7 Alternative Cooking Methods: Getting Away from the Grill

Alternative Cooking Methods

Looking to cook but want a break from your grill?  Check out these alternative cooking methods.

If you don’t believe that necessity is the mother of all invention, you will after you read this post on alternative cooking methods. Cooking has a long and storied past, but even with modern advancements like grills and ovens, there are plenty of people that still successfully rely on unconventional means to prepare their food. And no, I’m definitely not trying to convince you to leave your grill or oven for one of these methods, but I think it’s worth seeing how creative and resourceful people can get when it comes to food.


1. Car Engine

Start your engines! First pioneered by hungry truckers decades ago, cooking with the aid of an engine has evolved from a small (but unique) reward at the end of a trip to having cookbooks and videos made about it. The name of the game here is convenience and cooking while driving is literally killing two birds with one stone, but one of these birds just happens to be a delicious meal ranging from burgers to meatloaf.

The important thing to remember is that while all car engines get hot, not all cook the same so it’s important to find which parts of your car are best suited for certain dishes. Seasoned car chefs usually opt for multiple dishes spread throughout the engine with meat requiring the highest temps while veggies might only need to be warmed. Also, you’re not going to be dealing with a lot of room so make sure to measure the space in which you have to operate to avoid crushing your food or worse – damaging your car.

The best part? Cooking time is usually measured in miles, not minutes!

Where to Start

Recipes to Try


2. Coffee Maker

This is something I originally thought would be reserved for desperate college freshmen (though I never tried it) but it turns out to have quite the following. Amatuer chefs that are limited by space or just want to try something different have embraced this cooking method and the result is a wide variety of recipes that require the same amount of effort as making a pot of coffee.

The trick is to use different parts of the coffee maker for different purposes, including steaming vegetables up top while you cook meat below. Personally, I’d love to see a dinner party where each table gets a coffee maker with ingredients and the best result wins.

Where to Start

Recipes to Try


3. Dishwasher

Dishwashers might be the most versatile kitchen appliance ever. Not only can they clean your dishes with more efficiency than hand washing, they can also cook the meals used to dirty the plates in the first place.

dishwasher alternative cooking method

Checkmate, ovens.

Dishwasher cooking is best suited for meals that require low temperatures (think low-and-slow as it only reaches 140-150F) and is most closely related to poaching as it relies on hot water to cook your food. Thankfully, one of the biggest drawbacks of having your dishwasher reek of whatever you cooked has been remedied thanks to Lisa Casali, who suggests using jars instead of foil to surround your food. Not only does this eliminate smell, it allows you to do your dishes without worrying about the soapy water affecting your meal.

Where to Start

Recipes to Try


4. Solar Oven

Ahh, a cooking method as old as time itself. Long before people were cooking Thanksgiving meals in their dishwashers or making soup in their coffee pots, our ancestors were harnessing the power of the sun to dry fruits. And once the solar oven was invented in 1767, things really took off.

solar oven alternative cooking method

Fun fact – one of my first science projects was a solar oven of sorts – we weren’t cooking anything but we were competing to see whose would get the hottest. I’m pretty sure I didn’t come close to the 400F that modern solar cookers can reach, but it was a memorable project nonetheless. Outside of weather and direct access to the sun, there aren’t many restrictions when it comes to solar cookers and they are more than capable of cooking anything a modern oven can.

Where to Start

Recipes to Try


5. Hot Stone

As a kid, I remember hearing some of my friends recount their stories from Boy Scouts where they would cook their food on hot rocks in lieu of a grill because it was easier to find rocks in the forest than to bring a grill with them. Makes sense right?

hot stone alternative cooking method

Stone cooking has now gone somewhat mainstream with a variety of stones available depending on dish, size, and material . While you might not need to forage in your yard for stones anymore, the concept of cooking with them remains the same. Cleaned stones are placed above a heat source and used to conduct heat that results in an even cook with almost no risk of burning or charring.

Where to Start

Recipes to Try


6. Sous Vide

Sous vide holds a special place in my heart because, in my opinion, it’s a great example of where technology and cooking meet (or meat, depending on your preference for puns) and always results in delicious food. Sous vide uses a heating element to maintain a consistent temperature in a body of water, essentially poaching the food that is inside. The results are always consistent and incredibly juicy since everything is kept sealed in a bag during cooking.

sous vide alternative cooking method

Sous vide takes more time than a conventional grill or oven, but the results are nothing short of incredible since the juices and flavors have nowhere to go during cooking.

Where to Start

Recipes to Try

7. Earth Oven (aka Hole in the Ground)

Perhaps the most plainly named method on this list, there are a variety of ways to cook via a hole in the ground, but I want to talk about one in particular – pit cooking. I first got curious about this method thanks to the episode of Chef’s Table featuring Francis Mallman where he focused on a few gaucho and Patagonian cooking techniques. Pit cooking was one of them and the end result was nothing short of mouth watering.

pit alternative cooking method

The concept of hole-in-the-ground cooking is simple and reminded me of a primitive crock pot, very much set it and forget it. All you need to do is dig a hole, start a fire, throw on the food, cover and let it cook. No food is off limits when it comes to pit cooking so when you dig it up later you can easily have a full meal.

Where to Start

Recipes to Try


Cooling Down

If these methods aren’t for you, don’t worry, nobody is going to judge you for not wanting to cook with your engine or saute with a hot stone. The point is that stepping outside of the box can often yield incredible results and this translates to every form of cooking since the beginning of time. So get out there and try something new, maybe dig a hole or add some rocks to your fire – you might surprise yourself with the results!


Quincy handles most of the marketing at CAPPEC and will work for coffee or IPAs. Currently residing in Asia, you can follow him at @YouKnowQuincy to see what he's up to.