|How To Cook With Lava
|Important Note: It is illegal to cook food in lava or remove lava from the Hawai'i Volcanos National Park. All the activities shown on this page were done outside of the park boundries on the Lower Puna side.
Additional Note: This page assumes you have read and understood our Cautions and Warnings page that deals with dangers you should be aware at the active lava field.
John Alexander, owner of the Dolphin Bay Hotel in Hilo is also one of the InstantHawaii Team Members. He has graciously let us include this page from his hotel's website. This is John's recipe for lava cooking and it is John pictured in all the photos below.
Step 1: Preparation|
|1||Game Hen or Pork Loin|
|8||Ti or Banana Leaves|
|1||Shovel and Gloves|
|2||Scoops 2000°F fresh lava|
|Spice the Game Hen to individual taste and wrap it in leaves, one leaf at a time.|
Step 2: Prepare Oven|
With a shovel you don't plan on using again... gather a good amount of 2000° F lava. Try to find lava from a recent breakout, where the lava is fairly fluid.
Once you have a shovel full, place it on the ground far enough away from the lava field that you won't worry about having to move it.
Step 3: Position Food|
Once you place the lava on the ground have your assistant position the leaf-wrapped food in the center of the lava blob. They will want to wear gloves for this operation, as the lava is VERY hot.
While your assistant is positioning the food, prepare another shovel full of lava for the next step.
Step 4: Seal Oven|
While your assistant holds the food against the oven base, drop a second blob of lava on top of the food.
Try to leave a very small opening in the lava for steam to escape from the food. This helps avoid bubbles and steam explosions while cooking.
Step 5: Start Cooking|
The Game Hen is now cooking nicely, at 2000°. In this view of our Game Hen... you can see the opening we left for the steam to escape.
This is a good point to sit back, have a drink and watch the beautiful lava as it flows in front of you.
Step 6: Cook 45 Minutes|
Cooking on lava takes about as much time as cooking in an oven, even though we're using such high heat.
Keep the Game Hen cooking for about 45 minutes. The rock oven will cool down to about 800° F fairly quickly, and then down to 450° F within about 20 minutes. The Ti leaves help protect the food from burning.
Step 7: Break and Eat|
To get at the food simply hit the rock oven with the shovel and it will easily break open.
Most of the Ti leaves will have burnt off by the cooking process... flake their charred remains aside and dig into the moist and tasty food.
Be sure to give some to the Goddess Pele -- after all, it is her volcano kitchen we're using!
Did the Hawaiians cook with lava? As far as we can determine, probably not - for a number of reasons. First, the practicalities of the situation - while we have proper boots, gloves that can withstand 2000°F, and metal shovels the early Hawaiians had none of these things. It would have been very difficult for them to approach the lava close enough to use it for cooking. Second, given the Hawaiian's religious views they would probably not have been keen on the idea of using the lava for cooking. However, it would certainly be possible for them to have used cooler lava, such as a flow that is a few hours old for heating and cooking.
Chasing Lava: A Geologist's Adventures at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
Hawai'i's Volcanos: Legends and Facts
Hawai'i Volcano Watch: A Pictorial History, 1779-1991
Mauna Loa: World's Largest Active Volcano
Hawai'i's Kilauea Volcano: The Flow to the Sea
Volcano - Fountains of Fire
Lava Flows and Lava Tubes
2003 Eruption Update: A Firsthand Account of the Current Eruption of Kilauea Volcano
2004 Eruption Update: A Firsthand Account of the Current Eruption of Kilauea Volcano