Cooking... With Your Car




About: Engineer making renewable energy products for African entrepreneurs.

Reusing some waste heat in from your engine bay to cook a meal on your way home.

After I showed this to a few people, I found out that there is a book called "Manifold Destiny" on this very subject. I have not read it yet, but I'm told that there are quite a few recipe's with locations and times (miles).

Step 1: Gather Some Ingredients

This was mostly improvised... But on my menu:

+Baked Chicken and Herbs (chicken breast, flour, your choice of herbs - I used mostly basil)
+Italian Chicken (chicken breast marinated in zesty Italian salad dressing cooked with pepper and onion)
+Red and Green Peppers and mushroom Noodles (used noodles from a ramen package, added a little EVOO, and cooked in vegetable stock)
+Baked Potato Pieces (salted with a little cooking oil)
+Baked Apples (sliced in half with a pat of butter and scoop of brown sugar)

Step 2: Prepare

Layout each item on foil sheets large enough to wrap.

The chicken breasts will be cooked in rectangular like packets to expose as much surface as possible. We want a cup like shape for the noodles/veggies.

Step 3: Sealing

Everything should be wrapped in a few layers of foil. Not so much to protect the food from anything, but really to protect the car from spillage.

The noodles require a little extra care. As we're adding fluid (veggie stock), we need to make out 'cup' with a sealable opening. However you feel is best is the way to go here ;)

On the note of toxic gasses (I'm asked this all the time)
If your car is emitting gasses (say exhaust or coolant steam) from under the hood, you have a problem and you should probably have that looked at. A maintained car does not do this which is why I'm not concerned with doing this.

Step 4: Placement

Placing your food is very important... As every car and engine configuration is different, you'll need to use some common sense...

Potato and Chicken will require the most heat so they should be placed on or near the exhaust manifold. Apples should be placed near something hot (I put it on the top radiator hose). The noodles can be placed on top of the valve cover (if possible) as they can take lower heat for longer times and still cook properly.

Step 5: Cook Time

I was driving 200 miles, so I had to plan accordingly. I drove 100 miles (speed was around 70-80mph) and nearly overcooked the chicken. But at that rest stop I had 1 chicken breast and it was delicious. When I came to a stop, the smell of the chicken and herbs surrounded the car. And at the horror of onlookers, I proceeded to eat from my engine bay.

After the 100 miles, the chicken was well browned -- I think 60 miles would have done the trick.

At this time, the noodles were done, and were moved to a slightly cooler area. The potato package was still raw as I had placed it in an area too cool to cook properly.

Step 6: Other Suggestions

Shrimp is VERY easy to cook and gives of a wonderful aroma. Only 20-30 miles on surface roads is needed -- but modify for extended periods stuck in traffic.

On my next long trip, I'd live to make a rack to support a pork roast or even a rack of ribs to cook slowly.

This type of cooking requires some practice and experimentation. But what's better than pulling up to a gas station and pulling out some chicken wings from under the hood while you fuel up?

Drinks! The striker plate (the part that holds the door closed) on most cars is a great glass bottle opener should you find yourself in the middle of nowhere with a coke and no bottle opener ;) Just look inside the door frame for something that resembles a bottle opener.

BTW, this is a '97 Mazda 626 -- equipped with bottle opener and oscillating vents (for some goofy reason) :P



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    110 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    My husband and I are on our way to seattle from north idaho soon. This will be perfect for a nice mid trip dinner. I can't wait to try it. Perhaps some baked chicken with corn and some apple pie for dessert....

    2 replies

    3 years ago

    ....combine ingredients and cook at 60mph for 40-70 miles. :)

    I've been menaing to try this. I do road trips every so often.


    3 years ago

    terrific :)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This is nothing new. If you do research the topic, going back to the time when cars were first invented this has been done. In the 1930's you could buy a device that would attach directly to the exhaust manifold of the car so that you could cook your foods, then detach with a handle, and eat your then cooked and prepared foods.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This is awesome! My husband and I take looong road trips all the time and this would save us money on food if we "cook" ourselves. Thanks!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm interested, but are you sure it's totally safety to cook like that and then eat the food?


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Haha, this is nice for kidsparties! I know a website called (a dutch one) where they're trying to gather some funny and original ideas for kidsparties. This is AWESOME! :-) :-)

    spark master

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Back in the 70's this was discussed in Mother Earth News. I took fried eggplant parm and made sanwiches and put them in the engine compartment, I wrapped them will, but it was skunky. The item MUST be in a meatl sealable container to work well, but it indeed cooked my eggplant parm and melted the cheese and made it very hot, albiet stinky. A cookie tin inside a cookie time would be nice.

    8 replies

    Hi Treb, possibly , but under a car hood there is usually a smell of gasoline and in an older car (70's vintage Valiant) it definitely smelled like gasoline a bit. It transferred to the food. I cook daily on an alcohol stove for fun (eggs), so I understand wanting to do this, I mearly want to share with those that will try it that they need to seal their tasties in a reasonable vapor proof , heat conductive package. you can have cool water (some have claimed cold, i never tried this) you take a water jug wrapped in towels soak the towels and tie to fron grill (you might want a resevoir under it somehow ) then drive, after an hour of driving you get cool water (evaporation of water cools the water), if you have a foor rack it is even better, do it on the roof. Therre are versions of this concept here on instructables using flour pots and sand with water. sparky

    Phil Btrebuchet03

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Even with a "normally aspirated" car (i.e. uses a carburetor) I would want to check for something that may be causing gasoline to seep or leak--heavy float (common after a few years), hardened gaskets, loosened screws).

    Once I was to meet my wife so we could go someplace and she had not eaten. I wrapped a frankfurter in aluminum foil and rested it on the exhaust manifold for the 30 minute drive. It was nicely cooked when she ate it.

    Back in the mid-1960s I saw an article in the Minneapolis Star about a family that cooked roasts and potatoes on their engine when taking family vacations. It was the days before the Interstate highway system was widely in use and roadside rest parks were easy to find. They drove for a period of time, stopped, and turned their food so it could cook on the other side. When the food was done, they stopped at a rest park and ate it while seated at a picnic table.

    My daughter was interested in this and I checked into the book "Manifold Destiny." It is out of print and available copies were quite expensive. I expect a person could do what you are doing--experiment and make notes.

    I thought it would be interesting to make a basket or enclosed box that would absorb heat from the engine, but would also protect it from air drafts and from falling down to the road, as well as from tearing or opening of the foil so the food was contaminated by dirt or oil.

    klincecumPhil B

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    BTW, normally aspirated, or naturally aspirated doesn't mean it has a carburetor. It refers to engines without turbo, or superchargers. It refers to how it breathes.

    Phil Bklincecum

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You may be right. I remember hearing or reading "normally aspirated" as a reference to an engine with a carburetor. I do not remember where or when I heard it used that way, though.

    spark masterPhil B

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I never bought a copy but I saw it once, it may have been mentioned in Mother Earth News. Double cookie tins would work or real stainless pot in a cookie tin. you could add some dry sand in outer tin around pot to act as thermal fly wheel, but then you will add to cooking time. (no free lunch you must heat the stuff before the meal gets a going.

    If you have a way to rig the outer pot safely even permanently you could add a few rows of foil ribbing. You use the tape used on exhaust ducks off boilers (stainless or aluminum metal tape). people use that technique to make collars for "heiny can" pots and thus get better boil times for Alcohol stoves (see you tube vids as well as )If you go to a camping store look at "Jet Boil" items. Google Bill Wrigley and alcohol stoves, and see his stuff, he came up with the foil tape idea.You could just take heat sinks from old computer equipment and rivet them on the outer can.

    My car is now too new to screw with it, so I will not be mangling the guts of the engine compartment! But if I see a place for dogs fer lunch with kraut and homemade NYC dog onions, mmmmmmm.. bettr then Hojo any day..


    BTW do you trebuchet? at the neigyhbors or with their pets!!!!! such a chuckle, I need to make a cardboard one, just for chuckles. The plans are here on Instructables. Looks pretty cool. again, anything to piss off the neighbors. Unless they want one as well. big enough we can have water balloon wars. Hey , Hot time summer int he city!! bye foer now sparkie


    7 years ago on Introduction

    i am very enjoyed for this blog. Its an informative topic. It help me very much to solve some problems. Its opportunity are so fantastic and working style so speedy. I think it may be help all of you. Thanks a lot for enjoying this beauty blog with me. I am appreciating it very much! Looking forward to another great blog. Good luck to the author! all the best