The Joy of Dishwasher Cooking

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On November 21, 1975, horror movie icon Vincent Price appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and proceeded to horrify the audience with his strange and abhorrent behavior. He cooked salmon in a dishwasher.

Price was a gourmet cook, which is another story entirely. The real takeaway here is that he may have pioneered—or at least popularized—the art of dishwasher cuisine, using the appliance’s steam-filled enclosure to poach food in a manner MacGyver would envy.

As a National Public Radio story explained, preparing fish in the rinse cycle usually requires the chef to wrap their dish in aluminum foil or plastic to ward off the circulating water. Add lemon and seasonings and then place on the top rack. Because the temperature inside the washer hovers between 130 and 170 degrees, you’ll likely be leaving the fish in for several cycles: longer cooking at lower temperatures results in moist, flavorful salmon, though kitchen hackers have also tried tuna, veal, and, in a memorable mini-MythBusters segment, lasagna.

One baker, Seattle’s Jay Glass, even used a non-running dishwasher to proof bagel dough. (The humid environment is perfect for rising yeast.)

While seemingly a novelty act, alternative cooking does have advantages. Because of the watertight seal, the notorious “fish smell” of heated seafood is locked away. And if you place your dinner in an airtight glass jar or vacuum-sealed bag, you’ll technically be able to wash a load of dishes at the same time without cross-contamination.

Scores of people on YouTube have filmed their experiments, though food safety experts warn that fish should reach at least 145 degrees in order to be safely consumed. Meats (chicken, beef, veal) require a minimum of 160 degrees, so you may be playing bacterial roulette depending on the make and model of your dishwasher. And if you’re wrapping your dinner loosely, you’ll want to avoid detergent. Fresh fish marinated in Cascade tends to put off guests. Then again, so might asking them if they want their salmon air-dried.