Eats and Drinks
If there’s extra heat, maybe you can use it.
Published: January 9, 2013
When you cook for a living, especially when you’re the one paying the utility bills, you see wasted energy everywhere, mostly in the form of heat. Anyone who’s stood in front of a working range for an extended period of time knows about heat energy—there’s plenty of it that doesn’t go directly to the pot or pan and, thus, the food. On my range, I had a shelf mounted to the backsplash that was made of steel and, after just a few minutes of cooking, it becomes pretty hot—free heat for keeping soup warm and storing pans, since an already-warm pan means less energy required to get it hot for cooking. I used to have boil lots of water, since my menu consisted of mostly noodle dishes. And I’m telling you, it’s a little heartbreaking to take six gallons of water you just spent 30 minutes’ worth of gas to heat and just pour it down the drain. Solution? Use the shit out of it. I would use the same water to blanch vegetables, poach proteins (with the help of my trusty FoodSaver vacuum sealer), cook multiple types of noodles, then use the water as base for stock. I would take any remaining water off the heat and into the dining room, to help heat and humidify the air. Not sure if that last part actually worked, but it sure made my cheap Korean ass feel a little better. I’ve even used boiled water in a ghetto sous vide with Ziplocked or vacuum-sealed proteins and a mini beer cooler. This applies to cooling as well. For example, it used to kill me to cool hot liquids by putting them in the refrigerator, as per Health Department regulations I should mention. I’d just used X amount of gas to heat something up, and now I’m using Y amount of electricity to cool it down. And, I know this sounds crazy, but it would annoy me to have to use energy (by blowing) to cool down coffee or whatever in order to drink it. I mean, all this energy just went into raising its temperature, and for what? Extra work for me. Fuck that! The point is, if there’s extra heat, maybe you can use it. And if there’s too much heat, remember that it wants to go where there’s no heat and certain materials make it easier to get there. 1. Dishwasher - It’s hard to tell what’s going on inside a home dishwasher (obviously), but it’s actually a pretty violent environment in there—a hot world with jets of hot water throwing around detergents and abrasives, which, by the way, is why you should never put knives (they dull edges) or nonstick pans (they damage coatings) in one—for over an hour, typically. So you’ve got heat and time. To make actual cooking feasible though, you need a dishwasher with a heating element, since most hot-water heaters max out at about 120 degrees, a bit low to cook anything in an hour. Mine does have a heating element and, using the “Pots and Pans” and “Heated Wash” options, got to an internal temp of 144.3 degrees. The most popular dish to dishwasher-cook seems to be lasagna, with precooked noodles and vegetable or precooked meat. This makes sense since, in this case, all you need to accomplish is melting the cheese. This also makes it a total cop-out. I tried many different foods out in the dishwasher, which took a long time because I made sure to only run the dishwasher when it was at least half-full of dirty dishes; otherwise it’s a rather obscene waste of electricity. Conclusion: Pretty limited, practically speaking. It couldn’t even set eggs or cook pasta. But shockingly, it did a decent job of almost sous viding beef tenderloin—enough to make it very rare and certainly edible anyway. It’s also pretty good for cooking delicate seafood such as shrimp (butterflied, at that) and flounder fillets, and non-rigid vegetables like greens, mushrooms, or zucchini. Combining suitable ingredients, I did manage to cook a complete meal while also cleaning four days’ worth of dirty dishes. 2. Car - Everything you need to know about cooking with your motor vehicle can be found in a book called Manifold Destiny. But I do have personal experience with this. I’m a longtime Jeep owner, and I can confirm that it’s a fairly widespread practice to pack a lunch in heavy-duty foil (say a burrito), lash it to your exhaust manifold, off-road for a couple hours, then enjoy a hot lunch. Most modern engines run at about 200 degrees, give or take, so unless you’re on a serious road trip, reheating is your only real option. I’ve found that those soup-in-a-pouch things heat up perfectly after a 20-minute-plus commute. The problem is, engine surfaces are irregular and sometimes completely obscured by shielding or covers. A better cooking surface, though it does require getting under your vehicle, is the muffler—smooth, usually flat, and very hot. If you happen to own a Wrangler, it’s very easy to access and the heat shield acts to hold your food in place. My muffler reaches a max temp of 172 degrees, which was enough to heat up six pizza pockets and two White Castle sliders from frozen to hot in 35 minutes of driving. I also managed to cook a proper lunch entree of flounder fillet, spinach, and gnocchi in about an hour of total drive time. Conclusion: Good for reheating on short trips, actual cooking possible on longer ones. 3. Cooling things - To cool a hot liquid quickly, you’ve got to give the heat somewhere to go. Air is not a good conductor, but metal is. So if you have a too-hot cup of coffee, put two or three spoons in it. The spoons get hot very fast, right? Well, that heat was just pulled out of your coffee, which is now proportionately cooler. Same goes for hot broth or even hot pie filling—except use lots of metal things and bigger ones. Remember: Cold metal can absorb more heat. Conculsion: Much better than making your refrigerator or freezer work so hard.
Dishwasher Shrimp and Vegetables
1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, butterrflied
a few stalks of thin asparagus, or if thicker cut in half lengthwise
a few sliced mushrooms
slice of lemon
butter or olive oil
salt, pepper, thyme to taste
Combine all ingredients in a resealable cook-in bag, then put it in
another cook-in bag to make sure no detergent gets into the food.
Press out as much air as possible. Place on bottom rack, making an
effort to keep all ingredients in a single layer. and run on the "Pots
and Pans" and "Hot Water" (if available) cycle.
1 flounder filets
Small handful of fresh spinach
About 10 gnocchis from packaged pre-made fresh gnocchi
1 tbs white wine
1 tsp chopped shallots and or garlic
1 tbsp butter
Salt, pepper to taste
Place flounder, butter, spinach, wine, shallots, and salt and pepper
in a resealable cook-in bag. Press out as much air as possible.
Place gnocchi, half the butter, and just enough salted water to cover
the pasta in another resealable bag. Press out as much air as
Wrap the bags in 2 layers of heavy duty foil, keeping everything in
one layer. Secure to muffler using additional foil or wire.
Drive for at least one hour.
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