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  4. From burgers cooked on engines to air fryer lobster tails, see how long-haul truckers creatively and affordably cook on the road with limited meal options

From burgers cooked on engines to air fryer lobster tails, see how long-haul truckers creatively and affordably cook on the road with limited meal options

Grace Kay   

From burgers cooked on engines to air fryer lobster tails, see how long-haul truckers creatively and affordably cook on the road with limited meal options
Close up of a trucker driving while his trucking partner is using a laptop and eating.Getty
  • Truckers can spend weeks living on the road and a lack of infrastructure has left many without affordable dining options.
  • Insider spoke with two truck drivers who explained how they cook gourmet meals on the road.

A lack of trucking infrastructure means it's typically too expensive for truckers to eat out while on the road.

A lack of trucking infrastructure means it
A truck pulls into the Pilot Flying J truck stop in North Stonington, CT on July 21, 2020.      Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

27-year trucker Trish Bennett told Insider it can be difficult to find truck stops, let alone stops with adequate food.

"The truck stops don't really have sit down restaurants anymore," Bennett said. "It's usually fast food or coolers of prepackaged food and you definitely get sick of eating that way fast."

25-year truck driver Derek Rogers said as "mom-and-pop truck stops" have been increasingly replaced with chains they've become less "trucker friendly." ⁠

"Most of the spots just don't agree with us," Rogers said. "They're unhealthy and inefficient. I could make three meals for what I'd spend at your standard Denny's at the truck stop."

In the past, truckers would have barbecue get-togethers and potlucks on the road.

In the past, truckers would have barbecue get-togethers and potlucks on the road.
Beef steaks cooking on grill      Getty

Bennett said the practice had gone by the wayside by the time she joined the industry and has become increasingly uncommon over the past few years due to rising crime rates against truckers and COVID-19 restrictions that left drivers even more isolated during the pandemic.

"Nobody has time for that anymore," she said. "It's hard enough to find time to shower and eat on the road these days.

Bennett said the practice was more common before the industry was deregulated in the 1980s. The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 led to large reductions in trucker pay and forced drivers who were paid per load to push themselves even harder ⁠to turn a profit — spending up to 14 hours a day on duty, including 11-hours driving.

Before air fryers and Keurigs made it easier for truckers to make food on the go, drivers would cook on their engine.

Before air fryers and Keurigs made it easier for truckers to make food on the go, drivers would cook on their engine.
Mechanic Repair Semi Truck Diesel Engine      Getty

"Drivers could wrap their food in tin foil and put it by their turbo," Bennett said. "They could keep driving and have dinner an hour later."

The engine on a diesel semi truck typically runs at between 195 degrees to 220 degrees.

Today, a trucker's cooking options are more modern, but not less creative.

Today, a trucker
Kitchen in a semi truck cab      Courtesy of Derek Rogers

Rogers told Insider he relies on his air fryer, slow cooker, and Keurig for most meals on the road. His kitchen makes up a two-by-two-foot space in the cab of his truck, right next to his bed.

Before Rogers bought the air fryer in 2020, he said he used a George Foreman grill and a single burner stove top to cook most meals.

Rogers typically spends about 10 days out on the road per trip. On New Year's Day, he cooked himself a meal of lobster tails, shrimp, and steak from the cab of his truck.

Rogers typically spends about 10 days out on the road per trip. On New Year
Rogers often cooks steak and seafood on the road      Courtesy of Derek Rogers

Rogers said truckers often share ideas on how to cook on the road and he likes to share pictures of his latest recipes on Facebook ⁠— from surf-and-turf to chicken wings, tacos, stuffed mushrooms, and bacon-wrapped asparagus.

"There isn't much I haven't tried cooking on the road," he said. "My wife jokes I eat better in my truck than I do at home."

"It's all about having the right supplies," Bennett told Insider.

"It
Bennett's 12-volt lunch box      Courtesy of Trish Bennett

She said she carries a 12-volt lunch box with her to heat up food, as well as a slow cooker with plastic liners for easy disposal.

Many long-haul trucks come with a microwave.

Many long-haul trucks come with a microwave.
Fish spring rolls and veggies      Courtesy of Trish Bennett

Bennett said she often uses her microwave to cut down on cooking time.

Rogers said that sometimes the trick is to have the meals cook in the back of the cab as you drive.

Rogers said that sometimes the trick is to have the meals cook in the back of the cab as you drive.
Chicken vegetable stew      Courtesy of Derek Rogers

However, cooking in a semi-truck is a careful balancing act. Rogers told Insider that even loading his fridge before a trip can be a "game of Tetris."

However, cooking in a semi-truck is a careful balancing act. Rogers told Insider that even loading his fridge before a trip can be a "game of Tetris."
Roger's fridge on his truck      Courtesy of Derek Rogers

Breakfast is often optional on the road.

Breakfast is often optional on the road.
Bennett's coffee set up      Courtesy of Trish Bennett

Bennett and Rogers told Insider that their first meal of the day was often just a cup of coffee.

Lunch is often whatever is fast or easy to whip up.

Lunch is often whatever is fast or easy to whip up.
Bennett cooks french toast in her cab      Courtesy of Trish Bennett

Bennett said she typically eats french toast, a bowl of soup, or cereal during a quick break for lunch.

Bennett said ready-made food can be a trucker's best friend, but calls it taking "the lazy way out."

Bennett said ready-made food can be a trucker
Pancake on-the-go      Courtesy of Trish Bennett

Rogers said lunch on-the-go can be as simple as slapping some sauce, vegetables, and cheese on pita bread and putting it in the air fryer.

Rogers said lunch on-the-go can be as simple as slapping some sauce, vegetables, and cheese on pita bread and putting it in the air fryer.
Home-made pizza on pita bread      Courtesy of Derek Rogers

"I can have a pizza made, ate, and a coffee done on a 30 minute break," he told Insider.

It can be difficult for truckers to eat healthy on the road.

It can be difficult for truckers to eat healthy on the road.
Healthy sides      Courtesy of Trish Bennett

Bennett said she tries to keep her calorie count down when she's driving and has an exercise bike in her truck that she tries to use as much as possible.

Long-haul truckers are significantly more likely to face health issues as compared to other US workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has consistently ranked trucking as one of the deadliest jobs in the country due to the lack of physical activity, high risk of accidents, and long hours on the road.

Dinner is often the biggest meal of the day for truckers.

Dinner is often the biggest meal of the day for truckers.
Ribs with jalapeños out of the air fryer      Courtesy of Derek Rogers

Rogers and Bennett said they put most of their energy into cooking a nice dinner after they've clocked their 11-hours of driving.

"As you cook you have to keep in mind how you'll clean it up," Bennett told Insider.

"As you cook you have to keep in mind how you
A dishwashing station      Courtesy of Trish Bennett

She said cooking on the road requires minimal waste and quick cleanup because you never know when you'll be able to find your next rest stop or dumpster.

Bennett washes her dishes with hot bottled water she heats up on her single burner. After each meal, her supplies are cleaned and carefully stowed away.

Rogers said he uses his Keurig to heat up water and cleans his dishes in a plastic tub.

Rogers said he uses his Keurig to heat up water and cleans his dishes in a plastic tub.
Dishwashing station      Courtesy of Derek Rogers

Ultimately, eating on the road requires lots of planning ahead.

Ultimately, eating on the road requires lots of planning ahead.
Leftover chicken tenders, bacon-wrapped asparagus, and jalapeño poppers.      Courtesy of Derek Rogers

Rogers said he often eats leftovers his first night out and on his last night he does his best to clean out his fridge before returning home.

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