A $40 cast-iron pot for baking perfect bread

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2021/01/12/a-40-cast-iron-pot-for-baking-perfect-bread.html

We’ve been baking sourdough in our Lodge cast iron dutch oven and it works great.

Only thing we noticed is you have to be more careful about timing as the bottom crust can get a little overcooked and scorched. We just reduced the temp a few degrees and a little less time in the oven to compensate and now it comes out perfect!

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Oooo, thank you, good advice!

I’ve been making round loaves in a cast iron dutch oven for some time, and really like the results. I let the loaf rise in a bowl lined with oiled parchment paper, then put the dutch oven in the 500-degree oven for like half an hour. Then I transfer the dough into the cast iron by using the parchment paper as a sling, and close the dutch oven. Steams the outside of the loaf.

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Combo cookers are great. They’re popular for baking bread these days, but once upon a time they were mostly pitched as fried chicken pans. Since they’re essentially a once upon a time standard chicken pan with a skillet for a lid.

So these lodge pans are one of few affordable ways to get a newly made chicken pan. The design seems to have faded out overtime. Vintage ones are expensive as fuck.

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I put our worst cookie tray on the lowest rack as a bit of a heat deflector. That way the bottom of the bread pan is not subject to as-direct a heat.

Using a baker is a huge improvement. Also very handy is a thermometer with a probe. I’m assuming everyone measures quantity by weight on a scale. So three pieces of equipment that are highly recommended.

I chose the Emile Henri ceramic oval baker instead of the Lodge as it made more sense at the time. The Lodge offerings available to me were too small for my loaves and very expensive in CAD.

(When we talk loaf size, are we talking gross weight? Or just the weight of the grains? The grains is what matters, no?)

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Combo all the way for steam baking. Lodge does one with side handles that I find easy to turn in the oven for even baking. Also fits perfectly into my small 30L oven.

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I don’t know that I’d buy that just for making bread, and unfortunately I haven’t found any Lodge cookware I could use on my glass-top stove. The bottoms usually have a ridge around the edge, which would be entirely no trouble on an electric-burner stove or of course on gas stoves, but just don’t work for this. If I ever have to replace the stove, I’ll probably go back to standard electric burners; the glass-top needs cleaning all the time.

You can put a heat diffuser on the range top to protect it from heavy cookware.

My grandmother used to use the sort of bent wire ones that come with glass kettles and these aluminum ones from the 50’s. They were basically a hollow aluminum disk with off set perforations on each side.

We often use our cast iron pans as heat diffusers as our restaurant grade stove doesn’t have a simmer burner, and it just runs a bit hot to simmer smaller batches. Have a round cast iron griddle we don’t like much and that’s basically all it does at this point.

I think a standard steel disk diffuser is probably the better bet on your end. Useful things, absolute life saver with a glass stove top.

ETA: Oh and the other approach is to just go with carbon steel. Performs a lot like cast iron, but smooth bottom and a fraction of the weight. I gifted a big ole carbon steel skillet to my sister and her fiancé for their glass stove top, they’ve starting buying more. Lodge makes pre-seasoned ones at a good price. Or hit the restaurant supply store for thicker gauge ones, they’re pretty cheap in commercial space while you might pay $100 for a name brand one at the yuppy store. Volrath, Lodge, Winco, and Matfer are all common commercial supply brands. Think it’s the Matfer ones that are thick gauge.

I got a nice 3mm skillet for about $25 bucks at a local junk shop, believe its a Matfer since it’s only marked “France” and it’s on the thicker end.

Unfortunately carbon steel dutch ovens aren’t a thing

You had me at round, tapered bottom.

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Induction is the way to go…all the benefits of gas in an electric stovetop.

Joe has also written about an induction cooktop.

The model is high-end but explains the benefits.

Disclosure: Joe’s a freind and cribbage partner.

Prices have definitely come down on induction ranges. I love my KitchenAid cooktop and no need for a smartphone app for half the price. Only downside is the temp ranges are a cryptic 1-10 scale and not a precise F/C degree measurement. But it does have simmer and melt hold settings and a “boost” mode for quick boiling.

Once you get used to induction (and have the right set of cookware), you’ll never go back to electric coils or gas burners.