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November 2011 Column Shift

Posted in Features on November 1, 2011
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Technology can be a wonderful thing, especially when it improves the quality of life and helps society to move forward. The automotive industry has always been at the forefront of technological change, and much of that is seen in new engines—such as Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6.

With its aluminum construction, composite intake, composite valve covers, and no external exhaust manifolds, the Pentastar is a leap into the future for Chrysler. The entire engine is now hidden under an acoustic shroud to keep engine noise down—a trend that is spreading among new vehicles. And that got me thinking. Where the heck do I put my manifold burritos now?

I was personally introduced to manifold burritos sometime in the ’90s after our sister magazine Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road Editor Rick Péwé began writing about them in print. Rick says he started making these delicacies of wheeling sometime in the late ’70s and has enjoyed them ever since. Evidently manifold cooking has become quite popular, considering that there are now books and websites dedicated to the subject.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, one of wheeling’s own culinary treasures is the manifold burrito. Easily prepped ahead of the trip, a manifold burrito is a tortilla stuffed with a mix of your favorite burrito fillings, like beans, meat, cheese, and veggies. I like to make mine at home before the trip, wrap them in foil and stuff them in the cooler until I am ready to cook them. When the time comes, place the burrito under the hood in a safe spot that conducts a lot of heat, such as the intake manifold or exhaust manifolds.

Great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, they are best dropped on to the engine a few miles from your lunch stop or camp. When everyone else starts pulling out cold cuts, I like to pull out a hot meal ready to serve. Culinary experts of the trail, such as Péwé, go beyond the manifold burrito and whip up meals like bacon and eggs, stew, or chili. For those lacking cooking skills, you can always pick up some frozen burritos at the store and wrap those in foil. They cook, if not taste, just as good.

For those in the know, the real arguments revolve around whether one should cook said burritos over a six-cylinder or an eight-cylinder. Of course those in the eight-cylinder camp will argue that V-8 cook times are faster and the food has a more powerful flavor. Six-cylinder guys say that the food goes down smoother and takes less fuel to make. And don’t even get me started on those diesel guys, but it is said their burritos tend to be oily.

When making anything in the engine compartment, be sure that the “oven” isn’t leaking any caustic chemicals that could contaminate your meal, and make sure that your meal is contained in its packaging so as not to leak over the engine. You might just find that those electronic components on newer cars are a little sensitive to burrito juice.

So what are future Jeep owners to do when they want a manifold burrito on the trail? Perhaps they can convince a buddy to lift his hood. Or perhaps, as Samuel Clemens once proclaimed, “The report of the manifold burrito’s death is exaggerated.” Or something like that. We’ll have access to the ’12 Wrangler for our “Of The Year” testing, and we may just add this to our test regimen to make sure this tradition can be carried on with the new engine.

So maybe this isn’t the end after all, but no matter what happens, manifold burritos will always live on in our hearts—if not under our hoods.

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