Food security is a big deal. If you disagree, try going for a week without eating and see what happens. After just 72 hours, you'll begin to see a dramatic decline in your ability to function physically, mentally, and emotionally. Talk with anyone who has experienced the desperation of true hunger, and you'll begin to appreciate why underestimating food will never be a good idea.
But even with top-notch planning and preparations, feeding yourself during an extended crisis can be challenging. Initially you may be able to get by with whatever is readily available — a can of tuna, peanut butter sandwiches, or maybe some freeze-dried, camping-style meals. While these foods will keep you alive, when the days start turning into weeks, you'll want more substantial meals.
However, in the aftermath of a disaster your options for cooking, or even heating up food, may be severely limited. Without electricity, for example, the majority of our modern kitchens go cold. In a crisis scenario, if you want to continue eating hot meals, you'll need other options.
Solar, propane, and wood/coal grills are some of the go-to cooking methods when the fancy push-button kitchen appliances go dark. But this is also where the difficulties often begin. If you're lucky enough to have outdoor space, you might be able to fire-up a grill, or an LP gas camping-style stove. You may even be inspired to set up an old-school fire pit. In a pinch, all of these options can crank up some serious heat, but these cooking methods can also be dangerous and will attract lots of unwanted attention. Plus there's the issue of storing hazardous fuels, and the risk of exposure to dangerous fumes and emissions, especially if you operate your makeshift kitchen too close to your dwelling. And let's not forget the weather, and potential security threats.
If you have sufficient sun exposure you might also be inclined to cook with a solar oven. This method uses the sun's energy as fuel. But, you'll need long, sunny days, and someone to stand watch over the solar oven and the food it contains. Solar cooking will not only take you and your food outside, but it'll advertise that you have food.
Finally, people who live in densely populated urban areas will have even fewer options, since discreet outdoor space may be at a premium, or completely unavailable. Considering all the challenges, is there really a safe and reliable off-grid cooking option? There is, enter the HERC XXL Oven.
Titan Ready USA is an American company that made a name for itself by creating practical water storage and cooking solutions for emergency situations. One of these innovative designs is the HERC (Home Emergency Radiant Cooking) XXL Oven. It cooks, bakes, and dehydrates by harnessing the thermal energy from affordable, and easy-to-store, tea light candles — pretty amazing stuff. It produces sufficient heat to prepare hot meals without the need for electricity, gas, or other dangerous fuels.
This is especially significant when you consider that the oven can be used safely indoors, day or night, away from prying eyes, the weather and potential threats.
It harnesses the thermal energy from tea light candles, storing it in the quarry stones that line the underside of the oven's inner surface and releasing the radiant energy back into the food. The HERC XXL uses two methods of thermal energy transfer: like a conventional oven, it uses convection and electromagnetic radiation (radiant).
In addition, exterior walls are made from 18-gauge stainless steel that reflects the thermal energy produced by the candles, and stored in the quarry stones, back onto the food being cooked. Stainless steel was specifically chosen due to its strength, durability, and because it's a poor conductor of thermal energy, thus keeping the heat inside. Twenty common tea light candles provide a run-time of approximately four to five hours. When compared to other fuel sources, tea candles are inexpensive, readily available, and easy to use and store. (Note: You should never leave an open flame unattended, indoors or out.)
The entire oven weighs only 28 pounds. Sure, it won't find its way into your bug-out bag, but it does break down for transport in your truck or RV. It packs flat when disassembled and stows neatly into the heavy-duty, reinforced carrying bag that's included.
The HERC XXL is awesome. Assembly took about 25 minutes; no tools needed. Figure another 30 minutes to preheat the oven to cooking temperature (about 350 degrees F), and you're ready to cook. Plus, the oven provides ample cooking space, accommodating a large 15×11-inch pan or baking dish with ease.
Two things really impressed us: the simplicity and effectiveness of the oven's design and the uncomplicated fuel source.
Beyond that, it's just incredible how many different foods you can prepare, from roasting meats and simmering stews to cooking rice and making pasta — and just about anything else you could cook up in a typical kitchen.
At $389 the HERC XXL isn't cheap, but you get what you pay for. It's a well-made, quality product that'll provide years of service. More importantly, it's an essential piece of gear that'll seamlessly complement and enhance your food security plan and preparations. Thumbs up on this one.
|Make & Model||Titan Ready USA HERC XXL Oven|
|Dimensions||19 by 12 by 12|
|Materials||18-gauge 304 stainless steel with brushed finished|
Richard Duarte is a practicing attorney, urban survival consultant, writer, and firearms enthusiast. He's the author of Surviving Doomsday: A Guide for Surviving an Urban Disaster and The Quick Start Guide for Urban Preparedness.