Say I have a hot dish, and I want to keep it hot and safe (i.e. >140F) without any heat source (no electricity, no fire) for as long as possible, say morning to evening, or even over a day. Just using something insulated won't be enough for more than a few hours, so what else can I do?

  • This is inspired by this question about keeping things hot through the Sabbath, but I can easily imagine having a really long drive or maybe even something like camping, with chilling and reheating on the other end not being an option. – Cascabel Aug 8 '15 at 0:43
  • Okay, mod hat on: if you have something you think answers the question (as a couple people have so far) post it as an answer. Cleaning up. – Cascabel Aug 8 '15 at 2:35

The long drive is easy. There are 12 volt cooler/warmers available that would cover that need. But you have to do your homework. I found several that say they heat to 140° F or above, but I did see a couple that don't go over 135° F. There are also reusable hot and cold packs that can be used in an insulated cooler or carrier that will keep food safe for 4 - 6 hours.

There are several other options that could be used for a long drive or camping, etc.

  • Instant, disposable ice packs or heat packs; don't require a heat or cold source and can be replaced as needed.

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  • Hotpots - Transfer hot food to the hotpot and it keeps hot for several hours.

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  • Hot pot casseroles - Food can be cooked in and carried or stored, staying hot for several hours.

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Other ideas for camping:

  • A chafing dish type setup.

  • A camping stove.

*Both have certain time limits and shouldn't be left unattended.

  • If you use the 12 volt cooler/warmer you can plug it in as needed. However you need to be sure that you don't run your car battery down. You can avoid this by running the vehicle while heating/cooling. (Not the most efficient.) Also, in some cars (like mine) the plugs will not work unless the car is on.
  • The question stipulates "no electricity, no fire." – Preston Aug 11 '15 at 18:08
  • @PrestonFitzgerald The only things in my answer that are flame based would be a heat source for the chafing dish set up or a camping stove. Both are feasible if you know you are going camping. I think all of the others are in line with the "no electricity, no fire" parameter of the question. – Cindy Aug 11 '15 at 18:22
  • I was just talking about the car. Thought you might have missed it in the OP. – Preston Aug 11 '15 at 18:23
  • @PrestonFitzgerald It wasn't in the OP, but in Jefromi's comments below the question he mentions a really long drive or camping as possible situations where you might want to keep food hot for a long period. – Cindy Aug 11 '15 at 18:28
  • I was trying to avoid things that need plugging in and go for totally passive solutions, but it's not the worst thing to have them also mentioned. Maybe it'd be nice if you reorganized, to put the no electricity no flame things first, and then give the "if you have a car..." and "if you can have fire..." as followups? – Cascabel Aug 13 '15 at 21:57

It looks like a popular solution is a good ice chest with heated bricks. I found several variations of this technique on various sites. It's an improvement over simply insulating since you have a lot of additional thermal mass and it's starting out at a much higher temperature.

You wrap the bricks in foil and heat them in the oven (e.g. 30 minutes at 450F) so that they're holding plenty of thermal energy, then line the ice chest with towels to protect it and place the bricks in. You might want another layer of towels around the food too, and you can place additional insulation over the top to fill any remaining space.

Depending on the food, I expect this could actually result in cooking it a bit further, but it'll definitely stay hot a long time. I haven't actually tried this and people's assessments of how long it lasts vary wildly. But given that ice chests can stay cold for a day or two in good conditions, I suspect that if you get the details right, this might well do the same for staying hot.

  • Would the ice chest not melt to some degree? I've had some of those 10 gallon water cooler jugs melt with barely 180 F water in them... wouldn't the bricks be hotter? – Catija Aug 13 '15 at 22:16
  • @Catija It sounds like people have successfully done this; some of the sites I found it on even attributed it to an episode of Good Eats. Ice chests do seem like stronger plastic than water cooler jugs, but I don't really know exactly how hot they can handle. – Cascabel Aug 13 '15 at 22:25

And then there is this one, out of Dutch antiquity. It really, really works.


  • 2
    Welcome to Seasoned Advice! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference. – Catija Aug 13 '15 at 21:59

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