Introduction: Car-b-que

About: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!


Area maker has successfully navigated a long road trip with a meal ready to eat upon arriving at his destination by combining cooking with driving, making a delicious delicacy after disembarking at the destination. "Ater drving all day, it was nice to pull over and enjoy a hot meal" one passenger said, later dubbing the salivating-educing sensation as the car-b-que.

Chez Nissan Maxima is the exclusive restaurant serving the finest mobile morsels. Troublemaker wilgubeast was seen at the local restaurant where chef mikeasaurus prepared a food and beverage pairing that included an appetizer of continental fromage and pain de mie with a select bottles of America's Best Beer c.1893, followed by grilled Montreal-inspired tenderloin over steamed seasonal greens.

These sit-down delicacies were prepared beforehand and cooked enroute to a road trip destination 2.5 hours out of town (480km/300 mi) using nothing but the heat output of a standard sedan.  Follow along and make your own fast food version of this classic countercluture cuisine.

Enough talk, let's make some fast food!

Step 1: Tools + Materials

This one is easy:
  • car
  • zip-ties
  • food
  • foil

Step 2: Prepare Food + Wrap

The time to cook your food will vary greatly depending on the type of car you have, the aggressiveness of your driving habits and the length of your trip.

I sliced my steak and veggies thin, then seasoned and double wrapped in aluminum foil. For larger/denser foods (like Brussels sprouts/potatoes/and carrots make sure they are sliced into appropriate portions).

I even managed to stuff some cheese between bread slices and double wrap them for grilled cheese sandwiches.

Step 3: Know Your Engine Space

Each car is a little different under the hood. The best areas to cook food are places that get very hot, like the engine manifold and the muffler. When locating your food wraps, make sure that they won't interfere with the operation of the engine and are not located in a place where they may damage your car if they come loose.

For this Nissan model several wrapped packages could easily be placed around the engine in secure locations (indicated by the white arrows), there was a prime spot located to the side of the engine, but was not suitable because of a belt placement (indicated my the arrow with a red 'x' in it).

Examine your engine compartment carefully before placing any foil-wrapped food. It might be a good idea to turn your engine on and see the moving parts prior to placement, just to be sure. As always, be safe when operating engine with the hood open and never place your hands or fingers inside the engine compartment while the car engine is running.

Step 4: Place Packages Around Engine, Secure

When you've satisfied yourself that you've found a suitable place in the engine compartment place your foil wrapped food and secure with zip-ties. The method of securing them to the heat source is up to you and may not be required. The location I used got hot enough to cook my food, but not enough to melt the zip-ties.

The zip-ties secured my foil packages in place and were tightened only to hold firmly in place, not squish the food. If installed correctly your zip-ties should prevent your food from dislodging from engine vibrations during your trip.

Step 5: Alternate Locations

Of course, the engine isn't the only place that gets hot when your car is in operation. We found that another great grilling location is the muffler! 

I placed a few foil-wrapped cheese sandwiches on top and secured them with more zip-ties. The ones I attached on the underside of the muffler were lost in transit, I don;t recommend placing your food wraps anywhere but on top.

Step 6: Drive, Then Dine!

With your food secured it's time to drive!

Drive as normal, check on your food after about 30 minutes of driving to ensure they are still secure. Check again after an hour to check how well cooked the food is. My thinly sliced steak took over 2 hours to cook through, the veggies slightly longer (since they weren't cut thin enough).

When your food is all done, cut from the zip-ties and unwrap contents. Careful, they're going to be hot!
Pour contents onto your plate and dine, roadside!

Enjoy your motorized meal!

Have you used your vehicle to cook some tasty food? Share a picture of your results in the comments below and earn yourself a digital patch and a 3-month Pro Membership to



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    I made a cookbook and got price for it :-)

    Heavy equipment operators do this all the time. Even the common labor guys put their meals on the engines. There is plenty of room for a small feast on those large engines :)

    This is great! If only I had known about this when I had my always-just-about-ready-to-explode Honda!!

    I am working in Midland Texas in the oilfields.
    Mainly my job is to drive around all day and check on people and equipment. I hate that i stop almost everyday at mcdonalds or subway to eat dinner. I had thought about cooking on my engine for a while just had no ideas until now.
    Great 'Ible! please make some more I need ideas!

    1 reply

    I've done beef with veggies and on long (2 hour)trips and grilled cheese (about 40 minutes) on shorter trip. Pastries can be done in about 20-30 minutes.

    Do you have your own version that you've tried? I want to see your results and how you cooked it!

    WOW! I would never have thought up something like this...someday, I don't know why or where - maybe I will do this ;)

    Very clever! I used to throw danishes on the dash board when on long trips. They were usually nicely warmed up by the time I was ready for a snack.

    How long did your grilled cheese sandwiches take?

    this is really cool but I dont wanna jack up my Camaro

    I'm gonna have to do some searching for hot spots on the Prius, or start driving the truck xD Although both vehicles are dark grey, which would probably help with the hot spots... got me thinking now lol

    do it with ur computer :D

    Neat Idea Man... I do regular Long Rides, and Road Trips. and this will definitely come in handy.. I think it might be even better to fashion a kind of metal box to hold the food stuff. and as far as electrocuting the food is, during rains, water keeps getting splashed up in the engine compartment majority of times, and dirty water is a good conductor, and still the car runs fine. so i guess that the foil / metal box will do no major harm...

    Will add petrol or desiel smell

    I have a 4cyl 250cc motorbike that rev's very high (19,000 rpm's max) .
    I will be riding a 597Km trip tomorrow and I will try garlic bread and steak. Wish me luck!

    I do wonder what RPM range I should aim for. I want a medium rare steak :P

    Well done OP! Nice way to recapture something normally wasted.

    As an aside, some commercial vehicles from the 30's - 50's had a "hot cupboard" in the firewall. Basically a steel box with the exhaust manifold running under it and a door into the passenger compartment. You put your food in when you started your route and had hot food at lunchtime. If you ever see a plain glass flask with steel jacket (vs. a thermos w/ vacuum flask) in an antique shop, those were for coffee.

    There is a book titled Manifold Destiny that deals with cooking under the hood while you drive. It might take some of the guesswork out of the process. The book was out of print for a while and very expensive, but appears to be widely available now at a really fair price.

    A person could probably find a picnic table at a rest stop on a modern interstate highway. Otherwise this was a popular process back before 4-lane highways in the days of roadside parks with picnic tables.

    4 replies

    Darn you Phil ;) You tempted me with to make an "emotional" purchase, and I succumbed. At $5.60 the book was hard to resist, tax S&H almost doubled that. Oh well it's the first book or magazine I bought this year. Kansas still has some interstate rest stops so people can still still eat while traveling inexpensively, even if they don't use this idea at all

    Yes, I just ordered one, also. My daughter wanted one a couple of years ago. I cannot remember if we bought a used copy for her at a much higher price or not. I think we did not. Her birthday comes this summer. I have paid more than $5.60 (or double that) for books that are less useful. And, I was thinking I have no influence....

    Thanks, I was just going to ask about the speeds and the temp variable. I do wonder if the size of the engine matters?

    One of my daughters gave me a BBQ thermometer with a meat probe and a sender unit. There is also a receiver so you can know the internal temperature of the meat while the grill is out of sight and you are inside. Something like that, assuming the radio signal can get through the firewall, would help you know when the meat is cooked to the degree you want it. I did an Instructable on cooking a turkey in a 22 inch charcoal grill and used a couple of thermometers to monitor both the air temperature under the grill lid and the internal meat temperature. It works pretty well. As long as you can monitor cooking temperature, you can make adjustment for variables, like engine size.