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How To Turn Your Car Into An Oven

Car engines produce a lot of waste heat. It’s one of the basic laws of thermodynamics that energy will change from one form to another, and as not all the chemical potential energy in the petrol or diesel that you put into your tank gets turned into kinetic (motion) energy. Some becomes sound energy and some becomes heat energy. In the normal course of things, a lot of this heat energy gets wasted.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  You can do something useful with that heat.  The most common thing that people do with this head is using it to heat the inside of the car. But you can also use that heat produced by your engine to cook a meal. They say that this is as old as the internal combustion engine, and it’s probably older than that, as I guess the drivers of steam trains probably boiled a kettle or baked spuds on the fire that boiled the water to power the train. Heck, the hordes of Genghis Khan used to shove a steak under the saddle while galloping across the steppes, meaning that it was nice and tender and ready to eat come the end of the day (but they ate raw meat).

I will have to say at the outset that I haven’t actually tried this – yet. There have certainly been moments, though, when it’s been tempting, especially on those hectic days when there’s a billion things to do and pick up, lots of driving to do and a potluck dinner to get to.

You have to pick the right sort of thing to cook.  It has to be something that isn’t too big and that can be cooked adequately while wrapped up in tinfoil.  Good old sausages work well.  So do whole fish and corn on the cob.  You could possibly give chicken drums a go, but you’d have to have a long drive to make sure that they’re cooked adequately.

You have to wrap what you’re cooking up thoroughly in tinfoil to stop any fumes getting into your food and tainting it. While some smoky flavours are delicious and desirable, petrol and diesel smoke isn’t quite so tasty.  The other thing is that you don’t want the juices from your food getting into your engine and stuffing it up. So use several layers of tinfoil.

engine block cooking

You will need to secure your tightly wrapped package to the engine block so you don’t lose your dinner when you hit a bump. Use metal wire. Don’t let your packet interfere with any moving parts.

Here’s a sample fish recipe to get you started.

  • 1 medium sized fish, cleaned and scaled
  • oil or butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 or 2 carrots, cut into rounds or julienne strips
  • mushrooms (as many as you like), washed
  • tabasco sauce, lemon wedges and chopped parsley to serve

Place the fish on several layers of tinfoil. Lightly coat the fish inside and out with oil or butter, then season with salt and pepper. Arrange the sliced carrots and mushrooms around and on top of the fish.  Wrap very securely in the tinfoil and secure the package to the engine block.

Drive home for half an hour or so. Every time you get stuck at a busy intersection, console yourself with how the extra cooking time will make the fish beautifully tender.  When you get home, remove the packet from the engine block. For goodness sake, protect your hands. Peek inside the packet and check that the flesh of the fish is white and flaky.  If it is, your fish is cooked! Enjoy your dinner with all the garnishes and sauces.

There are tons of websites and books on this topic if you have a look around.  Engine block cooking is bound to appeal to those pushed for time, those with a taste for survival techniques and those who have a bit of a thrifty streak to them.