MIDDLE OF NOWHERE — Coconut-crusted shrimp are crisping in the air fryer and vegetables are sizzling on the electric grill. Lunch is almost ready, but despite the use of electric appliances, no Manitoba Hydro electrons were the least bit inconvenienced in the process.
I’ve pulled off the road somewhere in the middle of nowhere (somewhere in the RM of Ritchot, actually) and set up the kitchen in the bed of a 2021 Ford F-150 Powerboost Hybrid. On board is a 7.2-kilowatt power centre feeding four 120-volt outlets and one 240-volt outlet.
I’m barely taxing its capabilities, which Ford says include the ability to run an entire job site. If I had a small refrigerator, no problem. If I was building a shed or a deck and wanted to cook chili for the crew while circular saws or electric drills were doing their thing, easy peasy.
This isn’t a story that attempts to say you need to spend $83,713 on this particular pickup to cook al fresco — Hibachis and portable gas grills have been doing that for about $83,613 less for decades — but is rather just a fun spin on a couple of recipes you might like to try at home, while spotlighting some new technology in the move towards greater electrification of vehicles.
In addition to the grilled veggies, I chose two air-fryer recipes specifically because they can’t realistically be replicated on a barbecue. One turned out delicious while the other… more on that later.
The shrimp combined grated unsweetened coconut, Panko bread crumbs, egg and flour to create a crispy crust despite the lack of deep-frying. It’s important for crispiness that you preheat the air-fryer first, to 410 F. Shrimp cook exceptionally quickly, so while chicken fingers and the like might take 20 minutes, these exoskeletal sensations take only five minutes per side.
I paired them with a salad of grilled vegetables — red pepper, zucchini, eggplant — and cool, crisp cucumber and cherry tomatoes for a variety of texture and temperatures. Once combined, they were tossed in a lemon vinaigrette I whipped up at home before heading out.
Vinaigrettes are cheap and easy, and let you ditch expensive store-bought dressings and some of their associated preservatives: a little acid, in this case, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, a dab of dijon mustard and salt and pepper is all you need. In my case, I added some thyme. Pack your dressing in a sealed container before you go and a quick shake on site will re-emulsify it all for you.
The lemon was what tied the two dishes together: a squirt of fresh lemon made the shrimp come alive.
Dessert was to have been air-fryer apple fritters... let’s just say that recipe will need a bit of perfecting. The fritters tasted fine, but the batter may have been too moist: instead of individual fritters it turned into a puddle before cooking through.
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Cooking with the truck’s power supply was as easy as plugging in at home, but, out of an abundance of caution given it’s not my truck, I opted to place the appliances on the bed of the truck rather than the tailgate. The tailgate is very handy, with measuring marks and pockets to attach C-clamps for woodworking, but I was worried the heat from the grill and fryer might deform the plastic.
Reaching across the tailgate was less than ideal: next time, I’d bring a piece of plywood to act as a countertop or place the appliances on their own table.
Because the truck is a hybrid and not a full-on electric, it splits the work of propulsion and electrical generation between the gas motor and the electric system, which is less robust than in a full electric vehicle. It means you can keep going for as long as you can keep fuel in the tank, but it also means you have to leave the truck’s power on when using the on-board power. That doesn’t mean the engine is constantly running, however. It will fire up when needed to top up the batteries, but for the most part, stayed off.
The move to electrify trucks — Ford is launching a full-electric F-150 Lightning next year — and crossovers represents a significant step forward for electric vehicles: in a market that in 2020 was 82 per cent trucks and crossovers, expecting a small hatchback or sedan, EV or otherwise, to gain any degree of market share is optimistic. Crossovers and trucks offer carmakers more flexibility in pricing, to help pay for the technology, and their popularity means economy of scale for EVs will arrive sooner.
Tailgate parties may never be the same: a blender for margaritas (virgin if you’re driving, of course), an air-fryer for the obligatory crispy snacks and some tunes to drown out that football game you’re probably not going to see live anyway... and you’re set.
Kelly Taylor Copy Editor, Autos Reporter
Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.
For the vegetables: clean and slice eggplant and zucchini into 1-cm (1/2-inch) slices. Core pepper and open so it lies flat. Clean and slice cucumber into 1-cm (1/2-inch) slices and then cut slices into four quarters. Coat vegetables in olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. On a hot grill, char eggplant and zucchini slices and pepper on both sides. Set aside pieces when cooked. Once all pieces are done, cut into bites similar in size to cucumber quarters. Taste a piece of vegetable, add salt if necessary. Mix vegetables and then toss with vinaigrette.
For the vinaigrette: Zest lemon into dish, then follow with the juice. Add Dijon and roughly twice as much olive oil as juice. Mix vigourously. Add salt and pepper to taste. If preparing ahead, pour into a sealable container and then shake vigourously before dressing vegetables.
Air-fryer coconut shrimp
10 shrimp, 16 count or larger, peeled and deveined
125 ml (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder
125 ml (1/2 cup) coconut flakes
125 ml (1/2 cup) panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Mix pepper and flour and place in a small dish. Mix coconut and panko crumbs and place in a small dish. Beat eggs in small dish. Dredge shrimp in flour mixture, then eggs and, after allowing excess egg to run off, dredge in coconut and panko mixture. Lay shrimp on a cookie sheet or cutting board without allowing shrimp to touch. When done, preheat air fryer to 200 C (400 F). Do shrimp in two batches to prevent crowding. Cook each batch for three minutes, flip and cook for three more. As soon as each batch comes out of fryer, sprinkle on salt to taste.
Serve with your favourite dipping sauce.
Plenty of juice under the hood
What does the truck give you besides an expensive power supply? Lots of acceleration and really good fuel economy, too. It's rated at 9.8 litres per 100 kilometres combined, which is better than some passenger cars. After a week, the average is reading 13.3 litres per 100 kilometres and falling. Even that is a marked improvement over the real-world mileage of its gas-only siblings, all of which have higher "official" fuel consumption ratings. It will also tow 11,000 pounds, which is a pretty decent camper trailer.
The base price of the hybrid is a hair more than $50,000. That's starting to get competitive with gas-only F-150s when comparing similar capabilities. A gas F-150, with the same SuperCrew four-door cab, capable of 11,000 pounds towing, is a couple of thousand less. If you're a contractor and can save yourself buying a separate generator (about $2,000), the gap is even closer.
The subject vehicle was an upmarket Lariat edition with a number of upgrades, including four-wheel drive, power running boards, power moonroof, a host of semi-autonomous driving aids as well as the upgrade to the 7.2-kilowatt power supply (a 2.4-kW supply is standard on hybrids). The final sticker was $83,715, including freight and delivery.