The HERC: The famous tea light oven

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HERC tea light ovenOne of the most important rules of preparedness is to always have at least 3 different methods for cooking food and heating water. In an emergency that goes on for more than a day or two, eating cold soup out of the can will get old, and sooner or later, you’ll need to boil water for sanitation purposes, at least.

The HERC Tea Light Candle Oven* is a newcomer to the scene, and it’s a welcome one.

It’s design and use of tea lights as its only source of heat for cooking is drawing a lot of attention on the internet and throughout the prepper community. At first, it doesn’t seem possible that tea lights can bake bread, cookies, and roast a chicken. I have to admit, I was skeptical.

What sets apart the HERC, aside from those tea lights, is the fact that it can be used indoors without emitting harmful fumes or requiring any ventilation with a fuel source that is budget friendly, to say the least.

The HERC Tea Light Oven in my kitchen

The HERC (Home Emergency Radiant Cooking) is made entirely of heavy duty, laser cut brushed stainless steel, and each piece fits together nicely. My husband had it put together in about 30 minutes. Taken apart, the entire oven can be stored in its fabric bag (included) or a hard, molded plastic case that will soon be available as a separate purchase. Either way, the oven is pretty easy to tote if you want to include it with your camping gear or store it in the trunk of your car for barbecues at the local park.

We set the HERC on my kitchen counter, and it’s been there for about 2 months as we’ve used it to bake bread, a roast, several batches of brownies, and a casserole or two. If you’ll be feeding a crowd, with the HERC you have a handy “double oven” for cooking all that extra food, as well as a source of entertainment. It’s quite fascinating to watch the oven thermometer, included with every HERC, as the temperature rises, all thanks to a few tea lights.

HERC tea light ovenThe XXL HERC uses a total of 20 tea lights, 10 on each side, in trays that slide in on either side below the oven. Depending on the brand, the candles can last for 5 or more hours. Over the past weekend, I baked slices of roast and brownies, and the candles were only about half-used. Between about 20 minutes of preheating and an additional 90 minutes of baking time, there’s still enough fuel in those candles for at least 3 more batches of brownies!

Now, I’m slightly on the short side, and the only difficulty I ran into with the HERC was placing food down into the oven and then taking it out when it was finished. Sitting on my counter top, the oven, at 12″ high was too high for me to easily place food down into it.  I needed either a step stool or the help of my husband or (taller) daughter to take care of this. When we get around to moving it, I’ll likely place it on either a lower counter or on a table.
Because the entire oven becomes very hot, you’ll need to have a thick set of oven mitts or pot holders, and be sure to keep kids and pets away. Also, since there are 20 open flames involved, it should always be supervised.

So, how does it cook?

I guess that’s the million dollar question, right?

Based on my own experiences, the HERC does a great job of baking food. Brownies were evenly baked, the roast was well done and moist, the bread had a lightly crisp crust and soft interior — just the way it should be.

The even baking is due to the unique design which incorporates unglazed stone tiles that absorb and then radiate heat. I’ve used Pampered Chef baking stones for years, and they use the same principle. The HERC utilizes both convection and radiant heat. Nothing I baked burned and if anything was overdone, it was completely due to operator error!

Yes, The Survival Mom has been known to ruin a meal or two with her over-zealous baking practices.

“If those chicken breasts are supposed to be done in 30 minutes, they’ll be even better if I let them bake for 50! They’ll be so much moister!”

Roast beefSome of the recipes my family enjoy are a perfect fit for the HERC:

  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Beef stew
  • Kale & Spinach Quiche
  • Peach cobbler
  • Taco lasagna (my personal favorite!)
  • My mom’s Apple Kuchen

We haven’t yet taken it camping, but I plan on including it on our next outdoor adventure. The one possible drawback to this may be trying to use the HERC outdoors on a windy day. However, with our oven, we received 2 small metal shields that can be placed over the side openings that house the candles. They would provide some shielding from the wind.

When is the HERC most useful?

Kris Johnson, the designer of the HERC and owner of the parent company, Titan Ready Water, originally planned the HERC to assist families with their cooking needs in a power outage. Power outages are a common fact of life in certain parts of the country and all types of weather, from blizzards to hurricanes and tornadoes, can cause them. Once you’ve invested in a HERC oven, you only need a supply of tea lights, so families in distress not only have a way to cook their meals (both indoors and outside) but have a method to do so that is extremely frugal.

One extra smart reader, Amy V., noted that in an emergency, when everyone else is scrambling to buy propane, butane, gasoline, and other fuels, there could be piles of tea lights just sitting around, waiting for a HERC owner to come along!

As well, the HERC doesn’t depend on sunlight, which is an obvious requirement for a solar cooker. I still love using the sun to cook food, but now that I live in a part of the country that gets more rain and our backyard is nearly covered with shade trees, I need an emergency oven that uses more reliable fuel. Folks in the Pacific Northwest, in particular, should plan on adding a HERC to their emergency supplies.

Although the HERC gets quite hot, it still doesn’t emit as much heat in the kitchen as my gas oven. When we lived in Phoenix, I used to dread baking anything once the summer heat arrived. I would get pretty creative with my meals, making lots of salads or cooking recipes that required stove top cooking only.

Twenty tea lights are plenty hot for bringing up the baking temperature inside the HERC but not so hot as to raise the temperature in your kitchen.

During the days and nights of beautiful weather, a lot of us love cooking and eating outdoors. Take the HERC to the park, a family reunion, or just your back patio to do all your baking right there. The grill-master is the one who gets all the attention, but now you’ll be producing baked beans or hot cornbread on the spot!

Do be sure to protect your tea lights from extreme heat. I have a few hundred of them currently stored in a 5 gallon bucket that I keep in a hall closet.

A few final details

2 HERC stovesThe HERC comes in 2 sizes. The XXL is the sample that I was sent, and is large enough to hold an 11×15″ baking dish. For storage, it takes up a space sized 12 x 20 x 2. Yes, that’s 2 inches in height!

The smaller size HERC is fueled by just 10 tea lights!

There are likely many, many places around your home or garage where a HERC could be stored. Not so with the tea lights, however. They should be stored in a cool place so the wax doesn’t melt.

Not all tea lights are made the same, nor will they all burn for the same length of time. I suggest buying a supply from 2 or 3 different companies, and use a different batch each time you bake to see which brand lasts longest. If you time your preheat (around 20-25 minutes), you might even find that some candles burn hotter than others.

To purchase either of the HERC ovens, click here to be in the official Survival Mom group:

Ready for a Giveaway?

You can be the winner of an XXL HERC oven by entering this giveaway! Contest ends on Tuesday, May 20, at 12:00 a.m. CT. Winner will be notified and must respond within 72 hours or a new winner will be selected. Good luck!

UPDATE: Kris Johnson, owner of Titan Water and inventor of the HERC, has told me that if you purchase a HERC and then win the giveaway, he will either reimburse  you for your purchase or send you a second HERC — your choice.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I am an affiliate with Titan Ready Water. I’ve used the HERC, found it to work effectively, and decided to promote it as a worthwhile product on my blog.










114 thoughts on “The HERC: The famous tea light oven”

  1. Herc advantages: I could have used it during the ice storm we had a year ago that took out our power for 3 days! Solar wouldn’t have worked well during those stormy cold cloudy days. Also tea lights can be found almost everywhere. not quite free cooking, but inexpensive emergency cooking that doesn’t rely on fuels that are gone quickly in emergencies.

    1. The Survival Mom

      Amy, I liked your last comment so well that I incorporated it in my article! You’re right. Everyone rushes for the propane, etc. but who would ever think to grab the innocent looking little tea lights??

  2. Tealights are inexpensive and easily stored, don’t have to store them as a ‘hazard’ like other sources of fuel for stoves. I think that’s a big advantage 🙂

  3. I love this option! I’d love to have one of these! I like the fact that the candles are cheap and you don’t need expensive fuel to run it. Would love to know what the sources are for good long burning tea lights?

  4. This would be a perfect addition to a SunOven, you could cook at night or when solar conditions are not optimal.

  5. Cool! *blush* I just remember the low amounts of batteries, sleeping bags, fuels, and the waiting lists for chainsaws!

  6. Would love to have this. It would be such an advantage to conventional cooking because it would require no outside power.

  7. Maranda Mann Schuetz

    This is something we could really use. We are a large family having 6 kids and I wonder how will we cook or keep sanitary if we had no conventional ways anymore.

  8. I think this would be a very easy oven to cook in having a supply of candles on hand of course. Easy to keep in storage and also able to use in the house without ventilation needed is a big deal for me.

  9. No need to use it outside is a big deal for me. Also, I can store a LOT of tea lights in a fairly small space.

  10. I love this option! You can find tea lights almost anywhere including thrift stores and that would make it a very affordable heat source. Being in Ohio, we don’t always have enough sun to use a solar oven (not to mention I am in an apartment and between the grill and garden planters space is pretty limited)

  11. Tea lights are plentiful and safe to store. I can’t think of a safer way to cook indoors and heat (as a by product of cooking) in a power outage then tea lights!

  12. I am very interested in alternative ways of cooking. I bought a Sun Oven but I would love to get a HERC also!

  13. Donna Wildermuth

    I would love to have this HERC. Thank you for all your very informative and helpful articles, and giveaways!

  14. Laurie Nguyen

    I can think of two BIG advantages: no sunlight required, and it can be used indoors. Thank you so much for offering this giveaway!

  15. This would be awesome to have for camping at the beach and of course for use in case of no power which happens to us ALOT during summer storms. We usually grill but this would be a neat alternative with very little preparation or clean up and I could put it somewhere I wouldn’t have to worry about the kids grabbing it. I’m sold:)

  16. How easy to use! With it’s portability and cheap fuel cost it would make a great addition to camping gear, 72 hr. kits, and every day emergency gear. I would have been glad to have this during the ice storm when the power was out!

  17. The thing I like about this oven is that is CAN be used indoors, anytime. I would love to win it and give it a try.

  18. This sounds awesome! I really want one of these. It’s been on the wish list since I first heard of them.

  19. Lisa, Thank you so much for posting this review! I’ve been talking the HERC up for a month to my husband, telling him how much we need this! (We also live only 30 minutes from Titan RW.) May 18th is an Expo in Portland, OR, and Titan Ready Water is supposed to be there as well. Can’t wait to see it, and perhaps, we’ll come away with one! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  20. Advantages for me is being able to cook in inclement weather or after a hurricane. LOL I’ve also mentioned to my husband how I’d like to get one. It’s definitely on my wish list.

  21. Vickilynn Haycraft

    I can see the HERC has unique advantages over other types of the “emergency” ovens, the first as Lisa mentioned that it can be used indoors, especially on cloudy days, rainstorms and more.

  22. I would love to have this! It looks like the answer to many problems as well as helping me complete the “3 is 2, 2 is one, and one is none” component of prepping.

  23. Maryanne Vaeth

    Wow! Loved the in depth review — but now I REALLY want one! Fingers-crossed! Thanks for the opportunity!

  24. MelissaS Hi I am the owner of Titan and designer of HERC. Yes we will be at the expo May 18, in Portland,OR and I expect you to come up and say hi to me. The expo special will be great and I bet you do walk out with one!

    If any one buys one now and wins the contest, I will send you all your money back or another HERC XXL so don’t wait for the mad rush, Get your HERC today!

  25. I think this would be great for an emergency or for everyday use. Living on the Gulf Coast, I am always trying to be ready in case of a hurricane and I have to leave for days or possibly weeks!

  26. This would be great in my hurricane prone area. I have a solar oven, but need back up cooking methods for when the weather doesn’t cooperate for solar.

  27. Biggest advantage is portability. Easy to store makes it perfect for camping but also bug out and emergency situations.

  28. Living in the Pacific Northwest, the sun ovens do us no good unless it is in the summertime. This is great to know about!

  29. I LOVE this! Yes, stocking up on tealights (which don’t expire or corrode) is genius! Like you said, having more than one way to heat water or cook food is essential.

  30. Jennifer Osuch


    I love this idea! Great post! I was wondering about the fire hazards. What age (skill level) would you recommend a child being before operating this oven? Would it be the same as a stove?

    1. The Survival Mom

      With a lighter, kids can easily light the individual candles and slide them into place. However, the HERC gets really hot. The whole entire thing is made of metal, and the lid is fairly heavy. I’d wait until kids were 12 or 13 before letting them put food in the stove or take it out again. As well, anyone using it should use oven mitts, not just pot holders.

  31. This looks amazing. No sunlight needed and it can be used inside unlike most other emergency cooking methods.

  32. Would love to win the XXL HERC! It’s main advantage is that it can be used inside during a power outage, unlike a grill or volcano stove. When we lose power, usually it’s due to bad weather (ice storm, thunderstorm), which means no solar power. This would be perfect!

  33. how great, here in the PNW, solar ovens are not always a good choice. This can be done inside, away from rain, and non-odor for stealth mode operation…

  34. The Herc doesn’t require the sun and it doesn’t emit heat outside the oven so it won’t heat up your kitchen during hot summers!

  35. I love that it’s not dependent on the sun and the fuel is readily available (with some pre-planning).

  36. This would be useful to cook in the evenings or on rainy days, or when there are just too many zombies wandering around to feel safe tending a slow-cooking solar oven.

  37. Cindy Boucher

    This oven is an incredible thing. I will definitely buy one in the future, whether I win or not!

  38. grammyprepper

    Friends over at @seasonedcitizenprepper experimented with similar ideas for heating this past winter…I don’t recall if anyone tried to cook this way tho…

  39. Meagan Zefirov

    I never would have thought tea lights could be so useful! I am going to have to start stocking up 🙂

  40. Stealth Spaniel

    Wow! I am super impressed with this product! Who knew that an innocent tea light could be so useful? I must have 15,000 stored (in various scents) in my house. I think I will start loading up on the scentless ones! Also, if it got knocked over, I would rather clean up spilled wax than spilled fuels of some sort.

  41. For me the advantage is the fuel source. I am an Independent PartyLite Consultant so I always have loads of candles at the ready. I just need to stock up on more unscented tealights 🙂

  42. Tara Wohlenhaus

    I love the no fumes aspect, and another alternative cooking fuel source. I have a rocket stove, and a Coleman camping “oven” that is briquette fueled, but this candle-powered cooking source is a fantastic idea. Also, if you keep your tea-light tins, you can refill them and make your own tea light candles from melted leftover candles.

  43. Michelle in OK

    Cook inside during the snowstorms that knock out power? Wonderful! I can’t believe I had forgotten about using Tea lights for food, though. My daddy kept two “potpourri pots” that used tea lights in the back of his shop: One was for heating canned soups, the other was for warming his water for instant coffee. Thank you for bringing that memory back! 😀

  44. There are two things I especially like about the HERC oven. First it can be used indoors. I have a propane grill located in an enclosed back deck, which allows us to use it in the rain or even if it is cold. The downside is that we must have electricity to turn the exhaust fan on when in use. Also, we could run through our propane in a true SHTF situation. The other thing I especially like is that it runs on candles. Candles are so readily available and cheap! I would really like to have one of these. Thank you for this opportunity.

  45. Thanks for telling us about this oven. I really like the idea of cooking inside inexpensively without storing propane or another heating source. Thanks for the chance to win one!

  46. I feel the best reasons for having the HERC are that it uses something for fuel that is:
    1: lightweight
    2: easy to store
    3: inexpensive and
    4: most have around anyway.
    The HERC itself is easily stored and/or taken in a BOB or other mode of transport, so it would be easy to have in all situations.
    This is something I MUST have!

  47. This is the only one that I know if that can be used indoors. That’s a huge plus if font want neighbors smelling your good when theirs runs out! Cheap fuel is another plus. I do have a solar oven and gets lots of sun but I need the alternative for when need to cook inside! I’m fascinated by this oven, can’t wait to try it out.

  48. I’ve used a more primitive version of this in a longterm outage, and have always wondered about refining it, looks like someone beat me to it. Now I have a new item on my “must try” list

  49. …Forgot to add that II especially like the fact that it’s safe to use indoors (unlike charcoal grills).

  50. I love the fuel source, this is doable w/o making a big deal about it! I would love to have one, the kitchen gets so very hot in the summer months, this might be cooler to use. We lose electricity all the time in storms, it would be so helpful then also.

  51. My boys and I camp 7 months out of the year and we’re always looking for something we need that stores small. When it’s hot outside and I don’t want to turn anything on this would be awesome. Plus with the Huge jump in the price of propane, tea lights sounds like an easier on the wallet idea.

  52. LeAnn Edmondson

    I would be most grateful for this! I believe the advantages of this over others is the amount of ‘fuel’ you need versus the heat out put and what you end up paying per heating unit. Tea lights are incredibly inexpensive; you could easily put this and a healthy stack of ‘fuel’ into a container stashed away for when you need it!

  53. This is a great item — living in an RV, in the south, for the SUMMER, this would be a fantastic resource.

    We are already big fans of tealight candles and use them (in our “real” house) to keep hot beverages warm in the winter months. I’m glad to see this application for them.

  54. Would be SOOO wonderful to have. I’ve not heard of it before. Being fueled by something that is light and easy to have accessible, this would be such a blessing to have in case of any emergency or even camping with our children!

  55. To me, the biggest advantage is the fumes. I received a coleman camp stove as a gift from a concerned family member when our power went out two snow storms in a row. But you have to crack a window to operate it inside. Say what?? In a snowstorm where my house is already 40 degrees or colder I have to do what to cook? Sorry, you stay in the box!

  56. All of my other emergency cooking options are for outside. It would be great to have something that works inside like the HERC.

  57. I love this especially since I love in the PNW. I’ve always steered clear of sun ovens because of the lack of sun. This is fabulous!

  58. I love the versatility of tea lights. I use them for the winter storm kits I put in our vehicles every winter. (Coffee cans with wooden matches and 5 or so tea lights.) If we get stranded while on the road, these kits- along with the extra fleece blankets and cold weather clothing- will hopefully keep us warm until the situation improves. If we were to win the HERC, this would be an even better reason to buy those tempting, giant bags of unscented tea lights at IKEA!

  59. Ive had nothing but trouble with mine. The candles heat up the wax, liquify it, and drown the wick. Ive tried many brands of candles with no luck. If I try to pull the trays out to replace the burned out candles, the wax spills. Even if I try as carefully as I can, the smallest movements cause the wax to spill. This oven never heats up enough to safely cook foods that require proper temperatures. I had a lot of trouble getting mine too. Kris took my money and was unable to be reached for months. Once I finally received it, it was a poorly produced, tack welded product. Not a riveted, nice looking one like the pics. I don’t recommend the oven to anyone I know.

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