Cooking under the hood

Use your car engine and dishwasher to cook dinner tonight

Chef James Van Dyk cooks on a manifold outside Tebo's Garage.
Susan France

How hot is it today? 

For sure, it’s just too toasty to turn on the stove, never mind the oven in your house. While it may not be toasty enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk or bake cookies in your car, consider using already hot heat sources in your life. 

If you’re going to drive to Aspen or wash a load of dishes anyway, you might as well cook vegetables Provençal or sous-vide a slab of salmon while you’re doing it.

I’ve heated things but never quite cooked them in my 2005 Nissan Quest minivan. I think having a V-8 helps, and I’m not talking about the vegetable juice. You need a hot engine or a long drive if you want caramelization. 

To figure out where to place your food, drive your car around a bit and lift the lid. Move your hand around the engine to feel where it is hottest, typically near the exhaust manifold. 

Hence, the name of the bible on using second-hand engine heat: Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine! by Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller. 

The volume — which lists cooking times in miles driven — features such classics as Veal Rollatini Calabrese, Hyundai Halibut, Median Noche Sandwich and Scion S’mores.  

Naturally, caution is called for as in the kitchen. You have to be certain you anchor the foil package where it won’t fall into anything vital. You have to stop and turn the food when you get gas and then voila! Hottish food when you arrive. 

One friend admitted she had successfully attempted car engine cooking. “One was a Toyota 4-Runner, probably a V-8. The other was an Alfa Romeo. The Alfa was easier to cook in,” she noted.


I had no trouble finding friends and acquaintances who have used their dishwasher to help make dinner. 

Dishwashers are definitely hot enough to cook food and boil eggs. It’s like sous-vide — slow-cooking in simmering water — on a grand scale. The key is to seal all the food tightly. You definitely don’t want your package of miso-ginger chicken thighs to open during the rinse cycle. Needless to say, skip the soap, bleach and rinse agents. 

Former Denver chef and veteran fisherman Michael Long offered a favorite dishwasher-safe recipe: 

“I take a whole, small salmon, douse it in wine and single-malt Scotch, and rub it with salt, cracked pepper and cut lemons. I encase it in dill fronds and double wrap it in plastic wrap and foil and run it through the dish machine three times. It works great. I serve it whole, warm.” 

A sealed mason jar is also ideal for the dishwasher. Put a half pound of trimmed asparagus in a half-quart mason jar with about a cup of water or broth, splash of white wine, butter, salt and pepper. Set on the top rack for a normal cycle. An old friend tells me; “Dishwasher on pots and pans setting. Poached salmon, new potatoes and green beans… Yum!”

I understand this technique works well for butter-poached lobster tails, normal cycle.

One chef noted that he had cooked on a Coast Guard cutter early in his career: “I remember disconnecting the chemicals from the steam dish machine and cooking crab legs for the crew.” Chef James Van Dyk says that the dishwasher is fine for cleaning a bunch of particularly dirty potatoes.   

Cooking on a Sunny Day at the Hot Spring

I’ve never boiled eggs in a hot spring although I understand that it is a traditional technique on geothermal islands like Rotorua and the Azores. Other alternate cooking techniques require a time investment. A recipe for pot roast in the Solar Cooking cookbook by Harriet Kofalf notes: “Start by 10 a.m., finish cooking by 3 to 4 p.m. (assuming a sunny day). Food will keep warm in oven until dinnertime.”

Given the popularity of sous-vide, slow cookers and cold smoking, cooks seem to understand the value of patience. You will need at least 250 miles and an internal combustion engine to make the following recipe. Electrics and hybrids are the future but they aren’t going to fricassee your cage-free coq au vin. We may be the last generation of manifold cookers unless future tourists rent an antique 2019 F-150 pickup for a nostalgic road trip. 

This classic recipe is from Manifold Destiny:   

Cruise-Control Pork Tenderloin 

1 large pork tenderloin, butterflied

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1/2 cup red onion, minced

2 teaspoons crushed fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper

Blend other ingredients, spread inside tenderloin and fold over. Triple-wrap in foil and place on a medium-hot part of the engine. Turn once at 125 miles. Should be done at about 250 miles.

Local Food News

Veteran chef Mathew Koury has opened Chicken On The Hill, serving rotisserie chicken crisped up over hardwood charcoal. … Heifer and the Hen, chef Ian Clark’s artisan ice cream scoop shop, is closing this week, but his next-door BRU handbuilt ales & eats remains open. … Blue Corn Tacos has opened at 1515 Main St. in Longmont. Menu includes chicken mole tacos.    

Words to Chew On

“Silverware should be the heavy metal at a dinner party, not the music.” 

— Craig Claiborne

John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU. Podcasts at: