We all have at at least some experience cooking meals on a stovetop or in an oven. But sometimes circumstance or boredom demands that we try other mediums or methods. Like cooking a meal in a rice cooker. Or ironing a quesadilla. Or using a flameless ration heater in the field.
Below are seven unconventional ways to cook yourself a tasty meal.
1. Ironing a Quesadilla
So you’re in your hotel room and you need a snack, it’s too late for room service and everything’s closed, but you’ve got to eat. No worries, just grab the iron and cook up a quesadilla.
All you’ll need is an ordinary clothes iron, and, if you want to avoid having to clean cheese out of the holes, maybe some aluminum foil. Oh, and you’ll want to put the iron on the cotton/linen setting for maximal heat. Finally, make sure that your iron is empty — drain any water from the reservoir.
For an ironing board/countertop I took an ordinary wood cutting board on top of which I placed my aluminum foil-wrapped quesadilla.
My two criteria for a successful quesadilla were: would the inside be melty, and would the outside be crispy?
I used simple flour tortillas from the grocery store, and shredded Monterey Jack cheese. I also used a pat of butter to ensure I got a nice, golden brown outside. You could also add jarred jalapeños or chipotle peppers if you wanted to spice things up.
After that, just start pressing and flipping. It’s that easy! You can watch me make and taste my melty on the inside, crispy on the outside iron quesadillas here:
2. Chicken in a Watermelon
This is one of those strange things that you try because you want to see what happens. The recipe was printed in the New York Times for April Fools’ Day many years ago, but it IS a serious recipe, though admittedly odd. According to the Times, it comes from Hawaii.
My favorite line from the recipe is this one: “5. Place watermelon on a tray and show it to guests. Return it to kitchen: remove chicken and carve.” Because it’s all about the spectacle with this one! 😅
You might want to wait until summer to make this, though, so you can get a watermelon in season. After that, all you really need, besides some herbs and spices, is a whole chicken.
The first thing you’re going to want to do will be to cut about a quarter inch off the bottom of the watermelon so it lies nice and flat on the pan. Then you’ll want to cut the watermelon about a third of the way down — the top third will be the lid, and the bottom two thirds the cooking vessel.
Next you’ll scoop out the guts of the watermelon which you can set aside for eating. Then all that’s left for prepping your bird is the seasoning. You can watch me season, bake, and taste my watermelon bird here:
3. Cooking a KFC Meal in a Rice Cooker
Another vessel in which you can cook a meal is a rice cooker. Normally reserved for just cooking rice, when I saw this recipe for KFC rice cooker chicken going viral in Japan, I had to see if it was also possible to cook a full meal in a rice cooker.
What you do for this recipe is take your KFC fried chicken and place it in the rice cooker with raw rice, allowing the rice cooker to cook the rice along with the already fried chicken.
So get yourself a bucket of fried chicken from KFC and wash a two “cups” of rice. (I say “cups” because the little cup that comes with a rice cooker is in fact more like 3/4 of a cup.)
Now instead of using water to cook the rice, for this recipe you’re going to use broth which you can make with one teaspoon of instant chicken boullion in water. You’re also going to add one tablespoon of soy sauce. Those additions, with the already seasoned chicken, will make for a flavorful chicken and rice dinner.
And depending on your rice cooker and the setting you use, it should take anywhere from 35 to 55 minutes to cook. When your rice cooker beeps, you should have a wonderful smelling dish. You can follow along with me in the video below:
4. Using a Flameless Ration Heater to Cook a Meal
Another somewhat unconventional way to cook is to use a flameless ration heater, a type of self-heating food packaging often included with meals-ready-to-eat, or MREs. Specifications by the U.S. military require the heater to be capable of raising the temperature of an 8-ounce entrée by 100 °F in twelve minutes without producing a visible flame.
How do they achieve this magic? Science! The ration heater contains finely powdered magnesium, along with iron and salt. When a small amount of water is added to these elements, an exothermic reaction occurs, driving the contents of the packet quickly to the boiling point of water, thus cooking your food.
You can watch me field testing an MRE with a flameless ration heater in the video below.
5. Cooking a Chicken with Hot Stones
Cooking with hot stones is, as you can imagine, a very primitive way of preparing a meal. And while the technique may be ancient, I did find the recipe in a modern cookbook called Not Your Mother’s Cook Book: Unusual Recipes for the Adventurous Cook (Amazon affiliate link.)
So for trying out this recipe, you’re going to need to collect some rocks. I found eight smallish rocks in total, making sure they were thoroughly dry by placing them on the hearth for a week before I was going to use them. (If there is any trapped water in rocks, they may splinter, crack, or even explode!)
While I executed this recipe indoors, using my fireplace to heat up the rocks, you may want to try this outside. You’ll also want to have a thermometer to keep a check on the bird’s internal temperature while it’s cooking. It should register 190 degrees Fahrenheit uniformly when it’s done.
And instead of a cooking vessel, in this recipe we’re going to be stuffing the hot rocks inside and under the bird, then wrapping the whole thing in layers of heavy duty foil. So you’ll be using the hot rocks to cook the chicken, not the fire per se.
For seasoning, I used Creole seasoning, but you can use any kind of all-purpose seasoning you like including just salt and pepper.
You’ll also want to have a pair of kitchen tongs with you for handling the hot rocks. You can follow along below if you’d like to try this recipe at home:
6. Cooking with Candles — Raclette
Another fun way to cook, a way that doesn’t require any electricity, is with candles. So if you’re ever in the midst of a power outage, or up in the mountains in your chalet off the grid, you can cook a simple yet delicious meal just using tea lights!
So what is raclette? Raclette is a type of cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland, well known for it’s beautiful meltability. It is often served on
top of cooked potatoes along with pickles or sometimes on toast.
And a raclette dinner refers to a little event that you may have with your friends, sharing glasses of wine, melting cheese together — you
get the idea.
And while electric raclette makers are readily available these days, I find the idea of cooking with tea candles so much more romantic. So follow along with me in the video below to see how raclette is done!
7. Cooking in Clay – Beggar’s Chicken
Another unconventional cooking technique is a Chinese dish that uses clay to encase and cook a whole chicken. The novelty and fun of this technique is that you get to crack it open with a mallet when it’s done!
My recipe was adapted from Cecilia Chiang’s Beggar’s Chicken found in her book The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey From Beijing to San Francisco. (Amazon affiliate link)
And while I took the extravagant step of foraging my own clay, you don’t need to go to such lengths. You can easily find air-dry clay at many retail stores.
Before wrapping the bird in clay, you will want to bathe your chicken in a salt water brine for about three hours. After that you’ll want to stuff the bird before wrapping it in lotus leaves and newspaper (you’ll need some butcher’s twine for this.)
You can find the recipe for both the stuffing and the dipping sauce here. To watch me perform the whole process, including eating this tasty dish, you can click below:
Happy cooking in crazy new unconventional ways, lovelies!