When I was younger, I used to love going to car shows, meetups, swap meets and rallies. My buddies at my favorite Palm Springs area Volkswagen dealer, Coachella Valley Volkswagen, let me know that there’s a whole lot of show here in the Palm Springs area, especially in the summer months!
Some VW meetups can span over three days, with people coming from all corners of the States. It’s not uncommon to find that some of the more dedicated VW owners choose to stay late into the evening, if not outright camping at the show. One of the more inventive things I’ve seen is people deciding that hauling gear was too much of a hassle, so they used their car to cook their food!
Apparently, this is a practice that goes back decades:
“The first engine cooking experiments were done by hungry truckers who came up with the idea of making a small vent hole in the lid of cans of soup, and then placing it on the hot exhaust manifold before hitting the road.”
While I wouldn’t use my engine as a cooking apparatus, at the last VW show I attended I did have a great filet of salmon that was fresh off a hot manifold, so I know it can be done! And done well, if my taste buds are to be believed.
So if you’re hiking, camping, or hanging out at a meet in your brand new 2015 Volkswagen Golf, Jetta, Passat, or Routan, here’s the basic steps you’ll need to use your car for cooking:
Choose the Hot Spot
After you’ve driven a couple of miles, pull over and check your engine out. See what area gets hottest, and plan on using that for your food. The manifold is generally the hottest area, and away from any moving or greasy parts.
Choose Your Meat
I found a handy calculation of what meat takes what amount of mileage to cook properly: “Based on a speed of 65 MPH, shrimp takes about 35 miles; salmon fillets, 40 miles; boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 60 miles; pork tenderloin, 200 to 300 miles.”
You can simply run your engine, of course, but if you’re camping, your camp mates may not appreciate a running vehicle idling away near the tent. Plan a quick run into town.
Prepare the Foil
Stack up a few pieces of foil that will serve as the holder for the meat, then spray it liberally with non-stick cooking spray.
Prepare the Food
Place an individual serving on the foil (it’s best not to try to just throw all the meat into one packet – use multiple pieces of foil for multiple servings). Add salt, pepper, veggies and spices at this point.
This is the important step: Make sure you fold the foil over and around your food securely so nothing slips out while you’re driving, and nothing can get in (grease, oil or other contaminants).
Secure the Food
After you place everything nicely on the manifold, close and open the hood to make sure it presses down on them enough to hold them in place as you drive. Adding a bit more foil on the top should help clear up any issues with slipping. The last thing you want to see is your half-baked chicken thigh in the rearview mirror as you drive away!
Drive and Enjoy!
Now that you’re all set, make your round-trip based roughly on how many miles you’ll need to cook the meat of your choice! When you get back to camp, carefully remove the packets with a pair of tongs, open it up and enjoy!
The great salmon I had was prepared with the help of the heat from a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta engine, so of course I think that’s going to be the best VW to try your culinary skills out on. But if you’re not convinced it’s up to the task of grilling your favorite slice of meat, head over to Coachella Valley Volkswagen to check out their ongoing summer VW incentives and other special VW lease offers; the meal of your dreams might just be waiting under the hood!