AUSTIN (KXAN) – A volcano 20 miles southwest of the Icelandic capitol of Reykjavik erupted March 19 for the first time in 800 years.
Although a “minor” eruption according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the volcano drew crowds and scientists from around the world. While many decided to take photos of the event, others decided to roast hotdogs. Seriously.
So it got us thinking — is it safe to cook food over lava?
The danger of cooking this way emerges in three ways: heat, gas and water.
First, the obvious problem is lava, which is molten-hot magma once it has emerged from beneath the Earth’s surface. It burns at around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, about 10 times the temperature of your average barbecue smoker.
As any good barbecuer knows, slapping meat down on a grill that hot will simply char the outside and leave the inside undercooked. Chefs looking to cook over lava will need a high grill, with feet that can withstand the high heat, according to Forbes.
Second, the gasses lava releases are poisonous. According to the United States Geological Survey, Carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and hydrogen halides are all dangerous to humans. It doesn’t appear that those poisonous gasses can make your food poisonous, but the sulfur can make your food taste bad (think rotten eggs). That same Forbes article recommends a fan to blow that sulfur, and other poisonous gasses, away from your food.
Finally, if water droplets hit the lava they will cause steam eruptions. This steam is very hot and could not only hurt you but also ruin your food. Imagine a steamed steak that’s overdone. Gross.
Here’s the thing, cooking over lava has been done before. A quick Google search yields videos of people roasting marshmallows and grilling over the fiery stuff. Since the 1970’s, a restaurant on the island of Lanzarote, El Diablo, has been grilling meats over a volcanic vent. Also, in 2014, Chef Sam Bompas used an active volcano in Japan to whip up a meal.
Again, cooking over lava is extremely dangerous. So while it is possible, we wouldn’t recommend it.