Can You Heat MRE Meals in the Microwave? (Solved)

Categorized as Microwave Cooking
microwave MREs

If you’ve ever spent any time outdoors, you know that packing a meal can be a bit of a challenge. You have to worry about keeping food fresh, preventing spillage, and dealing with attracting unwanted attention from critters. Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs, offer a convenient solution to these problems. lightweight and easy to store, MREs are a popular choice among hikers, campers, and even fishermen.

One of the most common questions about MREs is whether or not you can heat them in the microwave.

Yes, MREs can be heated in microwaves. But before you put your MRE in the microwave, you need to transfer it out of its pouch and into an appropriate container. Don’t microwave the pouch itself as it contains foil and other materials that can ignite in the microwave.

Here is everything else you need to know about microwaving MREs.

Is It Safe to Heat MREs in the Microwave?

In general, it is safe to heat MREs in the microwave. Originally designed for soldiers and other military personnel, MREs have a long shelf life and come pre-cooked. This means that they can be eaten cold or heated in any number of ways including the microwave.

The following safety tips should be followed when heating an MRE in the microwave:

1. Transfer the Content To Microwave-Safe Containers

The first thing you want to do is transfer the contents of your MRE into a microwave-safe container. This will help ensure that your food is cooked evenly and prevent any potential contamination.

There are different types of microwave-safe containers that you can choose from. You can check the packaging to make sure that your container is microwave-safe. If the container is safe for microwaving, there will be a label that says “microwave-safe” or has a microwave symbol on it.

Glass and ceramic containers are generally the best for microwaving food. Avoid using plastic containers, as they can melt and contaminate your food.

2. Read And Follow The Manufacture’s Instructions

Before you start heating the MRE, it’s a good idea to read the manufacturer’s instructions. Some MREs have specific heating instructions that you should follow to ensure the food is properly cooked.

3. Check the Expiration Date

Although MREs have a long shelf life, you should always check the expiration date before heating an MRE. If the date has passed, you should dispose of the MRE and get a new one.

4. Check for Leakage or Spoilage

Generally, MREs have a shelf life of 5 years, but depending on how they were stored or handled, they can spoil sooner. Before heating an MRE, it’s a good idea to check for signs of leakage or spoilage.

Some signs to look for are discolouration, a bad smell, or bulging packaging. If you find any of these signs, avoid heating the MRE and dispose of it.

How Long Should I Heat An MRE in the Microwave?

The amount of time it takes to heat an MRE in the microwave will depend on the wattage of your microwave and how many bags of MREs you are heating at once. As a general rule, it should take between 2-3 minutes to heat one MRE.

It’s also important to keep an eye on the food as it heats. I recommend stirring your food halfway through heating to prevent any hot spots from forming. The good thing about MREs is that they come pre-cooked, so you don’t have to worry about undercooking or overcooking them. You just need to heat them warm enough so that they are enjoyable to eat.

How to Heat An MRE in the Microwave

Now that you know how to safely heat an MRE in the microwave, let’s look at the steps you need to take:

  1. Cut open the MRE pouch using scissors, and transfer the contents into a microwave-safe container.
  2. Cover the container with a paper towel or a lid.
  3. Place the container in the microwave and set the timer to 2-3 minutes.
  4. Remove the container from the microwave.
  5. Enjoy your warm and delicious MRE!

Alternative Ways to Heat an MRE

If you don’t have access to a microwave, there are still ways you can heat your MRE. Here are some other methods you can use:

MRE Flameless Ration Chemical Heater

The most common way to heat an MRE without a microwave is with an MRE Flameless Ration Chemical Heater. The first step to using this method is to activate the chemical heater. First, open the bag and fill the heater pouch with water. Let the heater sit for a minute until it activates.

Then, open your MRE pouch and insert the heater pouch. Prop the pouch up by resting it against something, and let it sit for 2-3 minutes. Once the heater has finished its cycle, your MRE will be warm and ready to eat.

Boiling Water

Another way you can heat your MRE is by boiling water in a pot. Once the water is boiling reduce the heat to medium and put the MRE pouch into the pot. Heat the pouch at a simmer for 5-7 minutes. After the time has elapsed, remove the pouch from the pot and cut open the pouch.


If you have access to an oven, you can also heat your MRE that way. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and open the MRE pouch. Place the packet of food onto an oven-safe dish and heat for 7-10 minutes. Once the food is heated through, carefully remove it from the oven.


If you have access to a saucepan, you can also heat your MRE that way. First, you’ll need to open the MRE pouch and transfer the contents into the saucepan. Then place it over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until it’s heated through.

Why Isn’t My MRE Heating Up?

The most common reason is that the MRE heater has not been activated correctly. Each MRE comes with its own chemical heating element which must be activated properly before it will begin to heat. The chemicals react with water through an oxidation process and produce heat.

This means that there must be adequate water present on the heater which reacts with the chemicals for it to work properly. Without adequate water, the reaction cannot take place and your meal will not heat up as expected. If this is the case, simply make sure there is enough water on the heater before activating it again. 

Another potential issue could be that some of the components within your MRE may have expired or gone bad due to improper storage conditions such as high temperatures or humidity levels. This can cause the food to spoil, making it difficult for it to even reach sufficient temperatures during heating. In this case, you should discard your current MRE and get a new one instead.

Finally, if you follow all of these steps but still find that your MRE doesn’t heat up properly, then it’s possible that you have a defective product or that something else is wrong with your unit.


Heating an MRE in the microwave is easy and convenient, as long as you follow safety precautions. It’s important to check for signs of spoilage or leakage before heating the MRE and to keep an eye on the food while it’s in the microwave. The amount of time it takes to heat an MRE will depend on the wattage of your microwave and how many bags you are heating at once.

If you don’t have access to a microwave, there are still other ways you can heat an MRE such as with an MRE Flameless Ration Chemical Heater, boiling water, an oven or a saucepan. With these simple tips, you can easily heat your MREs.

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!