Your Dashboard Can Get Hot Enough to Bake Banana Bread

Image courtesy: The Drive

Summer in certain parts of the world can feel like living in an oven, especially in places like southern Arizona. The scorching heat can turn your car into a literal baking device, as demonstrated by park rangers at Saguaro National Park. This park, located in southern Arizona and known for its towering saguaro cacti that can reach up to 40 feet high, experiences average high temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit in June and July, and staying above 90ºF for five months of the year.

On a particularly hot day with the temperature reaching 97ºF at 11:00 am, park rangers conducted a unique experiment to show just how quickly a car’s interior can heat up. They filled two loaf pans with banana bread batter topped with chocolate chips and placed them on a car’s dashboard. Within an hour, the dashboard temperature soared to 200ºF, eventually reaching a peak of 211ºF after three hours—just one degree shy of water’s boiling point.

While the banana bread didn’t bake to perfection and remained a bit “squishy” inside, this experiment highlighted a significant fact: cars can get extremely hot, fast. Recommended baking temperatures for banana bread are usually above 350ºF to achieve the Maillard reaction, which gives baked goods their delicious brown crust and complex flavors. Cooking at lower temperatures, such as those achieved inside the car, can still cook the food but not as effectively.

For a better result in this kind of “car baking,” park rangers suggest trying cookies instead. Being thinner, they will bake faster and more evenly compared to banana bread. However, the main takeaway from this experiment is a safety reminder: never leave items, pets, or children in a car during the summer. If you don’t want something slow-cooked like a crock pot, it’s best to take it indoors. The intense heat can be dangerous, rendering even “dog mode” unreliable. So, while sun-baked treats might sound fun, they underscore the importance of vehicle safety in extreme heat.

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