Experiments in Cooking: Salmon Poached in the Dishwasher
Last week, a Smithsonian editor sent me a screen capture of a portion of her Facebook news feed. A friend's status update read, "It's official: salmon cooked in the dishwasher, complete with dishes and soap, is not only delicious but a boon for the lazy person (e.g., me)." *
The post was lit up with comments. Several people expressed disbelief and fired off questions to help them make sense of it. What do you put it in? Aluminum foil. What's the benefit to using the dishwasher instead of the oven? It's brainless. It's effortless. The experimental cook had a quick response for everyone—even the friend who declared her stark raving mad. "Come try it, flaked into pasta with peas and a light alfredo sauce," she typed. "Then tell me I'm mad."
The editor who had passed the idea along to me wouldn't try it. Her reasoning: she is a more sophisticated cook than that. Another co-worker said he didn't eat salmon. And another was without a dishwasher. So, I volunteered to be the guinea pig and put the technique to the test.
Materials and Methods
I went to my local Whole Foods, where I briefly considered buying small portions of both salmon and steak, so that if the "surf" turned out to be mushy mess, my husband and I could at least enjoy the "turf." But, ultimately, I decided to go all in and bought a large salmon fillet. If the fish wasn't cooked through after one dishwashing cycle, I figured I could salvage it by baking it the oven.
The dishwasher-specific recipes I found on the internet were all quite similar, and seemed simple enough. I tore off two sheets of aluminum foil, placed one on top of the other and drizzled some olive oil on it. Then, I placed the salmon fillet on the foil and lightly seasoned it with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Some recipes recommend adding dill as well, but not a fan of the herb, I decided to kick it up a bit more with some lemon pepper and topped it with a tab of butter. Next, I folded the foil over the fillet, flattened it and tightly folded all the edges.
I put the wrapped fillet in the top rack of the dishwasher and set the dial to a normal cycle. Several sources say that as long as the foil is tightly sealed, you can run a full load of dishes with detergent. But, for the purposes of this experiment, I opted to play it safe and ran the dishwasher empty.
I was more keenly aware of the gushes and wooshes of my dishwasher knowing that my dinner was being subjected to them all. But when the cycle was complete, I peeled open the foil to find a rather normal looking fillet of salmon (with the exception of the foamy layer of butter—if you try this at home, I might suggest leaving that off). More importantly though, it was, in fact, cooked to perfection.
I can see how cooking your dinner in a loaded dishwasher is like killing two birds with one stone. Combining the two tasks into one is environmentally friendly and could save you some on your electricity bill. But I didn't find the process any simpler than baking the fish in the oven (aside from the fact that I didn't have to clean a baking dish). The prep work was about the same. And the cooking time was significantly longer. I hadn't ever paid attention to the length of my dishwasher's cycle, but it was an hour and a half, and a hungry one at that! Needless to say, I won't be making a routine of it. But it was well worth the experiment.
If you want to amaze dinner guests or your kids, I suggest you try it!
*The author of the Facebook post was Amy Rogers Nazarov, a food and technology writer who blogs at www.wordkitchen.net/blog. She is now weighing the pros and cons of cooking a steak on the engine of her 2005 Toyota Matrix.