For truckers and long-distance drivers, it can be difficult to eat well on the road. The choice of food at rest stops is often calorie-laden, unhealthy, and expensive if you’re buying food on a regular basis.
Portable cookers are a great solution to this problem. These handy appliances plug into the 12V cigarette lighter outlet in your car or truck, so you can cook your own hot, nutritious and budget-friendly meals as the miles roll by.
Which type of portable cooker is best for you? With so many different models on the market to choose from, picking the cooker for your needs can be tough. We’ve done the hard work for you: in this article, we have pulled together a list of the best portable cookers for cars and trucks on the market today so you can enjoy all your favorite meals on the go.
Portable Cookers for Trucks and Cars Buyer’s Guide
The Benefits of Using a Portable Cooker
From their general affordability to the multitude of cooking options they open up to people who spend their life on the road – there are a ton of benefits to portable cookers. We list some of the most impactful benefits of this type of cooking gadget below.
1. The Ability To Eat a Healthier Diet
One of the biggest benefits of using a portable cooker when on the road is the ability to make healthier food choices. This is especially true for truck drivers, who often spend days at a time driving across the country for work. Truck-stops and roadside cafes usually serve high-calorie, high-sugar and high-fat convenience foods, which, when combined with the sedentary nature of a truck driving career, can lead to obesity and associated health problems.
Whether you are driving for a few hours to visit family, or drive miles every day for work – having a portable cooker is the best way to ensure you can enjoy a hot and nutritious meal. Many portable cookers will cook meals from scratch in a few hours or reheat pre-prepared foods even more quickly, thus helping you to avoid unhealthy choices on the road.
Being able to enjoy hot meals from your vehicle is a big advantage should the unexpected occur. If you get caught out in bad weather, find yourself on a route without any rest-stops, or begin to feel hungry in a deserted location, your portable cooker will be there to save the day. So long as you keep some canned foods in your car or truck, you’ll always have access to a hot meal when hunger strikes.
Portable cookers are also a great way to limit stress when traveling with babies. Most models will be able to quickly warm bottles and heat baby food on the go so you won’t have to wait until the next rest stop.
3. Saves You Money
Even if eating healthy isn’t your priority, using a portable cooker on the road can save you lots of money in the long run. It’s no secret that eating at roadside restaurants and truck stops can become expensive, especially if you are driving every day. Having a portable cooker on board allows you to cook your own hot, healthy meals and save cash at the same time.
4. Doesn’t Rely on Weather Conditions
Some long-distance drivers and truckers use portable BBQs and camping stoves to cook their meals on the road. This method will still allow you to enjoy a hot meal without having to spend money at rest stops, but it isn’t much help in bad weather.
While there may be covered areas at some rest stops which will shelter you from the rain, we’re sure you’ll agree that sitting outside trying to cook in a storm is pretty miserable. Having a portable cooker in your vehicle means you won’t be at the mercy of the weather when it comes to dinner time.
What To Consider When Choosing Your Portable Cooker
While they are compact, affordable and generally a great way to give yourself freedom of choice when it comes to consuming food while on the go, portable cookers aren’t the best choice for everyone. If you’ve decided to go ahead and buy a portable cooker for using on the road, there are a few things you need to consider first.
Your Available Space
Unlike with stovetop cookers, when searching for a portable cooker, you’ll need to consider how much space you have available in your car or truck first. Cars will naturally have less space than a truck, especially if you regularly drive with the whole family on board. Truck drivers rarely have issues fitting a portable cooker into their cab or trailer, but you’ll still need to make sure the cable will reach the appropriate power outlet. Portable cooker dimensions should be easy to find on the manufacturers’ website. We recommend you measure your available space and compare against the dimensions before you make a decision.
Most portable cookers are designed to be used with the 12V cigarette lighter outlet, but there are some models which will need an adaptor and inverter before they can be used on the road. These portable cookers are those which require an AC input instead of a 12V DC input. Many long-distance drivers will be familiar with the use of inverters to power appliances in their vehicle, but you should check whether a portable cooker needs one before buying. Otherwise, you will end up disappointed when the time comes to cook your meal.
Most portable cookers are capable of reaching temperatures of up to 300°, which is hot enough to cook many meals from scratch in a few hours. Many models don’t have adjustable temperature controls, but some portable cookers, such as the HotLogic Mini Personal Portable Oven, use ‘intelligent cooking,’ which promises not to overcook your meal no matter how long you leave it.
When choosing a portable cooker, you should consider what type of meals you are likely to be using it for. If you will be pre-cooking meals at home and simply wish to reheat them, most portable cookers will be able to achieve this easily within 30 minutes. Alternately, if you are on the road for a long time and prefer to cook from scratch every day, a portable slow cooker could be the best choice.
Cooking on the road may be convenient, but if you don’t pay attention to safety, things can go wrong. The risk of spillages and burns is higher when you’re parked on uneven roads and not able to keep a close eye on your cooker. Therefore, you should look for a portable cooker which has safety features built-in to minimize the potential for accidents.
You can prevent damage to seat covers and carpets (as well as your fingers) by choosing a portable cooker with heat-resistant outer materials. Furthermore, models which come with secure latches are a good choice because they are less likely to spill should you hit a bump and they topple over.
Many portable cookers will accommodate food being placed directly inside, but some models require that your ingredients are put into a container first. These containers may be aluminum trays, glass, cardboard or plastic; but it is important that you check which materials are compatible before purchasing.
Disposable aluminum insert trays for portable cookers are sold separately, usually in packs of 3 or more. These aren’t very expensive, but if you are using your portable cooker daily, the costs can mount up. Therefore, frequent users may be better off choosing a model which can be used with a variety of packaging materials.
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Can I Use A Portable Cooker While Driving?
Yes. Most portable cookers are specifically designed to be used while driving in your car or truck. In fact, if you use portable cookers while the engine is off, you risk running your battery flat. You should, however, always read the manufacturer’s’ instructions before use – and take proper care while driving!
What Can I Cook In a Portable Cooker?
The type of meals you can cook in your portable cooker will depend upon the maximum temperature your model can achieve and how long you are traveling for. Most portable cookers are suitable for cooking meats, vegetables, burgers, rice, stews and soups. Toasted sandwiches, pizza, hot dogs, fries, leftovers, as well as any convenience foods you buy while out on the road can all be easily reheated.
How Do I Prevent Spillages When Using a Portable Cooker?
The best way to prevent spillages when using your portable cooker is to choose a model which has secure clasp closures. This should ensure the contents remain safely inside if the unit topples over.
Another good tip is to use bungee cords to hold the cooker secure when driving. These can be used to keep the lid firmly closed or to attach the cooker to a shelf or rack while you’re on the move.
How Long Do Meals Take to Cook In a Portable Cooker?
This is a common question, but the answer depends on what type of foods you are cooking and at what temperature. Your portable cooker should come complete with cooking time instructions and may even include recipe ideas. As a general rule, at 300°F, you should expect a meal cooked in your portable cooker to take around 2 to 2.5x as long as it would take in your oven at home. Of course, you’ll need to experiment with this a little before you get it right every time.
Using a portable cooker is a fantastic way to maintain better eating habits on the road.
These convenient appliances allow you to enjoy delicious hot meals wherever you may be so you don’t need to waste money at rest stops on unhealthy fast food. Portable cookers are very simple to use. All you need to do is place your ingredients inside and switch them on. Pre-prepared meals and leftovers can be reheated in minutes, or you can cook a fresh meal from scratch in a few hours.
Whether you drive for work or leisure, using a portable cooker is a great investment which helps you to enjoy tasty home-cooked cuisine wherever the road takes you.
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