Eat & Drink

The Car Lover's Guide to Grilling

Yes, you can cook a steak on your engine. It's (mostly) safe and (mostly) easy, and it'll beat anything you can get at a drive-through.

The Car Lover's Guide to Grilling

Couple driving in convertible Photo: Creatas RF/Thinkstock

Earlier this summer, a viral video attempted to answer that age-old question: How can I turn my backyard volcano into a useable grill?

There was just one little problem with the video—most of us don’t have an active volcano out back. And those of us who do tend to be lukewarm on steaming Kobe filets in sulfur dioxide. 

We’ve got a better (but still bad-ass) way to cook your steak this summer: on your engine. It’s (mostly) safe, (mostly) easy, and it’s the ultimate multitasking activity.

What You’ll Need

Cooking on your engine takes a bit of practice to get right, so this may not be the time to use that prime dry-aged filet mignon. We used a bone-in ribeye, which is more forgiving than a boneless steak. Ours was about one pound and was three-quarters-of-an-inch thick.

Salt and pepper
Be liberal with these. You can use other seasonings too, but don’t skimp on the salt and pepper.

The biggest danger when cooking on your engine is that grease from the steak could start a grease fire. Since most engines are fairly well sealed, chances of this are rare, but it’s still wise to wrap your steak multiple times. We used three layers of foil and had no drippage issues.

Metal Wire
Depending on your engine you may be able to just wedge the steak in place, but it’s best to secure the steak with a bit of metal wire. We used 18-gauge wire, which you can find at any home improvement store.

Green beans and a yam were our sides of choice—both were wrapped in double layers of foil.


Marty and Moog, the two Aussies behind Mighty Car Mods, suggested the exhaust manifold as the best part of the engine to cook on. This is where exhaust created from the combustion process leaves the engine, so it’s typically the hottest part of the car.

Modified rigs often have exhaust manifolds that can run over 1,500 degrees, but a typical car won’t get that hot. How hot the manifold gets depends on how fast you’re driving. Around town it will likely hover around 450-600 degrees, and when you fly on the highway it may reach upwards of 800 degrees.

Season your steak, wrap it well in foil and strap it directly to the exhaust manifold. Cut the potato into wedges, season with olive oil, salt and paper, wrap well and strap it to the other exhaust manifold. (Note: Most cars have two exhaust manifolds, but if yours doesn’t, put the potatoes as close to the manifold as you can.)

Strap the green beans any other place you can find that’s stable—they require the least amount of cooking. Double check that everything is secured before you close the hood. Also, make sure you pack an oven mitt and a meat thermometer for your trip—you’ll need both.


Our steak took about an hour and 15 minutes to get to medium rare. Forty minutes of that time was on local roads and 35 minutes was on freeways.

Drive no longer than 30 minutes before you check the steak for the first time. It should be warm to the touch, and if it’s already sizzling, you may want to adjust your time accordingly. Drive another 20 to 30 minutes and check it again.

When you hear sizzling and smell meat, you’re probably close. If you suspect it’s ready, carefully remove the steak and unwrap it—your meat thermometer should read between 130-135 for medium rare and 135-140 for medium.


There are a ton of variables when firing up the ol’ car-b-que—from how big your engine is to how fast you’re driving to how thick the steak is. Your first attempt may not result in the kind of steak you’d want to serve on a date, but it'll beat anything you can get from the drive-through.

Filed To: Culinary, Outdoor Skills, Nutrition, Food and Drink

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