Can you cook dinner in your dishwasher?


Salmon cooked in your dishwasher may sound flaky, but does it work?

Sole food


We've been hearing stories of people cooking food in their dishwasher for years.

So, armed with a recipe for honey soy salmon (and custard with fruit compote for dessert), we set out to test, scientifically and with an emphasis on food safety, whether it's possible to prepare an edible two-course dinner in one.

In this article:

Which dishwasher is best for cooking? Only kidding. We can't tell you that. But we can tell you which ones are best for washing – see our latest dishwasher reviews.

Can you cook salmon in a dishwasher?

Yes! When we plated up (on dishes washed in the same cycle), our salmon had an internal temperature of 53.7° C. 

Despite the temperature fluctuations during the cooking process this was well within the safe temperature range for cooking salmon, so we hung up our instruments and sat down to lunch.

Watch our video to see the results for yourself:

How did it taste?

salmon rice spinach mushrooms finished meal on plate
The finished dish. It was, in a word, delicious.

It was, in a word, delicious. The salmon was cooked through, flaked nicely but wasn't soggy and tasted great, although admittedly it was a little overcooked. 

The rice was hot and fluffy, but the real standout was the spinach and mushrooms – we expected the spinach to be a little wilted, but it held its form and even maintained a little crispness.

The long cycle time also gave the cooking juices chance to develop in flavour, and it made an excellent finishing sauce when poured over the fish. And no, none of the wash water leaked into the food during cooking.

And because the best part of any meal is dessert, we rounded out the meal with a fruit compote and hot custard, also cooked in the dishwasher. 

The fruit compote was delicious, but unfortunately the custard, while tasting great, came out a little too runny. 

We suspect the cycle we used wasn't hot enough for custard, so we'll continue to refine our recipe, but in the meantime you could always serve the fruit with Greek yoghurt or premium vanilla ice cream.

Want to try it for yourself? See our 'dinner in a dishwasher' recipes.

Why does it work?

Think about your oven. It's a big box with a heating element in it that makes raw food very hot (in other words, cooking). 

Now think about your dishwasher. It's also a big box with a heating element in it. Sure, it also sprays a lot of water around and you're a little limited when it comes to choosing time and temperature settings, but there are definite parallels with your oven (or because of the water, your sous-vide machine).

So it's not too much of a stretch to imagine cooking all sorts of things in one once you've overcome a couple of rather significant hurdles:

salmon and rice packages in dishwasher
We put the ingredients in Ziploc bags to protect them from wash water and detergent.
  • All that water. The thought of your dinner soaked with wash water, detergent and gunk from your dinner plates is pretty unappealing. But popping your ingredients in a Ziploc bag protects them from all that (just to be safe, we double-bagged everything), and means you can wash your dirty dishes while cooking your dinner – so you can plate up on pre-warmed plates from the same cycle! In fact it's a good idea to pop some crockery in the dishwasher, because the fuller your machine is, the more stable the temperature, and stable temperatures make cooking easier.
  • Low cooking temperature. Your dishwasher doesn't get as hot as an oven, so you're not going to get the 'Maillard reaction' – in other words, your food won't brown. So depending on what you're cooking you may want to give it a quick sear in a pan before plating (a common step in many sous-vide recipes). Or, if you're a fishwasher purist like us and want to go direct from dishwasher to plate, use a dark coloured marinade or seasoning like soy sauce to bring a bit of colour to your meal.
  • Temperature fluctuations. Although your dishwasher will get hot enough to cook in, its internal temperature fluctuates throughout the cycle and you don't get a lot of choice when it comes to temperature settings or cooking time. This means you should lean towards foods and recipes that are going to be a little forgiving if time and temperature are a little bit out. For example, we chose salmon because it cooks at a lower temperature than many other proteins, and because it's safe to eat if not completely cooked through.

Why should I cook in a dishwasher?

There are a few scenarios when you might need to cook in your dishwasher:

  • You're craving a hot meal but your oven's broken and your slumlord of a landlord won't fix it.
  • You've got to run the dishwasher anyway, but the rising cost of electricity means you don't want to run two appliances at once.
  • You want to cook for a large group, and the roominess of your dishwasher means you can cook everything at the same time.
  • You're a uni student living in a share house, everyone's drunk, and it seems like a good idea at the time.

OK so realistically, other than as a fun experiment, there's very little reason you'd ever want to cook in your dishwasher. If you have any other option then we'd actually recommend you don't, a position backed by the manufacturer of the dishwasher we used, Miele, who are very keen to stress their dishwashers are not designed for use in food preparation and they do not condone or endorse doing so.

So why did we?

Because occasionally we get the opportunity to do something a little different. We also tend to get hungry...

Also, unlike others who have tried dishwasher dining, we wanted to take a uniquely scientific approach – using temperature, water and energy logging instruments inside the dishwasher to see exactly what was going on at every stage of the washing, sorry, cooking cycle.

Realistically, other than as a fun experiment, there's very little reason you'd ever want to cook in your dishwasher

We found that it maintained around 55° C for around half an hour, dipped briefly during the first rinse cycle, then climbed up to 70° for the second rinse cycle. (Why so hot? Because your dishwasher uses the final rinse cycle to build up a heat load in your plates so they can dry through evaporation). 

It then slowly dropped back to 50° over the following 40 minutes as our crockery dried, and the salmon finished cooking.

Our recipe for a dishwasher dinner for two:

salmon ingredients on table

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 x 250g salmon fillets, pin boned, skin on
  • 4 tbsp honey soy marinade
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp shichimi Togarashi (or chilli flakes)
  • 3 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 250g spinach
  • 150g mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 sachet pre-cooked coconut rice
  • Sesame seeds (to serve)

Method

Place the salmon in separate Ziploc bags.

Mix the honey soy marinade, two of the garlic cloves, shichimi togarashi, 1 tsp of chilli and ginger in a bowl.

Divide the marinade between each bag and massage into the salmon. Submerge the bags in water to squeeze all the air out and seal them, then double bag them.

Tip the spinach, chopped mushrooms, the remaining garlic and chilli flakes into a Ziploc bag and give it a good shake. Seal and double bag it.

Put your salmon, spinach and sachet of rice (no need to put this in a bag, it's already sealed) in the top rack of your dishwasher, fill the bottom rack with dirty plates, add a good quality dishwasher detergent and select a cycle that's going to be around 55° C. The Miele we used had an 'intensive 50 degree cycle'.

You won't really have a choice for cooking time as it's set by the dishwasher, but ours went for 1 hour 46 minutes.

When the cycle finishes, take out two clean plates from the bottom rack and divide the rice, salmon and vegetables between them. Drizzle over any leftover cooking sauce, season and top the salmon with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • 2 cups milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
  • 2 apples, peeled, de-seeded and cut into eight pieces
  • 2 pears, peeled, de-seeded and cut into eight pieces
  • 3 plums, quartered and stone removed
  • Seeds of ½ pomegranate
  • 3 tbsp Triple sec

Method

Combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, milk, salt and nutmeg (if using) in a blender and mix for at least one minute.

Pour the mixture into jam jars (you may need a couple depending on the size of your jars), screw the lids on and place into the top rack of the dishwasher.

For the fruit compote, put the apples, pears, plums and pomegranate seeds into a Ziploc bag and drizzle with Triple Sec.

Seal the bag and give it a good shake, then put it in the dishwasher with the custard.

Cook on the hottest setting your dishwasher has (usually the intensive pots and pans setting) for a little over an hour (you may need to stop the cycle early).

When the cycle finishes, take the custard and compote out the dishwasher. Leaving the custard in the jam jar, top each with the fruit compote and serve.

Over to you

Have you ever cooked in your dishwasher? Will you try these recipes? 

Let us know how you go in the comments below, or join our conversation on Can you cook salmon in your dishwasher at CHOICE Community.


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