re using our suggested portable microwave above then this option isn’t going to work for you.
Some portable ovens, like the microwave above, run off 110V AC. This means that to be able to use it in your car you’re going to need an inverter.
In order to choose the correct size inverter, you need to aim for something with a rating of about 15% to 20% higher than the power rating of the microwave. Using the portable microwave above as an example, at 750W power rating you would need an inverter of around 1000W.
This is not the kind of power you will be able to get from your lighter socket. You would need to run decent fused cables from the inverter to your battery.
Some of the 12V portable ovens may be low powered enough to run directly from your cigarette lighter socket. Others, like some of the options above, get really hot and draw more power than the socket can supply. Again, these would need to be wired (with a fuse) directly to the battery of your vehicle.
It’s a good idea to only use the portable microwave or oven for a short period while the car is off. Longer use should only be done with the car running so that your battery doesn’t get drained.
Before deciding on which portable microwave or portable oven to buy decide whether you will need to cook in your vehicle or simply reheat pre-cooked food. Don’t expect anything too fancy like browning and grilling options or slow cooking features. How small is small enough? Well, select the best spot in your truck or car and then check the dimensions of the options you’re looking at. Lastly, make sure that the inverter (if needed) and cables you’re using are sufficient to power your oven or portable microwave.