How To Cook MREs | Build a Stash

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Key Takeaways

  • MREs are versatile, long-lasting meals that can be consumed with or without heating.
  • Cooking MREs can improve their taste and there are a few ways to heat them up.
  • Storing MREs properly is crucial to make sure they’re ready to go when you need them.

MREs are the perfect meal focused on survival, providing all the nutrients you need to survive. Learn how to cook them in this guide written by experts.

Many MREs don’t require any sort of cooking or heating and you can eat them straight out the packet. If you need to cook them, the easiest way is to use the included MRE heater. You can also boil water with something like a Jetboil or camp stove and heat the contents with hot water.

While many of the articles we post rely heavily on research and input from others, we’re able to speak on MREs through our own personal experiences. I’ve eaten just about every MRE you can imagine over the years, and I’ve tried all sorts of ways to cook them. In this guide, you’ll learn about them all and you’ll know which methods are the easiest.

Table of contents


Understanding MREs

MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, are self-contained, individual field rations designed for the military to provide a nutritious and easy-to-prepare meal in the field. These meals have a long shelf life, making them an excellent option for emergency food supplies and outdoor adventures.

As a military-grade product, military MREs offer a complete meal in one convenient package. Each MRE typically comes with a main course, a side dish, a dessert, and a drink mix. The varieties span a wide range of flavors, from traditional American favorites to international cuisines.

These meals are designed to provide the necessary nutrients and calories to keep you going in demanding situations.

Civilian MREs are similar to those used by the military, but they often feature different menus and packaging. These meals serve the same purpose of providing an easy-to-prepare and long-lasting food option. They can be useful for those who enjoy outdoor activities like camping, hiking, or in emergency situations at home.

MREs are a versatile, convenient, and practical source of food, especially for those on the go or in emergency situations. By understanding how MREs work, you can ensure you're well-equipped and ready to face any challenge that comes your way.

How to Cook an MRE

Knowing how to cook an MRE can be an essential skill, especially if you are camping or in any other situation where a quick, hot meal is needed. Here are some simple methods to cook an MRE and enjoy a warm meal without hassle.

One popular method of heating an MRE is using a flameless heater that comes with the MRE package. To use the flameless heater, simply fill it with water up to the fill line, wait for a minute to let it heat up, and then insert the entrée in its package.

Make sure to prop up the heater with the entrée to ensure even heating. After a few minutes (usually around 7 minutes), your MRE should be warmed up and ready to eat.

Another way to heat MREs is by using a boiling method. Boil water in a pot, remove your MRE from its cardboard packaging, and immerse the MRE pouch in the boiled water. In just a few minutes, your meal will be hot and ready to consume. This method works well if you have a camping stove or if you're cooking over an open fire.

For a quicker option, you can heat your MRE in a microwave oven. This method is fast and easy, but it might not be ideal if you're outdoors. Simply empty the contents of the pouch into a microwave-safe dish, cover it, and heat for a few minutes. Start by heating for 1-2 minutes and adjust the time accordingly to reach your desired temperature.

When heating MREs using any of the mentioned methods, it is important to pay attention to the duration of heating. You don't want to overheat your meal, as this can affect the taste and quality of the food. Generally, a well-cooked MRE should have a pleasant taste and balanced texture.

Whether you're cooking while camping or needing a quick meal on the go, knowing these methods of cooking MREs will come in handy. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don't hesitate to try different techniques to find the one that works best for you.

Essential Components of MREs

Caloric and Nutrient Content

MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) are designed to provide you with all the essential nutrients and energy needed during your outdoor adventures or in emergency situations. On average, each MRE contains 1,200-1,300 calories, consisting of a balanced mix of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

Additionally, MREs also contain essential vitamins and minerals to ensure that your body functions properly.

Included Utensils

To make eating MREs as easy and convenient as possible, they usually come with a few utensils for your convenience. The most common utensil you'll find is a spoon, which will help you enjoy your meal without needing any additional utensils.

MREs also typically come with flameless heaters that allow you to warm up your entrée with just a small amount of water. Simply fill the MRE heaters up to the fill line and let it heat up for a minute before inserting the entrée still in its package. Be sure to prop the heater up with the MRE entrees to ensure proper heating.

Food Selections

MREs offer a variety of food options to cater to different taste preferences, as well as to provide some variety during extended periods of consumption. Each MRE typically consists of:

  • Entrée: The main course, such as beef stew, chicken with rice, or vegetarian pasta.
  • Side dish: Complementary items like mashed potatoes, beans, or a rice mix.
  • Dessert: Sweet treats like cookies, brownies, or fruit bars to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Drink mix: Beverage powders like coffee, tea, or sports drinks to stay hydrated and energized.

MREs are designed to be eaten cold but can be heated if preferred. With a flameless heater, a few utensils, and a balanced selection of food, MREs provide you with a convenient, portable meal option that keeps you fueled and satisfied when you're on the go.

Storing and Shelf Life of MREs

When it comes to storing your MREs, there are a few key points you'll want to keep in mind to maintain their freshness and maximize their shelf life.

Firstly, you should aim to keep your MREs in a cool, dry environment with a stable temperature. Ideally, the storage conditions should be around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Under these conditions, MREs can last up to five years.

If you can maintain even cooler temperatures, their lifespan can be doubled to around ten years or more. Be aware that exposure to temperatures above 75 degrees and up to 120 degrees can limit the MRE shelf life to just 30 days.

Pro-tip: To extend the shelf life and freshness of your MREs, consider using vacuum-sealed bags or Mylar bags for additional protection. These can help to prevent exposure to moisture, dust, and sunlight, while also reducing the chances of temperature fluctuations.

Apart from proper storage, it's essential to keep an eye on the time-temperature indicators (TTI) on the packaging of your MREs. These indicators provide a visual representation of the remaining shelf life and will change color when exposed to higher temperatures. By keeping an eye on the TTI, you can determine if your stored MREs are still fresh and safe to eat.

In summary, to ensure the freshness and shelf-life of MREs:

  • Store them in a cool, dry place with a stable temperature around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Use vacuum-sealed bags or Mylar bags for added protection.
  • Monitor the time-temperature indicators (TTI) on the packaging to gauge the remaining shelf life.

By following these guidelines, you can be confident that your MREs will be ready to nourish you when you need them most. Happy storing and bon appétit!

MREs and Emergency Preparedness

When it comes to emergency situations, whether it's a natural disaster or being stranded while hiking, having a reliable source of food is essential. MREs are a popular choice for your emergency food supply, as they're designed for such circumstances.

As a prepper, it's crucial to have a stockpile of survival food that's easy to store and transport, especially if you need to pack a bug-out bag. MREs come in handy due to their long shelf life and compact packaging. They're lightweight, making them an ideal option for hiking trips and other outdoor adventures.

To maximize the usefulness of MREs, you should familiarize yourself with their preparation methods. They can be heated in two primary ways: by using the provided flameless ration heater or by boiling the pouches in water. Knowing how to cook MREs will make your experience more enjoyable and ensure you're well-nourished during an emergency.

It's important to store your MREs correctly to prolong their shelf life. Room temperature (65-72°F) is the typical storage temperature, but an ideal temperature is 50ºF. Be mindful of the storage conditions so you can make the most of your emergency food supply.

In conclusion, MREs are an essential component of emergency preparedness. They offer a convenient and reliable source of nutrition for preppers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. By learning how to cook and store MREs properly, you'll be better equipped to face any disaster or survival situation that may arise.

Get the Most Out of Your MREs

MREs are designed to be convenient, easy-to-prepare meals, especially for those in critical situations or when outdoors where a regular kitchen setup is not available. While many MREs can be eaten straight from the package, you might want to heat them up for a better taste experience.