Whipping up a perfect loaf of homemade bread can be a daunting task, even for the most seasoned of bakers. Appliances like bread makers and electric mixers help elevate some of the stress, but if you are looking for something a little more traditional, then enlisting the help of a dutch oven could be the perfect tool for you.
The problem is, for a beginner baker, the lack of experience and understanding of baking bread in a Dutch oven is enough to keep many from even trying. What if I told you that, when used correctly, a Dutch oven can make your loaf look like you just bought it fresh from a bakery? Here, I will share everything you need to know about choosing and using the best Dutch oven for baking bread and have you whipping up bakery standard bread in no time!
Why Use a Dutch Oven?
If you are new to this dutch oven baking business, you are probably wondering what benefits they offer over the more conventional bread baking methods.
A Dutch oven is a perfect tool for baking bread because it traps heat and moisture creating a warm, humid, environment that is ideal for allowing bread dough to rise and bake. The thick walls of the Dutch oven evenly distribute heat, guaranteeing the loaf will be cooked evenly from all sides. The large capacity of most Dutch ovens allows you to easily bake a large loaf of bread inside, something even the largest bread makers struggle to complete with.
Using a Dutch oven is particularly popular for bakers who enjoy making sourdough bread. Sourdough uses natural yeast and fermentation to rise. It is not as strong as baker’s yeast so it needs an extra push to achieve a good rise and crumb. Baking sourdough bread in a Dutch oven will help the dough achieve a better rise, crust, and crumb. While this can be achieved in an oven, a Dutch oven will give you that high-quality, bakery-style result you are dreaming about.
What Kind of Dutch Oven Should I Buy?
If you want to start making bread in a dutch oven, then you are going to need to get your hands on one of these heavy-duty pots.
There are a few things you want to look out for when deciding what kind of Dutch oven to buy. The best Dutch ovens for baking will usually have most (if not all) of the following features:
- They are made of thick, heavy-duty materials like cast iron or enameled cast iron.
- They have a tight-fitting lid that traps heat and moisture.
- They have a large capacity, typically at least five quarts.
- They preferably have handles on each side.
All these features will ensure your bread is baked to perfection.
What is the best size Dutch oven for bread?
The size and capacity are probably the first factors you will consider when investing in a new Dutch oven as this will ultimately determine how small or large your bread loaves will be.
If you have never used a Dutch oven before, I am willing to bet you will be surprised at how much the dough will spread out and rise. When picking the right Dutch oven, you will need to go for one that has enough space so the dough can spread and rise freely. It also needs to be large enough so the loaf is easy to remove and doesn’t get stuck.
Generally speaking, a 4 to 5-quart Dutch oven is the ideal size if you make a 1kg loaf. If you make a 2kg loaf and over, go for a bigger size.
Another feature to look out for is the height of the Dutch oven. You don’t want a shallow one as the loaf will spread out too much and might not cook evenly. A deep Dutch oven is better as it will help the dough to rise better and produce a taller loaf.
What Shape Should My Dutch Oven Be?
The shape of your Dutch oven is also important as you want it to match the shape of the loaf you are making.
The best way to test if your Dutch oven is the correct shape, place your proofing basket inside the Dutch oven. It should fit neatly inside the oven with some room for expansion.
If you want to make batards or small baguettes, you might want to find an oblong or oval Dutch oven for bread. If you want to make a boule, go for a round Dutch oven. Round loaves are the most popular shape but feel free to experiment with all the different shapes that are available!
Enamelled vs Cast Iron Dutch Oven For Bread
Now that you know the size and shape of Dutch oven you need, it’s time to decide on the material. The two most popular materials are enameled cast iron and regular cast iron.
Enamelled cast iron is coated with a layer of enamel. This makes it easier to care for as it is less likely to rust over time.
The downside of enamel cast iron is that it can’t be heated to the maximum heat required for some types of bread like sourdough. Enamel-coated Dutch ovens can’t be preheated as this can cause the enamel coating to crack. Some bakers like to preheat their Dutch ovens to get a crispier crust. If you want to preheat your Dutch oven, an enamel-coated one is probably not for you.
Regular cast iron Dutch ovens are not coated with enamel. This makes them more durable but also more difficult to care for as they need to be seasoned regularly to prevent rusting.
Regular Dutch ovens are not coated with enamel so they need to be seasoned to prevent rusting. Seasoning cast iron is a process of coating it with oil and heating it until the oil forms a protective layer. This can be time-consuming but it’s worth it as cast iron can reach extremely high heat which is ideal for creating Artisan-style loaves.
Classic cast iron Dutch ovens are also very versatile as they can be used indoors and outdoors on open fires, whereas you don’t have this option with enamel-coated ones.
Pros of Enamel Coated Dutch Oven
- Low maintenance
- Easy to clean
- Temperature limits
- Enamel can wear down
- Not suited for preheating
- Indoor use only
Pros of Classic Cast Iron
- Durable and long-lasting
- Can withstand high temperatures
- Indoor and outdoor use
- Can be preheated
- High maintenance
- Regular seasoning
Which material to go for really comes down to whether you want to preheat your Dutch oven or not and if you will be using it outside. I don’t do either and my loaf of bread turns out just as delicious in my enamel-coated Dutch oven.
Best Dutch Oven for Baking Bread
They say that expensive isn’t always better, but when it comes to buying a Dutch oven, expensive is definitely better!
Cheaper Dutch oven brands are usually made of thinner materials which means they don’t retain heat as well. The lids tend to be flimsy and not aligned properly with gaps letting all the precious steam out.
When buying a Dutch oven, expect to pay anything between $50 to $450 for a good quality one.
Le Creuset is one of the most popular and well-known Dutch oven brands. They have been making high-quality cookware for over 90 years and their products are beautiful as well as practical. They are at the forefront of Dutch oven design and their products are made to last a lifetime.
Their Dutch ovens are made from thick cast iron which means they retain heat extremely well. The lids fit snugly on top so there is no steam escaping and the enamel coating is tough and chip-resistant.
You really can’t go wrong with a Le Creuset Dutch oven, but be prepared to pay a bit more for the quality. Prices start at around $200 for the 2 quarts and can go up to $440 for the larger sizes. Amazon often has sales so it’s worth keeping an eye out if you want to get your hands on a Le Creuset!
Here are some of my favorite Le Creuset Dutch ovens:
- Le Creuset Enamel Dutch Oven with Lid
- Le Creuset Oval Enamel Dutch Oven
- Le Creuset Round Enamel Dutch Oven
If you are looking for a more budget-friendly option, Lodge is a great choice. Their Dutch ovens can be found with enamel coating or as classic cast iron. This means they need to be seasoned before use to prevent rusting.
Lodge’s Dutch ovens are just as good as Le Creuset’s when it comes to heat retention and their lids fit snugly on top. The enamel coating is also chip-resistant.
Prices start at around $60 for the Lodge Dutch ovens which makes them a great budget-friendly option and come in various colors and sizes.
Here are some of my favorite Lodge Dutch ovens:
- Lodge EC6D43 Enamel Dutch Oven
- Lodge Pre-Seasoned Dutch Oven
- Lodge Deep Camp Dutch Oven
- Lodge 2 in 1 Grill and Dutch Oven
Cuisinart is known for its mixers but they also make high-quality cookware including Dutch ovens. Their Dutch ovens are made with enamel coating, making them a breeze to use and clean.
The porcelain enamel exterior offers a durable finish in various complimentary colors. The cast iron retains heat well and the tight-fitting lid seals in moisture.
Cuisinart’s Dutch ovens are a great option if you are looking for something that is easy to use and clean. Prices start at around $56 to $130 making them a great mid-range option.
Here are some of my favorite Cuisinart Dutch ovens:
Binging with Babish
Andrew Rae (a.k.a Binging with Babish), is a YouTube sensation who has taken the internet by storm with his unique cooking videos. He recently launched a series of cookware, and his Dutch oven is one of the best on the market.
The Dutch oven is made from thick cast iron which ensures even heat distribution and retention. The lid fits snugly on top, sealing in moisture, and the enamel coating is tough and chip-resistant.
Binging with Babish’s Dutch oven is a great option for those who want a top-quality product for a budget-friendly price.
Find it here:
If you are looking for a top-of-the-line Dutch oven, Challenger Breadware is the way to go. Their Dutch ovens are made from thick, pre-seasoned cast iron.
What I love about this Dutch oven is its versatility in how many different types of breads you can make. You can make batards, boules, small baguettes and pretty much any other size loaf you can think of.
The low lid allows you to tip your bread inside the Dutch oven without worrying you’ll knock all the air out of your dough and it makes it easier to remove once baked.
Although you can make different sized loaves which can be a restriction in round Dutch ovens, the Challenger is only limited to making bread. The low profile base means you won’t be able to use your Dutch oven to make stews or other non-bread-related foods. But, as far as bread comes, the Challenger is the one I reach for.
Find it here:
How To Clean A Dutch Oven and How to Take Care of it
If you look after your Dutch oven, it will last your a lifetime. Here are some tips to get you started:
Tips for Enamel Coating Dutch Ovens:
- Don’t preheat your enamel-coated dutch oven dry. This can cause the coating to crack.
- Use parchment paper to line your Dutch oven. This prevents the loaf from sticking to the bottom and makes cleaning easier.
- Stick to the maximum temperature
- Hand wash with soap and water and wipe gently.
Tips for Classic Dutch Ovens
- Season regularly.
- Keep dry when not in use as any moisture can cause it to rust.
- Use parchment paper to protect the reasoning.
- Clean with steel wool and soap. Dry any excess water in the oven before seasoning. Your Dutch oven must be bone dry before seasoning.
Which One Will You Pick?
Dutch ovens are a great way to get that bakery quality bread right in your own home. With so many great options on the market, it’s hard to choose just one. But you should now have a better idea of which Dutch oven will be the best for you and your baking needs.
If you do go for a classic cast iron Dutch oven, set some time aside to preserve its longevity. If you don’t have the time to do this, an enamel-coated Dutch oven might be a better option for you as they require less maintenance.