I recently got a link to a lady who has been experimenting with a gutted toaster oven and tea lights. And I just had to try it in my toaster oven that I converted for rocket stove baking.
Wow, it works!
I did a little research and found there is a tea light oven out there called the Herc (puppy sells for right around $400, yikes!).
I did not bother to gut my toaster oven, and I cut my hole in the bottom to sit on top of the rocket stove. The lady who was playing with her version had holes drilled in the back which did not allow it to heat up like mine does.
So, here goes…
The Herc has these fancy terra cotta bricks on the top. Well, we know you can bake on unglazed terra cotta and that it holds and radiates heat – I went down and bought a $1 unglazed terra cotta plant saucer and used some leftover heat resistant caulk to attach it to the inside top of my oven.
I only have one place to slide in my grate, so I went to my “obtainium” pile and selected a piece of hardware cloth (Small mesh wire, I have no idea why they call it “cloth”.) cut it with a good scissors to the size of the bottom of my oven and then bent 4 to raise the grate.
Then I placed the tea lights (Walmart brand is the best I have found at less than 5 cents apiece and go for about 4 hours) on the base of hardware cloth around the 4 sides so that I didn’t burn what I was baking. I also slid out the bottom tray that on mine I had drilled holes into – it worked with it, but some of the candles went out as they needed more air.
It takes from 15 to 20 tea lights for my oven to bake a Rhubarb Crisp. I’m on a Rhubarb Crisp kick – rhubarb season – and have baked 3 now in this oven – I’M PLEASED!
I did put in my oven thermometer. I had no problem getting from 300 to 400 degrees and even had to blow out lights to bring the temperature down! Reality is you don’t need more than 275 degrees to bake successfully – remember that heat rises so it is probably hotter than the thermometer is registering. Fewer candles used (Saving money.) and just a bit longer to cook. In other words, don’t sweat the numbers. :-)
Generally, you can use your tea lights 2 to 3 times for baking which means you have your cost down to 15-25 cents per use – Dare you to heat up your big oven for that! Your kitchen stays much cooler than if you do start your big oven too.
This actually worked better than the Camp Heat, so I am adding to my stock of Walmart tea lights. And I am keeping this oven in the house as for summer it makes much more sense to use it than to start up my big oven for most of what I am baking for 2 people.
Looking for other ideas on off-grid cooking? Check this post on 6 ways to cook when the power is out.