Engine cooking is the act of cooking food from the excess heat of an internal combustion engine, typically the engine of a car or a truck. This phenomenon may have started when truckers began to heat their lunch from the heat of their vehicles' engines.
It is a method that has been known for decades – not only by truckers, but also as a bushcraft by adventurers. The method of cooking with the heat of an engine is a viable way to prepare your meal while on an adventure trip, and is even known to be used by people during power cuts when they cannot use their kitchen appliances.
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. When arriving at the destination, lunch was ready. This however cannot be recommended as cans used for canned food are typically coated on the inside in a layer of epoxy resin.
Other communities also have embraced engine cooking, including vandwellers and people living by the road. Several of these communities have blogged about the topic of cooking on a car engine. The website roadroast.com now defunct, was a non-profit website that was intended to teach visitors how they can get started cooking on their engines. The method has also been featured by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the TV show A cook on the wild side.
The principle of preparing food from the excess heat of a car engine is simple. A hot spot is identified, such as the exhaust manifold. The food that is to be prepared is wrapped in several layers of aluminum foil, which serves two purposes. The first purpose is to act as a conductor so that heat is distributed evenly. The second purpose is to shield the food from any contaminants present in the engine compartment. The food is secured using steel wire and tied down to the hot spot. Finally the car is driven until the food has been cooked.
Warnings from the editors of Manifold Destiny
A word of warning has to be given to those who feel tempted to try cooking on their car's engine, without reading the book Manifold Destiny first.
Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller point out that you should always wrap your food in many layers of aluminum foil, to protect your food from contamination, like grease or engine oil present under the hood of your car.  Heating food in cans with one small hole in the lid, like truck drivers used to do, should be avoided, because cans have an epoxy resin layer on the inside that protects the food from chemical reactions with the can, so the resin could melt and contaminate your food.
The writers of Manifold Destiny also warned against putting food close to moving parts, or close to a throttle cable that could get stuck, because this could put you in life threatening danger, should your accelerator get stuck.  Furthermore, you should carefully fix your food to your car, because dropping your food on the road could cause car crashes if other road users would be hit by it, or start swerving around it, when approaching your road debris at high speeds.
Be careful when your engine is still hot. The fan could start even minutes after arrival and cause serious injury. While cooking on an engine used to work fine for classic American cars, more modern cars and car models from Asia and Europe have narrower engine bays that do not allow you to reach down to the hottest part of the engine, which is often the exhaust manifold.  Car computers or other electronic parts could be destroyed by fat or fluids leaking from your food, leaving you with very expensive garage bills. 
Electric and hybrid cars are unsuitable to cook with.  Should you find any sources of heat and cover them with food, you risk a short circuit, followed by a battery fire that would destroy your car and could potentially cause a concrete building to collapse.
This safety warning was taken from www.roadroast.com in 2010 but that website was found dead in 2020
- Manifold Destiny (cookbook) from 1989
- roadroast.com, ,
- Cooking great meals with your car engine. The heat is on. Published 17th of May 2007, accessed 17th of November 2020
- Carbecue: Cooking food on your car engine, Edinburgh Evening News, published 17th October 2014, accessed 17th of November 2020