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Should You Invest In A Dutch Oven To Bake Sourdough Bread?

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Should you invest in a Dutch Oven to bake sourdough bread? This is a question many sourdough bakers ask at the beginning of their sourdough journey. There are many different points of view on this question. Here’s mine!

What you’ll learn in this article:

  • Benefits of Baking Sourdough in a Dutch Oven
  • What Size Dutch Oven You Should Buy for Sourdough Bread
  • Taking Care of Your Dutch Oven
  • How to Safely Handle Your Dutch Oven

Should You Invest In A Dutch Oven To Bake Sourdough Bread?

Should you? YES!! In my opinion a Dutch Oven is the BEST way to cook your sourdough. It can give you a consistent result every time.

You don’t have to muck around with trays of ice or water to create steam. It’s simple, easy and effective. And with so many different Dutch Ovens on the market, you’re sure to find one that matches your style, needs and budget!

Benefits of A Dutch Oven When Baking Sourdough Bread

Baking sourdough in a Dutch Oven will give you superior oven spring, a delicious thin and crispy crust and a light airy crumb. The consistent environment provided by your Dutch Oven will give you the closest result to baking your sourdough in a professional baker’s oven.

Should you invest in a Dutch Oven to bake sourdough bread? YES!
Investing in a Dutch oven can ensure that you create a consistently steam environment to bake successful sourdough every single time.

A Dutch Oven traps steam inside – it’s this steam that is absolutely key to good sourdough – it keeps the outside crust softer for longer as your dough expands with the heat. Without steam, your dough will crust over too soon which will stop the outwards expansion (or oven spring) and you won’t get that beautiful puffed up loaf. 

Baking your sourdough in a covered vessel also means that your bread can cook evenly without the top becoming super crusty before the rest of your loaf is cooked. You can, of course, cook it uncovered for the last part of your bake to crisp and colour up the top. 

Wild Yeasts, unlike commercial yeast, need a little help to make them really spring up in the oven. Super high baking temperatures and some steam, provided by your Dutch Oven, make the perfect environment for your dough.

What Size Dutch Oven Should I Buy For Baking Sourdough?

I have a few Dutch Ovens in different sizes to accomodate different size loaves. Some of the things to think about when choosing a size are:

  • What size banneton do you use (and what size loaf will you be cooking). When choosing your Dutch Oven, make sure your banneton will fit inside with around 1 inch around the edges. This will mean your dough will fit!
  • What shape bread are you baking (ie round or oval)
  • Would you prefer a traditional pot with a lid or a combi cooker with a flat bottom and cloche lid.

I recommend the following sizes for Dutch Ovens:

  • For baking round boules (500g flour) you’ll need around 4L (4Q)
  • For baking oval batards (500g flour) you’ll need around 7L (7.5Q)

You don’t want your Dutch Oven too big – you want the steam inside to be right up close to your crust. But you don’t want it too small either or it will restrict the growth of your loaf of sourdough.

Types of Dutch Ovens

There are a number of Dutch Ovens on the market. These are the most common types and the benefits of each one.

Combi Cooker or Multi Cooker Dutch Oven

These types of Dutch Ovens can be used for many purposes and the base is often a skillet. You can place your bread dough on the skillet and use the “pot” as a kind of cloche to cook your bread. They are very popular and generally made from pre-seasoned cast iron. They are a very affordable option for baking sourdough bread and can be used for a multitude of other purposes in the kitchen. Most Combi Cookers are around 5Q in size.

Lodge Combi Cooker for Sourdough Bread Baking

Round Enamelled Dutch Oven

This type of Dutch Oven is the most commonly used for sourdough baking. It comes in a range of different colors and often has a light colored enamel interior. They can range in price from around $40 up to hundreds of dollars for more expensive brands. When buying an enamelled Dutch Oven you want to look for a heavy base to regulate the heat, a tight fitting lid to trap steam with an oven proof knob and handles for easy handling.

Oval Enamelled Dutch Oven

Similar to the round Dutch Oven in function, the oval Dutch Oven allows you to bake batards in a more controlled environment.

Cast Iron Dutch Oven

A Cast Iron Dutch Oven is suitable for both indoors and outdoor cooking. It can handle very high temperatures and is really easy to keep clean (you don’t have to worry about it staining). You do have to season cast iron and you will need to keep it oiled so that it does not rust.

If you would like to see my fave Dutch Ovens, you can visit my Amazon Store here {this is an affiliate link}

How To Handle A Hot Dutch Oven

Many people express their fear in using a Dutch Oven to bake their bread. Especially because it needs to be searing hot in order to give you the best oven spring. My advice is to find yourself a really good set of high temperature oven gloves. I have never actually burned my hand when handling a Dutch Oven – I’ve burned my arms by doing silly things and not wearing my gloves.

Safely placing your sourdough in a hot Dutch Oven.

If you make a sling for your sourdough bread and use that lower your cold, scored dough into the hot Dutch Oven, you shouldn’t have an issue with burning yourself. Always use high temperature oven gloves when removing the pot form the oven or taking off the lid.

If you don’t want to use parchment paper, you can get a “bread sling” – it’s made of silicone and can be used over and over again.

Cleaning Your Dutch Oven

One of the downsides of using an enamled Dutch Oven when baking sourdough bread can be that the high temperatures necessary for baking can cause discolouration to the enamel. Generally only lighter colours will be affected.

My favorite Dutch Oven is cream enamel. It’s my workhorse and gets used on the daily. It’s terribly discoloured but it makes the most amazing bread so I don’t mind. I wipe it out after using but the discoloration stays. I have just resided myself to the fact that it’s going to stay that way. I have a few others which are black so don’t show the tarnish.

If you want to keep you Dutch Oven clean inside, there are a few things you can try. I must admit that I put mine through the dishwasher every so often too. I don’t recommend this for expensive Dutch Ovens, however if you’re not too fussed about it then it’s a great way to give enamel a good clean.

Some of the best ways to clean your enamel Dutch Oven:

  • Make a paste with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, leave to soak for a good hour and then wipe clean.
  • Use a Magic Eraser to clean the enamel.
  • Use Bar Keeper’s Friend to clean your Dutch Oven.
  • A soft, non scratch scouring pad will also help to loosen debris.

If you have chosen a true cast iron Dutch Oven without an enamel coating, you won’t be able to use the above methods to clean it – and in actual fact it shouldn’t really need to be cleaned in that way. To keep your Cast Iron Dutch Oven looking it’s best, just lightly wipe over with olive oil to stop it from rusting. Do not put this type of Dutch Oven in the dishwasher!

No matter whether you have an enamel or raw Cast Iron Dutch Oven, it’s a good idea to use parchment or baking paper under your sourdough to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pot. That is one mess you don’t want to have to deal with.

If you aren’t currently baking with a Dutch Oven, I urge you to give it a go. It will give you better sourdough! And it might just become your new fave piece of kitchenware!

Looking for the best beginner’s guide to baking sourdough bread? You’ll find it here.

Want to read the ultimate guide to getting off the charts oven spring? Check out these tips!

This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

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