Car-Engine Cooking Is a Thing, and You Do It Like So

Whether you should is a different question

January 19, 2017 9:00 am

Welcome to the most American method of food preparation: manifold cooking.

Ingredients: Tin foil, and a whole lot of it. Meat. An expanse of highway. And a growling Motor City-issue road machine.

Methods: Give it about 150 miles — or 200, for medium well.

With the same spirit of relentless pragmatism that spawned the baby mop, manifold cooking arose from the bourgeois ignominy of surviving on roadside greasy spoons slinging yesterday’s corned beef slop during long-haul road trips. So one Mad Max-via-Eric Ripert visionary made a brilliant leap of intuition: let’s cook with cars.

How to Do It

The undisputed bible of manifold cooking, 1989’s Manifold Destiny details the basic practices of the auto gastronomist. Wrap your nosh in three layers of foil with staggered seams between the layers to prevent drippage. Find a flat spot under the hood. Finally, and most important, check the height of your grill-to-be with a ball of foil and a closed hood (safety first).  

While the very real risks in a traditional kitchen usually end with one less eyebrow or a solid dent out of one’s thumb, those risks pale in comparison to careening off a mountain pass to the aroma of medium-rare ribeye because said ribeye jammed the fan belt and locked up the steering.

How It Tastes

The actual cuisine of the road-going chef is as diverse as the makes of cars he could hypothetically use to realize said cuisine. While the traditional audience of car-cookin’ tends to favor the bottom of the motorist food pyramid (burgers, hot dogs, steaks, etc.), some folks have elevated the tradition to downright epicurean levels.  

Sites such as Carbecue (as well as the Mythbusters team who grilled a full Thanksgiving spread on the engine block), espouse a more refined approach to six-cylinder grubbin’. Duck and baked camembert? Mon ami. Cajun shrimp? Fist pump. Chilean sea bass on a bed of greens? Bon apetit. All cooking times, of course, given in mileage and speed.

What’s Next?

The blessing and curse of the human animal is that we can’t just leave a good thing be. In the same manner that Hollywood morphed the action star from Cary Grant to Chuck Norris, committed manifold acolytes have rolled up their sleeves and built out further exhaust-heated, car-mounted cooking apparati. These modifications include exhaust-fed smokers to the exhaust-pipe-mounted single burger cooker. Sure, burning dead dinos to grill one burger at a time has the carbon footprint of an obese T-Rex, but the enterprise of manifold cooking makes no pretense about being green.

So load up with a slab of Monsanto GMO-grade chuck, flip to Lee Greenwood on the dial and grill off into the sunset.


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