Friday, September 21, 2007

Variation on a Theme: Candle Stove

Note: The pictures here are poor - no excuse. I didn't take the time to find the right lighting, I was more interested in the candle stove.

After discovering this Tea Time Candle Stove, I wanted to make one to see how well it would work, but of course, I'm too cheap to run out and buy tea lights and corks, so I scrounged around the house and came up with some alternatives. I'm pleased to report that the open candle stove worked very well. Here's how the experiment went:

Instead of using a hanger, I used a rack I already had, from a long gone electric skillet. I found a broken candle while rummaging for possible forgotten tea lights, so I cut that in lengths and used it. It was a cheap candle, so it burned faster than tea lights would have, but it was "free" from my stash.

I put the candles on a sheet of (used) aluminum and set the rack over them. Height is important, but not as much as I thought at first. Shorter candles seemed to cook as fast as taller ones. I did have trouble with cutting them too tall at first because when I set the pan over them the flame went out. I let them burn down a little then they were fine.

If you're familiar with campfire cooking, this is very similar. At first, I tried to keep adjusting the candles for the best heat, but since I had to remove the pan each time, I found it cooked faster when simply left it alone.

First, I tried boiling water. In about 10 minutes, it was simmering quite well, but never came to a full boil. Still, it was hot enough to make a cup of tea. Ramen noodles or pasta would have cooked in it and it would have cooked frozen vegetables or heated canned foods easily.

I raised the front of the aluminum foil to keep wax from getting on the range where my candle stove set, then thought that it might help concentrate the heat to lift the foil on every side, which I did. It seemed to help, but I'm not sure if it actually did or if it was wishful thinking on my part.

I thought the toughest test would be frying, so I put a couple of pieces of breakfast sausage into a small cast iron skillet. In a few minutes, it started sizzling. It seemed to take awhile to cook through, but maybe I was just hungry - I forgot to watch the clock on this part.

The proof is in my tummy - I had sausage, fried sauerkraut and tea for lunch. (That's my favorite mug, an Exxon Tony the Tiger advertising mug made by Fire King. It's "vintage, but I'm not sure exactly what years they were made.)

Notes: There will be lots of soot, so be aware of that. The candles can't burn cleanly under the circumstances. Use of a lid made all the difference in how quickly water came to a boil as well as how fast the sausage fried (from listening to the sound). I went through several matches before I learned what height of candle would keep burning. About a half inch from the rack seemed to be best.

Note to myself: Buy more candles!


  1. I remember doing a similar thing as a Girl Guide many moons ago by putting a tin can over a candle and cooking pikelets (like mini pancakes). Thanks for the memory!

  2. I've made candle stoves with cans before, but this was my first experience with an open type of "stove." It's a good thing to know if you have an electric range, as I do, and the electricity goes out - not common here, but it does happen.

  3. I love this idea! I will try it with my kids. Thanks Pat! Laura

  4. Thanks Pat. My daughter is into 'pioneer' living right now - thanks to Little House books and can't wait to try this since I won't let her dig a fire pit in the back yard. I'm thinking about putting the supplies to make one in the emergency tub in case we should lose electricity.

  5. I think it's a good idea to have the supplies handy, Sue. You never know when you might need to use them.

    Advice to you and Laura, who also wants to do this with kids: Watch closely and be very careful to use a large surface for the candles to set. There's no place for the wax to go as it melts, so the candles wind up in a puddle under the rack, something like a melted snowman. :)

  6. Great idea for emergencies - I've never seen an open candle stove. What I have seen and used: using a tuna can, cut corrugated cardboard in strips the same height as can, roll inside can until it's full, centering a candle stub the same height. Fill the can with melted wax, let it solidify. When needed, light candle. These are supposed to be done in advance. They work. Of course, use leftover candles stubs & cardboard from a box. Bellen

  7. Those tuna can stoves are what they show the Girl Scouts, aren't they? I've seen pictures of them but never made one. Have you ever used one? It seems to me that it would make a small cooking area compared to this one.

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