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What is an electric lunchbox? Learn more about the portable cooking appliance heating up on TikTok.

'If you can cook it in the oven, you can basically cook it in the lunchbox at your desk,' says one electric lunchbox enthusiast.

What is an electric lunchbox? TikTokers swear by the appliance, which allows users to cook (or re-heat) a full meal while on the go. (Photos: Getty/Illustrated by Jay Sprogell)
What is an electric lunchbox? TikTokers swear by the appliance, which allows users to cook (or re-heat) a full meal while on the go. (Photos: Getty/Illustrated by Jay Sprogell)

Meals served in a lunchbox have historically been everything from cold to crushed, and overall unappealing. But thanks to a new social media trend, foodies are rethinking their lunches on the go, utilizing a new type of lunchbox to pack hot, fresh lunches daily. Enter the electric lunchbox.

"We came across an ad for an electric lunchbox," says Ashley Sampson, a Chicago-based content creator who posts to TikTok as @lifewithashleyann. "My husband [who works as sprinkler fitter] doesn't have access to a microwave at his job site, so this product is a game-changer for people like him."

Since seeing that electric lunchbox ad, Sampson has been packing hot lunches for her husband, taking to platforms like TikTok and Instagram to share her love of the electric lunchbox, which she says has been life-changing for her and her family.

"It saves money from eating out, reduces leftover waste and provides a hot meal," she tells Yahoo Life. "I meal prep and cook extra servings at dinner to make the most of it."

Sampson and her husband are not alone in their quest to make mealtime enjoyable again for those who have occupations that keep them constantly on the go. Serenity Hannah-Kaeo, a flight attendant who posts to TikTok as @byeeeren, took to the social media platform to share her favorite electric lunchbox and how it's helped her eat healthier and save money while in the air (or on the road) for work.

"I am a flight attendant for a major U.S. airline and needed an alternate way to save money while on work trips," says Hannah-Kaeo, who lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. "I wanted to start meal prepping and bringing food from home to help conserve costs."

"I was so excited for the lunchbox because I knew it would help me save money and it truly did," she adds. "It is definitely a must-have item for me … because it heats my food up within 15-20 minutes and has the ability to boil water, which takes about 30-45 mins."

While some use electric lunchboxes to simply reheat food on the go, others have found ways to cook meals inside of it, ready just in time for lunch.

"I have access to a microwave, but the lunchbox can actually cook the food and it saves me a ton of prep time at home," explains Korie Haswell, who lives in Strasburg, Ohio and posts to TikTok as @koriehaswell. "If you can cook it in the oven, you can basically cook it in the lunchbox at your desk."

Haswell, who is a teacher, says she's not the only one who has become more excited for her daily school day mealtimes: "My students have also become very involved in my lunch," she says. "They all want to know what I am making and they are always trying to give me new ideas on what to cook."

"I have a few girls that insist on trying part of my lunch every day and then they give me their unfiltered honest opinion of my recipe," she continues.

As the lunchbox has grown in popularity on her TikTok account and at her school, Haswell says she and other teachers have come together to adapt recipes and find tips and tricks to make sure meals come out just right.

"When you cook with the lunch box, the most important thing to remember is it will only cook from the bottom," she says. "When I cooked a chocolate cake in the lunch box, the bottom baked perfectly, but the top was a little gooey. I now make sure the food isn't too thick, and stir it often, to make sure it cooks evenly."

Everyone from office workers to job site professionals seem to have fallen in love with electric lunchboxes, but how do professional chefs feel about the appliance? According to Portland-based chef Ron Stewart, the electric lunchbox is a win, even for culinary professionals.

"This clever device has provided me with an innovative and enjoyable way of bringing a hot, delicious and nutritious meal for lunch," he says. "I usually cook in the electric lunchbox itself, as it is equipped with two individual compartments — one for heating up pre-cooked meals ... and another storage compartment that can be used to cook raw ingredients on the go."

As a chef used to tackling some pretty tricky appliances in the kitchen, Stewart shares that the best part about the electric lunchbox is how easy it is to use. "The great thing about this modern kitchen appliance is its ease of use, taking less than five minutes in preparation time before every meal," says Stewart. "The cordless capacity also allows you total freedom to take your meals wherever you please without having to worry about safety risks associated with wires."

"All things considered," he adds, "I would highly recommend using an electric lunchbox if you're looking for an easy way to heat up your food while on the go."

Those who might not be as passionate about cooking as Stewart, have no fear: According to Haswell, this on-the-go appliance has helped her fall in love with the art of cooking.

"I have never had so much fun cooking," she says. "I love that not only do I have a hot lunch every day, but also the comments I have been getting from the people around me ... I wouldn't consider myself a good cook, so this is helping me improve my skills and I'm having a blast doing it."

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