Roy Price, Dietitian/Nutritionist, Alice Springs

Healthy Food On The Road

Click on image to enlarge:  Manifold oven check, somewhere south of Alice Springs


Over the past couple of years I have been in the habit of taking long driving trips to other parts of Australia, sometimes to visit friends and relatives, other times to attend professional development conferences.  On these trips I sometimes cover more than 1000kms per day.

As I frequently travel alone I have a number of strategies to keep me alert and awake.  One of those strategies is to cook food in the engine compartment while I drive.

There is sufficient heat for cooking generated by the motor of most vehicles.  While there may not be enough heat to cook rice for example, there is certainly sufficient heat to cook foods which don't require boiling.  The hottest part of most engines is the exhaust manifold, where the burned gasses are expelled from the motor and into the exhaust.

Exhaust Manifold Oven

Click on image to enlarge: The manifold oven, with vegetables wrapped in aluminium foil


To take advantage of the heat generated by combustion I have mounted a metal box on my exhaust manifold.  Heat is conducted into the metal of the box directly from the exhaust manifold, and also by convection.  Whatever the method of heat transfer, it is possible to reach temperatures inside the box that enable me to cook.

Easy healthy snacks while driving

Click on image to enlarge: Tender cooked carrots

Click on image to enlarge: Perfectly cooked corn on the cob


I wrap vegetables in aluminium foil and place them in the cooking box.  The following are some guides for cooking times and speeds


Vegetable (wrapped in aluminium foil) cooking time @
Carrots 2 hours
Corn on the cob 2 hours
Potato 3 hours
Stew, 1 litre (see below) 6 hours

Other healthy meals

Stews/curries can be easily cooked in the exhaust manifold oven.  Simply take one deep aluminium takeaway container (with lid), place diced meat, seasonings and water/tomato puree into the container along with some diced carrots and potatoes, cover with the lid, place in the cooking box, and drive for 4 to 5 hours.  

For example, on a trip back to Alice Springs from Melbourne recently, I stopped at Port Augusta, purchased 200gms of steak, 1 large carrot, 1 medium potato, and a 425g can pureed tomatoes with garlic and olives (other varieties are available).  I then diced the meat and vegetables and placed them in the container, and then added the contents of the canned pureed tomatoes, placed the lid on top, wrapped the container in aluminium foil (to prevent the package from opening or leaking), placed the parcel into the cooking box, and drove to Coober Pedy at 100kms per hour (600 kms = 6 hours).  When I arrived at Coober Pedy the meal was fully cooked, hot enough to burn my tongue, and once it had cooled sufficiently, I consumed it with 2 or 4 slices of unbuttered whole meal bread.  It was fantastic!

Who needs truckies cafes, pies or hamburgers when you have an exhaust manifold oven?


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00.00am Australian CST 23 July 2003.

Copyright 1999 All Rights Reserved.
Created by Roy Price, EthiCal Nutrition Services, POBox 1326, Alice Springs, Australia