If you're looking for the best Dutch Oven for sourdough bread, you've come to the right place. I have put together the ultimate guide to selecting the perfect Dutch Oven for your sourdough journey - based on my years of testing and baking thousands of loaves of sourdough bread!
The best Dutch Oven for baking sourdough bread is a round 5Q or 5L cast-iron Dutch Oven with a tight-fitting lid and loop handles on each side for easy handling. You also need to ensure that the knob and handles of the Dutch Oven you choose are oven safe to high heat (preferably brass or cast iron and not plastic). The perfect Dutch Oven for sourdough bread will have just enough room for the dough to rise, but not so big that the dough spreads out.
I have put many different types of Dutch Ovens to the test to make sure that I can provide you with the information you need to know when selecting a Dutch Oven to bake your own sourdough bread, including options for baking boule (round shape) and batard (oval shape) loaves, as well as baking multiple sourdough loaves at once.
If you're in a rush, these Dutch Ovens are the exact size I use for baking my simple sourdough bread recipe:
You might also find this how to bake perfect sourdough bread in a Dutch Oven guide useful also.
What is a Dutch Oven?
A Dutch Oven is a heavy pot with thick walls, usually made from cast iron. It has a tight fitting lid which retains heat. One of the best features about a Dutch Oven is that it can be used on the stove top, as well as in the oven. Some Dutch Ovens can even be used over an open fire.
A Dutch Oven is definitely an essential piece of equipment for home cooks everywhere. These versatile pots can solve a myriad of problems. They are can be used for slow cooking and braising, cooking pot roasts and stews, soups, casseroles, baking bread and puddings - plus so much more!
Dutch Ovens can be made from different materials. Enameled Dutch Ovens are perhaps the most popular option because they come in an array of beautiful colors. Bare cast iron, ceramic and stainless steel are also good choices for different applications.
Benefits of A Dutch Oven When Baking Sourdough Bread
Should you invest in a Dutch Oven to bake your sourdough bread? 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 (unless you put ice inside the Dutch Oven). It's simple, easy and effective.
The main benefits of baking sourdough in a Dutch Oven are:
- Superior oven spring
- Thin and crispy crust
- Light airy crumb
- providing a consistently steamy environment
- the closest result to baking your sourdough in a professional bakers oven.
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.
Best Size Dutch Oven 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 baking sourdough in a Dutch Oven:
- For baking round boules (500g flour) you'll need around 4L to 5L (4Q to 5Q)
- For baking oval batards (500g flour) you'll need around 5L to 7L (5Q to 7Q)
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 and can also cause your loaf to have indents where the parchment paper is pressed into the loaf.
All the Dutch Ovens I use for baking sourdough bread are at least 4 to 5 inches deep (10 - 12cm). This depth gives your sourdough loaf plenty of room to rise upwards. There is definitely a lot to think about when finding the right Dutch oven for sourdough bread.
The best way to check whether the size of your Dutch Oven is suitable for your dough is to place your empty banneton inside your Dutch Oven (obviously when it's cold). If you can't fit your banneton inside the Dutch Oven, then your dough won't fit and you'll need to get a bigger Dutch Oven.
What Types of Dutch Ovens Are There?
There are a number of Dutch Ovens on the market. Each one has it's pros and cons and it will really depend on your personal preference as to which one you prefer. I have listed the main types of Dutch Ovens below:
- Double Dutch Oven or Combi Cooker
- Round Enamel Dutch Oven
- Oval Enamel Dutch Oven
- Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- Cast Iron Bread Pan
Combi Cooker or Multi Cooker Dutch Oven (also called Double 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 and are considered a bare cast iron Dutch Oven as they are never enamelled. Not only can you bake a wonderful loaf of sourdough bread, you can also sear a steak, cook a stew or even a pot roast!
This Lodge Combo Cooker is the most popular choice for baking sourdough bread and has thousands of good recommendations and reviews. What I love most about this type of combination Dutch Oven is that when you remove the lid or cloche at the end of "lid on" cooking time, the sides of the sourdough bread cook more evenly as they are more exposed than with a traditional Dutch Oven.
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, heavy lid to trap steam with an oven proof knob and handles for easy handling.
The round Dutch Ovens I use for baking sourdough bread are 5Q (around 4.7L). This size allows me to bake loaves from around 250g of flour up to 500g of flour. This round Dutch Oven is the same size as the one I use.
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. Depending on the size of your Oval Dutch Oven, you may also be able to bake round loaves in it as well.
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 are looking for a Dutch Oven that can handle outdoor use, you definitely want to go for a bare cast iron Dutch Oven. This Lodge cast iron Dutch Oven is a good choice for this type of Dutch Oven.
Cast Iron Bread Pan
These cast iron bread pans are relatively new to the market and can range in price from around $100 up to around $400. I do enjoy using my cast iron bread pan, however it can be very heavy and harder to manoeuvre than a Dutch Oven because of the angle of the handles. One thing I LOVE about using this type of cast iron bread pan is the color I get on my sourdough crust.
The most popular example of this type of Cast Iron Bread Pan is the Challenger Bread Pan. If you are looking for a more affordable option (or you don't live in the US) this Cuisiland option is great. I also highly recommend this Brunswick Baker pan. This is the cast iron pan you will see featured in my photos.
You will also find stainless steel and ceramic Dutch Ovens on the market, however I do not recommend these for sourdough baking (unless you're using the stainless steel pot as s bread cloche).
Are Cheap Dutch Ovens Ok To Bake Sourdough In?
Yes, cheaper Dutch Ovens are fine to bake sourdough bread in. I've baked many loaves in a round Dutch Oven from Aldi that cost me less than $30. There are a few things you should know though.
Cheaper Dutch Ovens are usually enamel. The enamel will often crack and craze more easily on a cheaper Dutch Oven. I still use my Dutch Ovens that have this issue as I always use parchment paper inside so the bread doesn't sit directly on the enamel. I wouldn't use these Dutch Ovens for soup or casseroles however.
After testing many Dutch Ovens, both cheaper options and more expensive, I have found that I get a better color on my sourdough loaves from the more expensive, better quality Dutch Ovens. This is more than likely because they have thicker walls and regulate the heat better.
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.
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. I've talked about using a bread sling in this post about the alternatives to using parchment paper when baking sourdough bread.
Here's my step by step guide to putting sourdough bread into a hot Dutch Oven:
- Score your sourdough bread on a piece of parchment paper (ideally do this in a spot very close to your oven).
- Put on your heat resistant oven gloves.
- Open the oven door and take off the lid of the Dutch Oven (my oven is very wide so I place the lid on the rack next to the Dutch Oven, but if you have a small oven, it's best to have a trivet or wooden board to put the lid on while you're positioning your dough).
- Carefully place the scored dough into the Dutch Oven. Ensure that the parchment paper isn't pressing into the dough.
- Replace the lid of the Dutch Oven and close the oven door.
How To Clean Enamel Dutch Oven After Baking Sourdough Bread
One of the downsides of using an enamelled 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.
If you want to keep you Dutch Oven clean inside, there are a few things you can try. With proper care, you can keep your Dutch Ovens looking their best, even after baking sourdough bread at maximum temperature.
I must admit that I put mine through the dishwasher every so often too (even though hand washing is always recommended practice). 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 (definitely do not do this with expensive Le Creuset Dutch Ovens!!!).
Some of the best ways to clean your enamel Dutch Oven after baking sourdough bread are:
- 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 (do not use this product if you have a plastic sink).
- A soft, non scratch scouring pad will also help to loosen debris.
If there is some bare cast iron showing around the rim of the cast iron pot or lid, you can wipe this with some vegetable oil or olive oil to keep it from rusting.
Cleaning Cast Iron Dutch Oven After Baking Sourdough Bread
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 its 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!
Frequently Asked Questions
You can bake sourdough bread in a cold Dutch Oven, but you won't get the same oven spring as baking it in a hot Dutch Oven. Baking in a cold Dutch Oven is a good way to save on electricity and I have written about this in my sourdough on a budget post.
A Dutch Oven can be used for many different applications in the kitchen including soups, casseroles, pot roasts, crusty bread, braising and slow cooking.
If your Dutch Oven has a plastic knob or handles you will not be able to use it to bake sourdough bread as the handles will melt. If it's just the knob that is plastic you can often remove it and cover the hole with foil or purchase a new, oven safe knob.
Generally you will need an oval shaped Dutch Oven to bake a batard, unless you are using a smaller banneton that will fit inside the round Dutch Oven. This small batard was baked in a round 5Q Lodge Dutch Oven. It was shaped in a 25cm or 10" banneton.