There's creative cooking, and then there's creative cooking. The former may be coming up with a new recipe for chicken. The latter requires something more unusual--like, for example, cooking salmon, chicken or vegetables in a coffee maker.
Industrious chefs have come up with a few creative ways to cook food in coffee makers. The enclosure at the top of the coffee maker can house and steam veggies. Food inside the coffee pot, like a chicken breast, can be slowly poached over the burner. Eggs and other foods can even be boiled inside the coffee pot. And without the pot, the burner can serve as a makeshift grill.
"We tried making the classic coffee maker meal: poached salmon with steamed broccoli and couscous," writes NPR. "The veggies steam up in the basket while the couscous and salmon take turns in the carafe. The salmon looked a little scary while it was poaching. But the whole meal actually turned out pretty tasty. Was it gourmet? No. But it was healthful and quick to prepare — about 20 minutes total. And the cleanup was superfast."
NPR points out that coffee maker cooking is more energy efficient than using the stove, drawing about 1000 watts versus about 1500 watts, though those numbers obviously vary between appliances. For some people, though, coffee maker cooking isn't about efficiency or finding a quirky alternative to the stove. Jody Anderson, one of the coffee maker's proponents, started developing recipes for her nephew who was in the army. The only appliance he had in his room was a coffee maker, so she came up with ways he could prepare his own meals.
"Trying different containers and taking their temperatures to see how hot the water would get and to see if I could raise it became an obsession with me," she writes. " I tried a metal camp cup first. It would hold 2 cups of something, would not break and was easy to wash...The secret is using a lid to hold in the temperature and raise it even more. If you want to fry or bake you will need a sierra cup, and don’t forget the lid."
And coffee-maker cooking isn't that weird, when you think about it. It has a burner and a container perfectly designed for steaming. But NPR also recently wrote about another creative cooking alternative that's even more out there: dishwasher cooking.
The basic idea: wrap fish and veggies in aluminum foil, seasoned to taste, and place them on the dishwasher rack. "The hot water and steam essentially poach the salmon," writes NPR. "And at the low temperature, about 140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, the fish cooks very slowly, so it turns creamy and soft."
Of course, that's inefficient. You can't add soap to the wash cycle, or it'll ruin the food, and dishwashers use a lot more water and energy than coffee makers. But there's another alternative: add the food to a normal dishwasher run, including soap, but seal everything in a glass jar or a vacuum-sealed bag. The food stays clean and gets thoroughly steamed at a low temperature. Dinner and a clean plate to serve it on arrive simultaneously.