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Should you get a Dutch oven for baking breads?
Since diving into the world of sourdough baking, we have become obsessed with the incredible baking results of a Dutch oven.
It just seems so easy and straightforward, while all the other techniques for making a perfect crust and a fluffy loaf of bread seem rather complicated.
So why don’t more people use a Dutch oven for baking breads?
What is a Dutch oven?
A Dutch oven is a heavy cooking pot with thick walls and a lid that fits tightly and firmly. It is usually made from cast iron, a material that proves quite useful in the kitchen. A Dutch oven has been used as a cooking utensil for hundreds of years and different version can be found around the world, from America to Europe to Asia.
Cast iron is great for its unique performance in high heat: it keeps high heat easily and can withstand extremely high temperatures.
For baking breads, you would usually use an enameled Dutch oven, meaning it has an enamel coating. Enamel is made by bringing powdered glass to extremely high temperatures until it melts and forms a smooth coating. This enamel coating is then applied to the cast iron pot to give it a non-stick surface.
Your enameled Dutch oven then has some impressing properties: It can reach high heats and keep its heat for long. It cannot burn, it is scratch resistant, and it is easy to clean.
Did we mention that it will last you a lifetime? A Dutch oven is incredibly durable, staying with you for many decades. Therefore, investing a little bit in the start really pays off in the long run.
The good news is, you don’t need to spend a fortune on a high-quality Dutch oven. Anywhere from $50 to $100 USD, you can already find some great ones.
Why is a Dutch oven great for baking breads?
A Dutch oven creates the perfect environment for your bread to flourish. Here’s what happens during baking:
First, as you heat up the oven, you already should place your Dutch oven inside. Therefore, while your oven becomes hot, your Dutch oven does so too. When you’re later adding the bread, your Dutch oven does not need to heat up. Instead, it can directly start to work its magic.
Before adding the bread, you take the pre-heated Dutch oven out of the oven. Be careful and make sure to use kitchen gloves or a pot holder. Then, you take the bread sitting on a piece of baking parchment and you place it inside the Dutch oven. Put the lid on top and add your Dutch oven to the hot oven.
Now for the first 20 minutes of baking, you leave the lid on top. The high heat inside the Dutch oven brings the water inside the dough to evaporate. Because you have the lid on top, the steam is trapped inside and creates a hot and steamy environment. This helps your bread to stay moist and flexible so it can rise and expand easily. The steam also helps to better transfer the heat, spreading it faster and more evenly.
During those first 20 minutes, your bread will rise and expand. If you would not have it inside the Dutch oven with the closed lid, a thick crust would form too soon, thereby keeping it from reaching its full potential.
After the first 20 minutes, you remove the lid and continue baking for another 25 to 30 minutes. Now, with the lid gone, the steam is finally released and the crust can start to develop. At this point, the bread will already have increased quite a bit in size. In this second baking part, the heat from the oven can directly reach the outside of the bread. Now, you’re able to create this perfectly crunchy and thick crust.
After your bread is ready, take the Dutch oven out of the oven and let the bread cool down. It should look beautiful and have a dark, rustic looking crust.
If you’re now curious and want to start baking your first loaf of sourdough bread, make sure to read our article on how to bake your first sourdough bread.