Why you may want to rethink using your Dutch oven for sourdough

If, as some bakers have taken to the internet to say, bread baking is a journey, there are plenty of households in America who bought their tickets when the pandemic struck. But, for every sourdough-making success story that made it to social media, we are pretty certain that there are a fair number of failures people would be happy to set aside and forget — many of which likely involve falling for the 'oh it's easy' trap experienced cooks and bakers inevitably set when they try and explain their craft. 

One tip that has taken root on the internet involves baking bread in a Dutch oven, the versatile pot used to make just about anything; in fact, Bon Appetit lists 58 ways to cook with your Dutch oven here. But if you really want to turn out a good boule of sourdough, baker Andy Kadin of Los Angeles bakery Bub and Grandma's says a Dutch oven may not be the best go-to tool in town. Instead, he suggests using a cast-iron combo cooker, which comes with a skillet at the bottom and a tall pot for a lid (via Eater).

Baking bread in a Dutch oven properly requires more effort

Maurizio, the blogger behind the award-winning The Perfect Loaf, does not call for an outright ban on the Dutch oven because a Dutch oven, or Andy Kadin's recommendation, the combo cooker, keeps dough in a damp, moist environment that also traps intense heat. In short, the gadget replicates the environment that bakers have on hand with which to make their beautiful boules and baguettes. 

But Maurizio also warns that baking with an enameled Dutch oven (such as the kind Andy Kadin warns us against) will require adjustments, including preheating at a lower temperature and watching the bread constantly. You might also want to use a baking sheet or baking stone to keep the bottom of your bread from burning. Maurizio also recommends making sure that your enamel Dutch oven is oven-safe up to 450 degrees F and that its lid is tight enough to do the job it was meant to do. For all his tips, the award-winning The Perfect Loaf blogger does not use a Dutch oven because, as he puts it: "I'm still a big fan of steaming my home oven and baking my sourdough bread directly on a Baking Steel."

So you might want to think twice before investing hundreds of dollars in a Dutch oven, when a more economical cast iron combo cooker will do the trick.