Introduction: Car-b-que

Picture of Car-b-que


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

Picture of Tools + Materials
This one is easy:
  • car
  • zip-ties
  • food
  • foil

Step 2: Prepare Food + Wrap

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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


halsozam (author)2015-01-19

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

Joe N. WickedLasers (author)2013-02-08

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 :)

russelac (author)2013-01-24

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

harthoppy (author)2012-08-15

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!

mikeasaurus (author)harthoppy2012-08-15

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!

HollyMann (author)2012-07-01

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

Jetpack5 (author)2012-04-26

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.

BgAgLe101.5 (author)2012-04-01

How long did your grilled cheese sandwiches take?

Atlas Portal 2 (author)2012-04-01

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

ginger20037 (author)2012-03-28

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

GASSYPOOTS (author)2012-03-23

do it with ur computer :D

chaitanya.vedak (author)2012-03-21

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...

jhangfk (author)2012-03-20

Will add petrol or desiel smell

produKt.NZ (author)2012-03-20

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

soundmotor (author)2012-03-19

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.

Phil B (author)2012-03-14

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.

static (author)Phil B2012-03-18

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

Phil B (author)static2012-03-19

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....

c-face (author)Phil B2012-03-18

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

Phil B (author)c-face2012-03-18

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.

oppie (author)Phil B2012-03-18

Thanks for that. I saw the title of this instructable and was trying to recall the name of the book that was reviewed in our local newspaper several years ago. Used to be that on a carbureted V8, there was a good valley between the carb and cylinder head to lay some tin foil wrapped goodies. Modern engines run hotter but finding a suitable cooking place is more of a challenge.

Phil B (author)oppie2012-03-18


If you go to the link I gave above, Amazon will list other similar books part of the way down the page. I have not personally examined any of them.

Even in the days of the carbureted V-8s I had a straight six. I sometimes thought about making a basket or metal box open to one side and fastening it to the engine so it would be able to hold food cooking. Even now, my wife and I will be driving across most of the country this summer. We could cook meals this way, but the preparation time and need to go to a grocery store each day would more than cancel time spent eating in a restaurant. And, I think we will relish the time taking a break out of the car.

Thanks you for your comment. I am glad to have been of help.

fcolonna (author)2012-03-18

Can you think of a way to do this with a Volt?

Spokehedz (author)fcolonna2012-03-19

If you can afford a Volt, then you can just have one of your servants cook you up a nice meal when you get to your summer home in the hills.


I'm sure it would be similar, as the Volt still has a ICE in it and it still gets hot... But, you'd have to be going on a long roadtrip as the 40miles on just battery won't turn on the ICE at all--and your food wouldn't get cooked in the slightest.

trek988 (author)2012-03-19

When I was a kid my dad used to put a can of Beef Stew on the exhaust manifold. After about four hours of driving we'd have engine stew.

patsoldgrin (author)trek9882012-03-19

We do this a lot! We call it engine food too! We've done hotdogs, wrapped in foil of course, and a can of chili, chicken and rice, lasagne, sandwiches, pretty much anything that can go under the hood! We've never had a problem with anything blowing away or burning, although the lasagne stuck to the foil pan on the bottom just a little after 3 hours of driving! We read about this in the book Cheaper By The Dozen when my girls were small. We still do this with our grandkids. Saves money, unusual, and you have a hot meal when you get to where you're going. Of course, we've gotten some strange looks from passers-by when we put the hood up and start taking our dinner out!!

paiwayne (author)2012-03-18

oh! my God.

lyonpridej (author)2012-03-18

Funny, I was driving on a road trip with my adult son a couple of days ago & mentioned to him how my dad used to put a cans of chili or stew on his engine when he worked in construction, so he'd have a hot meal for lunch, My son wanted to know where to put the food, but I couldn't remember. I'll have to send this to him so he can try it. Thanks!

menahunie (author)2012-03-18

It gives a whole new meaning of "road Kill"..
Maybe the veggies but I would never do this with the meat; food poisoning..
As for the muffler placement; one puddle or running over something that may spray whatever under the car and your cheap charlie food prep is trash canned..
Another is sticking all that tin foil around the engine and high voltage from the spark plugs can leak and charge that "food" pack; not to mention killing a sensitive sensor or a computer control.
Not to mention the looks you would get from your girlfriend; wife and or passengers...
Me I just stop and get food

static (author)menahunie2012-03-18

This allows you to eat well with better food less expensive than you can get with the various dollar menus, what you save from not buying a meals at better eatery may feed you a week. Respectfully those who can't figure out how to cook meat safely using this method shouldn't even try it all. I really doubt there is any extra danger to under hood electronic comments. In that the passengers, and the "ol' lady" will be in on the plan from the start, there will not be any strange looks. Belly up to the hood for some good eatin,my friend ;)

static (author)2012-03-18

I'm told back in the day oilfield hands would poke a vent hole in a can of soup to use the engine to have it heated by lunch. Not so sure how that would work with today's solder free plastic lined cans. Woven wire fencing could be used to make semi-permanent baskets, if you work or living status would make this a daily thing.

zer0_da_hero (author)2012-03-18

If you bbq on your car's engine block, you may be a red-neck.

onemoroni1 (author)2012-03-18

I had heard about this going back to the Model T era. I tried it once on a family trip to have a hot meal with the kids at a rest stop. I just bought the small cans of lunch size Hormel variety. I located them on top of the Caravan V6 engine where they wouldn't fall, but would be warmed up. After 300 miles we had a hot lunch.

funkymonkey (author)2012-03-18

Just be careful not placing anything on your muffler when crossing borders. Stuff wrapped in tinfoil on the underside of your care tends to raise suspicion ;-)

steve000 (author)funkymonkey2012-03-18

Imagine the looks on the large squad of cops with guns at the border when you show them its just grilled cheese sandviches. Perhaps strap enough to go around and give them a good lunch and a good laugh.

I remember a show years ago, I think it was malcom douglas, he was driving around broome Australia as he always did but he had some pies wrapped in foil baking on his exhaust mainfold. I thought that was the greatest idea ever but have never gotten around to it. Glad to see others have and include steak and 3 veg.

Nice instructable!


glorybe (author)2012-03-18

In my area one can make a meal in a pot and simply put it inside the car with the windows rolled up and by supper time it will be cooked. This works about nine months a year here.
I suppose that it would be more civilised to build a box out of steel plate and paint it black. Hitting 160F should not even be a challenge here except on a winters day.

bpfh (author)2012-03-18

My Granddad used to bake potatoes this way, in England, 50 years ago, by putting potatoes in foil into his delivery truck engine, and would have a hot meal rather than a plain sarnie for Lunch.

I'm not sure about using zip ties around the exhaust muffler though...I'd prefer some wire.

On a final note, this method can be used for revenge, by "installing" a kipper or a Camembert cheese in one of these locations......

Dannymo (author)2012-03-18

Great to see this is still being used today.

Back in the early 70's when I was a deputy sheriff working the road, I used to do this on a nightly basis while working the midnight shift. It works just as described in this instructable.


Chakazuluu (author)2012-03-18

Now this is a blast from the past. Back in the 60's when my father and I use to travel from Buffalo NY to Richmond Virginia and back again during summer school vacation he use to cook our food on the intake manifold of our Buick Roadmaster. He also wrapped our food in aluminum foil. This ible brought back a memory that was seemingly long gone.

moose57 (author)2012-03-18

There is always the perennial favorite, mani-burritos. Frozen burritos from the Sev wrapped in foil placed on the exhaust manifold to heat. Talk about fast food!

NitroRustlerDriver (author)2012-03-18

They actually sell hot dog cookers for snowmobiles that strap to your exhaust. There is a little plate with a big hose clamp to hold it to the exhaust, then an aluminum tin snaps into the holder.

Green Silver (author)2012-03-18

Note to self:
Remember to remove the 3lb fish from behind my mate's exhaust manifold I started cooking 3 weeks ago.

bstrickler (author)2012-03-18

I'm gonna have to try this in my Fiero when I get her running again. Tons of space by the exhaust manifold. Maybe I can make a stainless steel heat spreader that bolts on, with a box to cook it in.

Simmons (author)2012-03-18

Was that highway or town driving? Because I am assuming highway driving average speed of 65 mph

internethotspot (author)2012-03-18

Prolly not a good idea to stay parked long or the critters will get at it before you do.

Crazysaint222 (author)2012-03-18

It's great to see the old ideas coming back. Farmers used to bake potatoes on tractor manifolds many, many years ago (almost as soon as tractors came into bing). People have certainly become more adventurous with the dished though :)

ChrysN (author)2012-03-15

Impressive meal. It is a shame about the cheese sandwiches, they probably wouldn't take too long to cook.

mygibzone (author)2012-03-14

This gives the term, "food on the go" a whole new meaning! LOL! Awesome idea!

depotdevoid (author)2012-03-14

Was there any taste of exhaust when eaten? Also, how did the sandwiches turn out?

mikeasaurus (author)depotdevoid2012-03-14

No taste of exhaust or anything other than delicious, tender steak!

The sandwiches... err, um... disappeared in a furious foil explosion when they came loose and hit the pavement somewhere around the 40 minute mark. 

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