It’s Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial kickoff of summer. You’ve got a lot of places to go this summer, and some hot food would be nice, right? We cooked this recipe for Coconut Lime Shrimp Ala Buick and Curried Potatoes in half an hour under the hood.
DISCLAIMER: Cooking food on a hot exhaust manifold is dumb and could potentially lead to fire, car accidents, pestilence, dysentery, Nursemaid’s Elbow and drymouth. Do not attempt.
There are recipes out there that suggest you can cook a steak on an exhaust manifold. Yes, you can do it, but because of the cooking method, it’s going to end up looking like a wet, wool sock.
While exhaust manifolds in some applications can run up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, your average car’s exhaust manifold will typically hover between 800 and 850 degrees Fahrenheit, which is plenty hot enough to cook food.
The challenge is managing that heat. The surface of a cast-iron exhaust manifold is hot, but it’s in a relatively open environment that allows cool air to blow around the engine, so a lot of that heat is lost pretty quickly.
Because of that fact, the best cooking method one can hope for is to create a package that captures steam. For this recipe, we used parchment paper — available in sheets, or in rolls — and aluminum foil, which we used to trap moisture during the cooking process instead of letting it evaporate.
That method works great for seafood. You can substitute fish like salmon, cod or haddock for the shrimp and end up with a really satisfying dish. It’s also a great method for cooking vegetables.
Coconut Lime Shrimp A La Buick
10 shrimp — We used frozen, but fresh works, too
5 stalks of asparagus, julienned
1 jalapeno, sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1 tsp. grated, fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, smashed
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup coconut milk
Because we were concerned about making the package pretty durable, we used parchment paper and aluminum foil for a good seal, and to help prevent any leaks if the foil happened to get ripped under the hood.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a slightly larger sheet of aluminum foil. Place the shrimp, asparagus, jalapeno, onions, ginger, and garlic in the middle of the parchment, leaving plenty of space to fold it over.
Add salt and pepper, and pour about a quarter cup of coconut milk over the top. The coconut milk not only adds flavor, but provides a bit of steaming liquid along with the shrimp and vegetables.
Fold the parchment and foil together, creating a tight seal on all of the edges.
3 medium potatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. curry powder
We used exactly the same process to create a pack for the potatoes, with parchment paper and foil. Both packs ended up being about a six-by-nine inch rectangle.
Because its eight-cylinder engine is laid out in a V, there’s good cooking surface available each of the engine’s two exhaust manifolds. You’ll have much less space for cooking on a four-cylinder engine.
Reaching the exhaust manifolds on some cars can be a particular challenge. On a horizontally-opposed engine — like the four- or six-cylinder Boxer engines on the Subaru Impreza or Subaru Outback — the exhaust manifolds are under the engine, making this particular method a challenge. There’s still plenty of heat generated under the hood, but you won’t get the full cooking power of a hot exhaust manifold.
The Roadmaster’s LT-1 has exposed exhaust manifolds, but they’re covered by protective, sheetmetal heat shields. The manifold on the right cylinder bank is well exposed and provides plenty of room for a foil package. The bank on the left is a bit of a challenge, because the oil dipstick runs up near the branches of the manifold and the EGR valve plumbing is right on top of it. There’s more room than meets the eye, once you squeeze the package by those two obstructions.
Because we used foil and parchment, we were able to fold the package around the manifold a bit to keep it in place. They’ll just melt off. If the packs are sitting fairly securely on the manifold, they’ll stay in place as long as you’re not using the car to do any track days or autocross events.
For the record, we’re letting you know that cooking food on the exhaust manifold of your car probably isn’t something that your auto manufacturer had in mind when they engineered it. Oily foods should be avoided because if they leak on the manifolds, they can cause a fire. Also, resist the urge to try tying the packs to the manifolds with zipties (they’ll melt instantly, increasing the risk of fire) or baling wire (it can get caught up in moving parts under the hood.)
Be sure to shut the engine off before putting the packs on the manifolds, and shut it off before retrieving them.
When you get to your destination, the packs and their contents will be HOT, and so will the engine. Use oven mitts to retrieve your packs.
As they say in the ads, your mileage may vary.
Figuring out how long your pack needs to cook is the key to getting edible results.
We drove about four miles and stopped to see if the packs were, in fact, cooking. That probably wasn’t necessary because we smelled ginger and curry powder through the vents inside the car. The shrimp pack — with more cooking liquid inside — was bubbling away in just a few miles.
In total, we drove for about 30 minutes of cooking time and the packs were both well cooked. Shrimp cooks pretty quickly, and so do the vegetables, but the potatoes take a bit more time. For the best results, it’s probably better to get the taters on the manifold ten minutes before your shrimp pack goes on.
So what should we try cooking next? Visit our friends at Car Talk, who are taking suggestions for our next motorized meal.