When I traveled on a commercial aircraft, I had a meal which came in a small box, I was wondering if the meal is precooked and then re-heated or if it is cooked on the plane?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ For the VtCs - this seems more operations related than passenger related (and therefore a better fit here than at Travel.SE, for example). We have other questions about in-flight item sales, aircraft turn-around procedures, and other not-directly-related-to-flight types of questions, this one seems fair game... $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 20:08
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ So really what you're asking is... What's the deal with airline food? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 20:20

2 Answers 2


In general, food for commercial coach passengers is made on the ground and then stored on the plane in special refridgerators, until it is time to eat.

The food is then heated in convection ovens and served. Sometimes there are special occasions for higher class seats/airliners.

Safety standards and space constraints mean your food’s made on the ground, near the airport. Big boys like LSG Sky Chefs produce 15,000 bread rolls every hour (24hrs a day, 365 days/yr), and 30,000 sandwiches a day.

As a rule of thumb, food is prepared 10hrs before it gets eaten. Those “Made Fresh!” stickers are there to mock you. It’s not ready-to-eat by any means at this stage; generally, chicken is cooked 60% of the way, and steak 30% to done, with the final phase occurring onboard. Once cooked, it gets blast-chilled in special fridges -- in a not-quite-frozen-but-not-edible state, your food awaits transfer to the tarmac.

Flight on time? Food on the plane? Time to finish the prep-work. Contrary to what most people think, planes generally don’t have microwaves. Your little tray makes its way into a convection oven for about 20min. Convection ovens have a fan (which pushes hot air onto the food) that's both faster and means a lower cooking temp.


  • $\begingroup$ What about for flights over 10 hours? how is food prepared then? Also, what about for non-coach? Does first class get something made on the plane? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 21:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Some airlines will go all out and cook certain dishes on board in premium cabins (e.g. fresh eggs for breakfast on Austrian, even steaks cooked to order). In other cases, premium meals are made on the ground, but they may require more finishing touches by the flight crew (transferring items attractively to plates, tossing salads, pouring sauces, making ice cream sundaes to order, baking cookies, etc...) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 21:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Prodnegel I've never had anyone cook me fresh eggs or a steak on a plane before so I can't speak to that. In the instances I've been in a premium cabin and a flight attendant has tossed a salad or fixed an ice cream sundae, nobody has ever asked about a waiver, nor have I ever heard of such a thing (nor can I find anything on Google). Assuming the food has been maintained at proper temperatures, why would it be more dangerous than food on the ground? It's possible that they use pasteurized eggs in such situations, and I'm sure all the ingredients come from a certified commercial kitchen. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 22:23
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Prodnegel The airliner signs a waiver? I'm not sure what that means. It's certainly conceivable that the airline company would sign an agreement with the catering company acknowledging that the caterers aren't responsible if, say, an airline employee undercooks meat and a passenger gets sick (just as the butchershop isn't responsible if a land-based restaurant serves me undercooked chicken), but I wouldn't know anything about those legal arrangements between airlines and catering companies. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 23:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Safety standards": whose standards? Does your quote apply to a country in particular? $\endgroup$
    – isanae
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 3:39

Airline food is usually prepared in ground and loaded on the aircraft, where it is reheated and served. In some cases, the food is half-prepared on ground and completed in air (in onboard ovens).

However, in some cases (Emirate Airlines, for example) business class customers can have (some type of) food prepared in-flight.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .