HERC Candle Oven: Indoor Emergency Cooking Solution

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The HERC Candle Oven is a great oven for baking indoors during a power outage. The thing that sets this cooking device apart from others is that it uses inexpensive tea lights as a fuel source.

How can I bake indoors during a power outage? The HERC Candle Oven is a great option for baking and cooking indoors during a power outage. It is powered by inexpensive tea lights that have an indefinite shelf life and can be safely stored indoors.

We used the candle oven during our 30-day grid-down cooking challenge and I learned to greatly appreciate it. In this post, we will share what we learned about using a HERC Candle Oven during a grid-down event.

What is a HERC Candle Oven?

The HERCules (Home Emergency Radiant Cooking) Candle Oven was designed to be a valuable tool for cooking indoors during an emergency. This sturdy, portable oven is powered by inexpensive tea lights and can be safely used indoors. It can bake, cook and even dehydrate.

Titan Ready USA offers two versions of the candle oven for sale. The actual cooking temperatures that you achieve and the usable burn time of tea lights will vary depending on the tea light. Some tea lights burn hotter or last longer than other tea lights. Visit Titan Ready USA to learn more.

Eco HERC Candle Oven

Eco HERC Oven is the smaller candle oven. It takes up less space and uses less fuel than the HERC XXL. It is not as popular as the larger version and may be hard to find.

The Eco uses 10 tea lights to bake for 4 hours (depending on the type of tea lights used). It measures 12 inches long by 12 inches wide by 9 inches high and will accommodate a 9” x 11” pan. The Eco weighs about 11 pounds.

HERC XXL Candle Oven

I fell in love with the HERC XXL Candle Oven during our cooking challenge. It is large enough to bake casserole or cake in a 9”x13” pan. It is the perfect size to feed our entire family. I was incredibly grateful to be able to bake indoors without firing up the wood-burning stove when it was cold and dark outside.

The website states that the HERC XXL will bake at 350° but we found that we achieved temperatures closer to 300°F using 20 tea lights which worked fine for our purposes. It measures 19 inches long by 12 inches wide by 12 inches high. It weighs about 28 pounds. The viewing window is made from tempered oven glass.

How Does a HERC Candle Oven Work?

The HERC Candle Ovens use a couple of thermal energy transfer methods; convection (movement of hot air) and electromagnetic radiation (radiant heat). The HERC oven captures the thermal energy from the tea lights and uses quarry stones as thermal mass to regulate the temperature to evenly cook food.

In plain English, that means that 20 tea lights are lit and placed in trays under the oven. The heat from the candles flows up into the oven and warms the tiles on the bottom and top of the oven. The tiles retain the heat and make it possible to sustain the temperature and heat evenly.

It takes 20 to 30 minutes to preheat the HERC and then it evenly cooks or bakes the food. We placed a thermometer inside of the HERC oven and it didn’t ever actually read 350°F. However, the food baked just fine.

The food seemed to cook a little bit slower than in a conventional oven but that also meant that I didn’t burn anything. Huge bonus for me!

HERC Candle Oven Cooking Adventure

We accepted the challenge to go for 30 days without using electricity to cook our food. You can learn more about our adventures at 30 Day Grid-Down Cooking Challenge – Lessons Learned and Fuel Usage.

At the beginning of the challenge, I had only used the HERC Candle Oven a couple of times just to experiment with it. By the end of our challenge, I had fallen in love with my HERC.

Simple and Convenient to Use

The HERC oven is incredibly simple to use. I left it right on my kitchen countertop and attend to other things in the kitchen while it baked away. I much preferred cooking in the kitchen than running back and forth outside in the cold and dark. Our kids were able to easily cook with it.

As a precaution, I placed two cutting boards under the oven to protect my counter from scratches or dripping wax. Not sure that was necessary but I’m pretty fond of my counters.

Big Enough to Feed the Family

I love the size of the HERC XXL Candle Oven because it will fit a 9’x13” pan which is the perfect size to feed our family. I baked a shepherd’s pie, pizza, brownies, cake, lemon bars, potatoes, and all kinds of creations using the oven.

I even thawed frozen berries to have on top of pancakes because I couldn’t use the microwave.

Baking indoors during a power outage is challenging. The majority of portable non-electric cooking devices that can be used indoors to bake are limited to wood-burning cookstoves and vented propane stoves.

The HERC oven is one of the few portable devices that I know of that can safely bake indoors. It was really nice to be able to bake indoors during our challenge. The HERC allowed us to eat our favorite baked foods even without electricity.

Several times during our challenge, we did try baking in our wood-burning stove. I found that my skills definitely need to be improved while food is cheap and available.

Candle Oven Cooks Slowly

As a general rule, it usually took about 10 to 20 minutes longer to bake the food in the candle oven than what I would expect from my conventional oven. I felt that was a small price to pay to be able to cook inside and know that I wasn’t going to end up with charcoal surprise for dinner.

Slow Cooker and Food Warmer

The night I made shepherd’s pie, some of the family ate dinner at a normal time, but it was a few hours before the girls got home and were able to eat. Remember … no microwave means cold food.

My electric slow cooker is one of my best friends when it comes to feeding my family healthy food on their crazy schedules. I decided that I would place the shepherd’s pie back in the candle oven with only one tray of tea lights lit. The results were amazing! The girls were able to eat a hot, delicious dinner even without a microwave or slow cooker.

Easy Clean-Up

The owner’s manual states that the stainless steel HERC oven is dishwasher safe. The stone tiles are not. You will notice that I’ve used mine a lot and it looks well-loved. One trip through the dishwasher and it is still well-loved but much cleaner.  

Cooking with Tea Lights

Unscented tea lights burn cleanly and are a fairly safe cooking fuel. We did have a couple of times when the liquid paraffin ignited and we had a little flash fire that was easily taken care of by simply smothering the flames with the metal plate provided or a damp washcloth.

All flames require sufficient oxygen to burn efficiently and safely. Candle wicks must be trimmed to ¼” to keep them from falling over and causing a problem. We kept a digital readout carbon monoxide detector right by the candle oven when we were cooking and never measured any carbon monoxide emissions.

Tea lights are inexpensive, safe to store and will last pretty much forever. That means that I can store plenty of fuel for my HERC oven in buckets in my basement with the rest of my food storage.

Repurposing Leftover Wax

Not all of the tea lights burn at exactly the same rate. Once most of the tea lights in a tray are exhausted, we dump the remaining hot wax over paper-board egg cartons that we had filled with dryer lint and shredded paper to create fantastic fire starters for our wood-burning stove.

HERC Candle Oven Advantages

The HERC Candle Oven offers many advantages when it comes to power outage cooking. Having used this oven in a month-long grid-down challenge gave me a unique appreciation for it. It is definitely one device that I want in my power outage cooking arsenal.

Simple to Operate

Operation of the HERC Candle Oven is straight forward with a very short learning curve. I had this oven mastered after only a few uses. It is dependable and consistently produces similar results.

Quality – Built to Last

The HERC oven incredibly durable and built to last for many years. It is built from high-quality stainless steel. I am confident that the HERC oven will outlast almost any disaster. The HERC oven is made from 18 gauge stainless steel.

Convenient to Store – Portable

The oven is easily assembled and disassembled, and folds away into a carrying bag for convenient storage. It is heavy due to the quality parts, but it takes up little space and can be easily transported.

No Burnt Food

The HERC Candle Oven bakes evenly without burning food in the process. It cooks at a little bit lower temperature but I will trade a few extra minutes in the candle oven for the burnt cinnamon rolls in my wood burning stove anytime.

No Unpleasant Odors

Unscented tea lights burn cleanly and do not fill the air with smoke or unpleasant odors. In addition, there are no unpleasant odors or flavors added to the food that may result from cooking with some fuels such as wood or charcoal.  

Safe, Inexpensive Cooking Fuel

Tea light candles are inexpensive, safe to store and take up very little space. The HERC XXL Candle Oven takes 20 tea lights to bake at full capacity. That means that the 5-gallon bucket with 800 tea lights will provide approximately 160 hours of cook time.

If I plan to cook for 4 hours every day for 1 year, I would only need 9 five-gallon buckets of tea lights. Depending on where you buy the tea lights, that is a fuel cost of about $300.

Warms the Area

The HERC oven gently warms the area around it. It is not designed to be a heat source, but it definitely can help take the chill off of a cold room. The heat is not intense like a wood-burning stove, so it could be used indoors in the swing months, if needed. I would avoid using it indoors in the hot summer months, but summertime is a great time for outdoor cooking.

HERC Candle Oven Disadvantages

There are relatively few disadvantages to the HERC Candle Oven, but these are some that are worth mentioning.

Financial Investment

The HERC ovens are an investment and may be cost-prohibitive for some people. However, you get what you pay for. The oven is made from quality stainless steel and should last forever. Considering how inexpensive tea lights are, you may be able to recover this cost in fuel savings.

The HERC XXL Oven (my personal favorite) retails for $389. It is designed to feed a family.

The ECO HERC Oven is smaller and retails for $179. It would be ideal for feeding a couple of people.

Lid is Heavy

The lid of the HERC ovens have quarry stones inside of them which makes them a bit heavy. When opening the oven, care must be used not to let the hot lid slam back. Jonathan and I evaluated this and determined that there is just no way to avoid the heavy lid and still let the oven perform well. 

Tendency for Paraffin to Ignite

Burning tea lights comes with a risk of the liquid paraffin igniting. Kris Johnson has designed the HERC ovens to minimize that risk. However, it has happened to us a couple of times.

Make sure that you trim the wicks as recommended before lighting the candles. Two metal plates are provided with each oven to safely extinguish the small fires that may result from the paraffin ignition. You can also smother the flames with a damp washcloth.

You should never leave any open flame unattended. This is true of candles and tea lights. To learn more you can access the HERC Candle Oven owner’s manual at Titan Ready USA.

HERC Fuel Consumption

The ECO HERC Candle Oven uses 10 tea lights to bake for 4 hours. To cook or bake for 4 hours every day for a week you would need 70 tea lights. To bake every day for a month, you need about 300 tea lights. A one year supply of tea lights for the ECO would be about 3,600 tea lights. You could store 5 five-gallon buckets, each with 800 tea lights, and have a one year supply of cooking fuel for the ECO HERC.

The HERC XXL Candle Oven uses 20 tea lights to bake for 4 hours. You could bake for 4 hours each day during a weeklong power outage using only 140 tea lights. A month supply of cooking fuel for the HERC XXL would be 600 tea lights. To cook for an entire year at the same rate, you would need to store 7,300 tea lights. You could store enough fuel in just over 9 five-gallon buckets (800 tea lights each) to cook your food for an entire year.

Tea Light Storage

Tea lights are an incredible storage fuel that can last almost forever. Ideal storage conditions for tea lights include cool, dry locations out of direct sunlight. Tea lights are not harmed by moisture. I prefer to store my tea lights in buckets or boxes.

Learn more about using and storing tea lights and candles at Candles as an Emergency Fuel Source for Warmth, Light, and Cooking.

Tea Light Precautions

Any open flame can be dangerous. Tea lights are no exception. Use great caution when burning anything. Here are some tips that may help you to be safe while burning tea lights.

Keep Your Eye on the Flame

Titan Ready USA explains that understanding the candle flame can help you avoid trouble.

  • A Steady Flame – Everything is going well. The flame is consuming the wax that is being pulled up by the wick and producing water vapor and carbon dioxide.
  • Wisps of Smoke or Flickering Flame – Smoke or constant flickering may occur if the teardrop shape of the flame disturbed. You can see soot or unburned carbon particles escaping from the flame in the smoke.
  • Non-Teardrop Shaped Flame – The flame may not have enough air or it may have too much air. You can solve this by burning candles away from vents, drafts, or air currents in a well-ventilated room.
  • Leaping Flames or Flare-Ups – The candle flame may grow too long and cause a flare if the wick is too long. Trimming the wick to ¼ inch before lighting can help to solve this problem.

Carbon Monoxide Risk

Tea lights can be safely burned indoors as long as there is adequate oxygen. Remember that any flame has the potential to produce carbon monoxide if there is insufficient oxygen to provide complete combustion. Always have a carbon monoxide detector (with a digital readout) nearby when using anything that could produce deadly carbon monoxide.

Do Not Leave Unattended – Prepare to Smother Flames

Once the paraffin melts and becomes a liquid it is possible for it to ignite. If this happens, smother it with the burner cover or a wet cloth.

Keep Flammable Materials Away

It is just common sense to always keep all flammable materials away from any flame, including your HERC oven.

HERC Candle Oven Overall Impression

I am an opinionated person. It’s true. I am really good at telling you when I don’t like something. On the flip side, I can be very passionate when I find something that I really like. I love this HERC oven!

I am concerned about the challenges that we may face in our future and I am passionate about preparing for those challenges. I am dedicated to helping my friends and neighbors prepare so that when disaster strikes, we will all thrive together.

The HERC Candle Oven is a valuable tool in our grid-down cooking arsenal. Tea lights are inexpensive and safe to store. The combination is perfect. It makes it a valuable asset for those without a lot of storage space, as well as for those that have large families to feed.

There are ways that you can use tea lights to cook your food without a HERC oven. I encourage you to explore those options if you have a limited budget.

If the price of a HERC Candle Oven is within your budget, consider including it in your emergency preparedness plans. It is the best solution for baking indoors without using a wood-burning stove or a vented propane or natural gas oven.

Thanks for being part of the solution!

Jonathan and Kylene Jones

Kylene

Kylene Jones is a blogger, content creator, published author, motivational speaker, homesteader, prepper, mother, and grandmother. She practices self-reliance, provident living, and emergency preparedness in her everyday life. She loves working with her husband, Jonathan, and is committed to helping our community be prepared to thrive during the challenges that lie in our future.