Remember the piece about the 3-wick emergency candle stove I devised the other month? Well, the cooking experiments have been ongoing ever since with some surprising results.
I’ll reiterate that this isn’t a rig for a family of five. But if you are only feeding yourself, or your spouse can have a candle stove for themselves, it works surprisingly well as an emergency food and water heating device.
Through various experiments I’ve determined that success is very pan/container dependent, as well as food volume dependent.
I tried actually “cooking” a meal for several hours in a small cast iron covered pot, but though the food got quite hot, it didn’t quite boil enough to be throughly cooked, and I had to finish it off on the actual stove. I would need to try about half that volume next time.
I then tried frying an egg with an actual small frying pan, but discovered that not only was the pan too large and smothered the candle flames for lack of airflow, it also “wasted” too much heat in heating the pan itself rather than the food.
But the experiments continued. I next tried a small aluminum disposable pie pan I found in my cupboard from the last time I bought a store made pie (I am not a hoarder). I was able to fry one egg sunny-side up in butter in that pan! And the couple strips of bacon I tried worked as well! But it was the only pan of its size that I owned and I had to use aluminum foil as a lid to keep the heat in while the food cooked.
So off to the internet I went, and found 6-inch disposable aluminum cake pans which were a little deeper than the pie plate, but still thin enough to conduct the heat directly to the food. With these pans I was able to fry a couple strips of bacon and two powdered eggs, as well as heat to bubbling a small can of beanie weenies from my emergency supply! I even managed ramen noodles, though I started the water to heat in the kettle like an hour ahead of time before pouring it over the noodles and putting the pan back on the flame for a few minutes. It still worked like a charm.
This rig definitely needs a lid on the pan in order to maximize heat retention. So since these foil disposables came in packs of ten, I took one of the spares, punched two holes in the bottom and threaded a foil twist tie through them to make an improvised pot lid with handle. It has worked marvelously.
Though these pans are disposable and quite thin, I have used the initial ones several times already and they have survived a soak in the sink as well as a trip through the dishwasher. But if you are short on water, they ARE disposable. For that matter it may be possible to create a multilayer “pot” out of just heavy duty foil, which would truly be disposable to save water in an emergency. I’ll have to try that next.
The bottom line from these experiments so far is – if you have an electric stove that would be useless in a power outage, although you should certainly have something like chafing fuel or an indoor-rated butane burner in reserve for when it’s not grilling weather, this 3-wick candle stove DOES work, is cheap to operate, is safe to use indoors, and also safe to store in a closet or apartment (unlike some commercial fuels). It’s something to think about. 3-wick candles might even be on sale after Christmas!