- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

CONCORD, N.H. — It’s hard to imagine something less appetizing than dishwater, but I’ve managed.Try dinner cooked in dishwater.

Sound farfetched? Believe it or not, there are people who savor the taste of meals cooked nice and juicy with the help of a little dishwater, sometimes complete with soap.

This odd culinary exploration began during a friend’s potluck dinner party. One guest had prepared poached salmon, which prompted our hostess to mention rumors she had heard about people cooking salmon in their dishwashers.

Disbelieving but intrigued, I later searched the Internet in an effort to debunk this silly urban legend.



So much for debunking. Apparently quite a few people are fond of poaching salmon in this manner. The Internet abounds in recipes, and although most varied the seasonings, all used essentially the same technique.

Wrap the fish tightly in foil, place in the dishwasher (according to some, right alongside the dirty dishes and soap pellet), then start the cycle and lay back while the appliance simultaneously poaches and scrubs your pots.

Among the more fervent dishwasher cooks is Bob Blumer, host of “The Surreal Gourmet” on the Food Network.

In an article on Salon.com, Mr. Blumer explains that dishwasher cooking is a relatively foolproof system and that just about any make or model machine should be up to the task.

He also advises that the dishwasher should be run as hot as possible, avoiding the economy and cool-dry settings.

Mr.Blumer said that soap and dirty dishes are no deterrent to a good meal. “Poach the salmon with yesterday’s dishes and lemon-scented dishwasher detergent (I do it this way all the time),” he wrote.

Armed with this advice, I decided to do my own testing, but I wanted to see whether my 1-year-old stainless steel beauty of a dishwasher could hold its own against my stove when it came to cooking vegetables rather than salmon.

I invited a few friends (my wife sat warily in another room, refusing to participate), and prepared three simple vegetable dishes I normally would steam — broccoli with sesame seed oil and almond slivers, carrots with butter and dill, and butternut squash with olive oil and mixed herbs. For fun, I also prepped a handful of soy-meat and feta-cheese wonton dumplings, a dish I normally would steam in a bamboo basket.

For foil I used the new foil bags intended, I think, mostly for roasting meat and grilling vegetables. I figured fewer seams meant less of a chance water would seep in.

As for cooking with soap and dirty dishes? No, thanks. In fact, I ran my dishwasher empty on the sanitize cycle before so much as a morsel of food made it onto the racks.

Taking Mr. Blumer’s advice of cranking up the heat, I set the dishwasher on sanitize again, which according to my manual brings the water up to 150 degrees. I questioned whether this would be enough to render cooked vegetables.

As the dishwasher chugged along — two large foil packets on each rack — one guest offered his grandmother’s antique clothes-washing machine for my next dinner party. He claimed it can boil water, allowing me to expand the menu to include pasta.

As the washing continued, I realized that cooking in my dishwasher wasn’t the only first that evening. Never before had a guest been inclined to read the machine’s manual at the dinner table, or wonder aloud whether McDonald’s was still open.

The moment of truth. We opened the dishwasher and out poured a satisfying plume of steam. The carrots were first. I opened the bag and was pleased to see little water had leaked in. The taste? Like lightly cooked carrots. That was the highlight. The broccoli was good, at least as warmed raw broccoli sprinkled with sesame oil and almond slivers goes.

The large crowns clearly needed more heat to soften.

The same went for the squash, which wasn’t even close to cooked. Admittedly, it was optimistic to try butternut squash.

I’m not sure what happened to the dumplings, which ended up a soggy mess. Perhaps the wontons acted like sponges (although they behave just fine in the steamer. I’m guessing it’s the temperature).

The only saving grace of this dinner was that one guest had brought bread and I had set aside enough dumplings to be cooked the old-fashioned way.

Perhaps this method really does produce great salmon, but as cooking techniques for vegetarians go, this one leaves something to desire.

For the brave, I offer the only recipe that my dishwasher turned out well, the carrots with butter and dill. The real merit here is the shock value for your guests, and I’m betting kids would love to see dinner come out of the dishwasher.

Timing on these recipes is imprecise, at best. As Mr. Blumer said, set your dishwasher as hot as possible and let it go the full cycle.

Try not to look in on it as it washes; as with stoves, this releases the heat (and that’s probably the only similarity).

As for cooking with soap and dirty dishes? That’s your call.

Dishwasher carrots with butter and dill

The preparation time varies by dishwasher model.

1 pound carrots, cut into thin rounds or matchsticks

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon dry dill

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the carrots, butter and dill in large bowl and toss with a spoon to combine.

Transfer the carrots to a large foil bag, or packet made by crimping and folding together the three sides of a large sheet of foil folded in half.

To test the airtightness of it, gently press on the bag. If air escapes easily, reseal.Place the bag on the top rack of the dishwasher (which, since heat rises, presumably is warmer).

Be careful that the rack doesn’t puncture the bag. Set the dishwasher on its hottest setting and start.

To serve, transfer the carrots back to the bowl and toss again. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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