Whether it's for back-country use, power outage preparedness or just to indulge the Pyromaniac Boy-Scout within, I've experimented with a number of portable stove designs. While doing some research I got curious: could you power a stove on tea lights alone?
Obviously, one tea light won't do much. But what if you had a whole bunch?
Step 1. Check YouTube. And what do you know, here's proof that you can cook with tea lights.
Step 2. Buy and eat 4 cans of tuna. The simplest 'stove' I could think of was a sheet of aluminum foil, a few empty tuna cans, the tea lights and a pot on top.
Step 3. Try to cook an egg! I organized 5 tea lights and 4 tuna cans and lit it all up:
I pre-heated a frying pan for 5 minutes and then cracked an egg into the pan:
I covered the pan and checked in a few minutes later:
And to my surprise, the egg was partially cooked.
Ultimately, I let the experiment run for about 18 minutes. And when I was done, I had an overcooked egg:
So the process was slow, but definitely effective.
Step 4: Improvise a crock pot. Cooking eggs is fun and all, but I wanted to step things up a bit. I filled a casserole dish with about 3 cups of water, lit the same 5 candles, covered it, and let it 'cook.'
At nearly 4 hours, 3 out of the 5 candles had burned out. The water was almost 160°F. From a quick Google search I see that a crock pot on low cooks at around 190°F. So I wasn't quite there, but I was too in the neighborhood.
I have to say, I'm really impressed by these results. With almost no effort, and about 70 cents worth of fuel, I was able to nearly approximate a slow cooker. If I added a few more candles, and swapped them out at 3 hours and 45 minutes, I could probably have a functional slow cooker.
The final test is to actually make a more complex dish using this setup. Alas, I don't have time for this experiment today, but I will keep my eyes out for the right recipe to give this a shot with. And then we can find out just how bad an idea this is.