Three Ways To Get Steam Into Your Oven For a Great Crust: VIDEO

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In Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, we talked about a way to get steam into the oven to create a great, crispy, caramelized crust on lean (un-enriched) loaves:  pouring water into a pre-heated METAL (not glass) broiler tray or other pan just before you close the oven door.  To be extra-safe about your glass oven window, protect it from the water with a towel before you pour the water; remove the towel before closing the oven door. Some older non-tempered glass windows can crack if you get water on them when they’re hot.  This metal-tray method works well in most ovens.

But some ovens are a bit temperamental about this.  Really large ovens, or really well-vented ones, and in many cases, professional-quality ovens installed in homes, seem to let the steam escape and you end up with a dull, pale-colored crust that never gets crisp.  We’ve got a video of some excellent alternatives…

Steam is escaping from those ovens, one way or another.  If you’re having trouble getting a nice crust, try one of the other two methods in this video, neither of which require the water tray:

  • a food-grade water sprayer
  • A lidded vessel, either a cast-iron pot, or a cloche (both need to be pre-heated before adding the dough)

Our other posts on these methods:

Baking in a Dutch Oven: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=552 or outdoors http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=627

Cloche baking: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=566

And the least expensive closed vessel of all:  Aluminum Roasting Pan for Crust: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=510

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with others using one of the social sharing buttons above. Thanks, Jeff and Zoë

142 thoughts on “Three Ways To Get Steam Into Your Oven For a Great Crust: VIDEO

    • Hi Amy,

      Do you use an oven thermometer? Jeff’s oven runs 50 degrees over what the oven says. Your oven may have a similar issue?

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Most people are not aware many modern ovens have a manual adjustment, usually using a small screw driver in one of the knob posts (after removing the knob). You can find specifics in the oven manual and after testing with an oven thermometer adjust the temperature so you do not have to do the temperature calculations on all your recipes.

  1. I’m wondering about the porousness of a cloche. I’m a potter, and I made a bowl/dome that I place on top of my bread stone, to act as a cloche.
    I’ve been using it for a while with good results. I have the choice of glazing it, or leaving it bare. I’d rather glade it, because of aesthetics. I’m wondering if there’s a specific reason for why the commercial cloche domes are left unglazed. wouldn’t it be better to make it LESS porous if the goal is to trap steam? how would it compare to a cast iron dutch oven?
    thanks for the help!

    • Jimena: I’m guessing it will work great as a fully glazed object. So long as your glazes are completely oven safe at these temperatures.

      — agree with your logic here, will behave like a covered cast-iron pot. Jeff

  2. I typically use a dutch oven and have great results, but here’s another alternative. I have been quite successful putting the dough on my baking stone and covering it with a rather large metal mixing bowl.

    The advantage to this is less chance of burning your hands by having to manipulate a large, heavy, and very hot dutch oven pan and lid.

  3. Hi Randy,

    This is a great trick, we have also done this with a disposable lasagna pan. Works like a charm!

    Thanks, Zoë

  4. I live in Australia and are very happy to have your book.
    3rd time lucky ! As you said in the book for a gummy insi de try more flour or less water, so I put 2 1/2 cups water and bingo! What a Cobb loaf !! My friends so impressed.
    Thank you Jeff and Zoe.

  5. Regarding steam! I have a very large free standing oven and the large tray that is the width of the stove I put on the bottom shelf and fill in with boiling water! When I close the oven door I see steam coming out so I put a towel there and that helps keep it in. My crust is the best.

  6. Thank heavens for food Jeff as we do not need to understand each other languish! A Cobb Loaf in Australia in round and a loaf is bread. So Jeff if you went to the bakery you would ask for a Cobb loaf or a Vienna loaf etc.
    Jeff I have also found that 20mins is not enough time to get my oven to the temp, as I do have a very wide oven I can fit 2 baking dish’s side by side in it. So I have worked it out when to put the oven on.
    Again Jeff and Zoe I thank you and more so my husband thanks you so much.

  7. I’m having a different sort of problem, not answered in the FAQs: my dough has separated into a fairly nice, soft, sticky dough (as mentioned in the recipe), but with a puddle of liquid, active sort of batter in the bottom. I don’t know what caused this. I made one batch of bread with this, one loaf, and to the rest of the dough and batter, I added some flaxseed meal and tried to sort of homogenize the rest. But it has, again, separated into dough and batter. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, nor how to prevent it the next time I make the master dough. Oh, and I should mention, this is the mostly whole-grain recipe. Should I, perhaps, have started with the artisan recipe (that is, white bread)?

    • Hi Susannah,

      This will sometimes happen if the dough has sat, untouched, for several days. The act of using the dough on a regular basis is enough to prevent this separation from happening. Once it does separate in this way you can always add a bit more flour to the batch and use it with no problem.

      This will happen with any of the doughs, not just the whole grain.

      Thanks, Zoë

  8. Could you suggest the safest way to cut/slice these thick-crusted breads? I cut my finger quite badly while slicing the Boule. I have a very good serrated bread knife, but it does not seem to get a good grasp on the bread, instead it slips off that thick crust. I tried to add a lot more pressure while trying to hold the bread straight, and a loss of control ensues. This is not a good scenario when you have a sharp instrument in your hand.

    I thought about “stabbing” the loaf first and using the resulting opening as a starting point for slicing, so the knife would have something to grab onto. Just wondering if you have any other suggestions?

    I love the bread and am totally thrilled with the ease of making it. I have purchased both your books. I like to give bread away to neighbors but I have cautioned them to be careful when cutting into it.

    Thank you very much for making my dreams of easy homemade bread come true!

    • Hi Barbara,

      Have you tried holding the bread on its side and cutting from the bottom edge, this sometimes helps. You will want to use a sawing motion to make a groove in the bread, this will steady the knife in the crust.

      Thanks, hope that helps? Zoë

  9. Can you add TOO MUCH steam? I tried using a broiler pan AND a spray bottle. My bread LOOKED awesome, and SOUNDED awesome out of the oven. The problem was after it cooled, my nice crust was soft! Oh no! Too much steam??? I’m going to try turning the oven off when it hits 200 – 210 degrees and let it cool off for 5-10 minutes IN the oven before resting on a cooling rack. Ideas?

    • Joel: Well, it could be, if you’re adding so much that it wets the crust more than the oven heat can adequately dry it out. Have you tried the covered pan or lasagne dish method? Jeff

  10. I have a question about the timing of putting in the water–is there any reason why you could not put a little more than cup of hot water into a metal pan a moment BEFORE putting in the bread? That way, you could take the time to pull the broiler pan out of the oven a bit to get the water in safely (I find the pouring a bit awkward, I’m always threatening to burn my hand on the oven rack)–or, perhaps even easier: could one use a smaller/deeper metal pan (like an 8″ aluminum cake pan or foil pan) that you can easily pull out of the oven, put in hot water, and then return to the oven? Is there a reason that any of these alternative ways of getting the hot water into the oven wouldn’t work as well?
    Thanks for sharing your recipes and advice–I like making this bread it’s quick and I get good consistent results from the HBin5 master recipe (to which I add a couple of TBSP of ground flax seed)

  11. I have had problems with the center of the loaf coming out doughy. I bought themometer to check the internal temp of the dough before removing from oven. But I don’t know what the internal temp should be. Thanks.

  12. I tried the basic ABin5 recipe today and am thrilled with it! I just have a couple of questions. For one, the inside of the bread was fairly dense. For two, my husband would like a slightly softer crust.

    I used unbleached white flour, and from what I can tell, the dough is very much like your pictures/videos, not too wet or dry. I let the rest for about 40 minutes, and it seams I lost some steam through the top oven vent.

    What of these things could affect the density and softness of the crust, and how can I achieve a slightly lighter bread with softer crust? Thank so much!

      • It’s probably sacrilege, but I don’t like a crispy crust, either. I always scratch my head wondering why people would WANT those sharp, unpleasant shards of crust in their mouths. I peel off the crunchy crust and throw it away if my bread accidentally gets like that! :)

        I find that if I put the fresh, hot loaf in a closed paper bag or cover it with a towel, it helps the crust soften up some. And, of course, the butter over the top is yummy and pretty as well as making it a little softer.

        So never fear, your husband isn’t alone!

      • Hi Sandra,

        I think your solution sounds great. It is the same method we use for the pita, so it makes perfect sense!

        Cheers, Zoë

  13. Can all whole grain breads be baked in a loaf pan instead of on a stone using the baking adjustments on page 80 (100% Whole Wheat Bread, Plain and Simple) of Healthy Bread in Five minutes a Day? i wanted to make Betsy’s seeded oat bread for kids sandwiches and a loaf works best… The baking adjustments are temp at 350 degrees, baking time 50 to 60 minutes. any recipe adjustments needed?

    Thanks so much! pumpkin pie brioche bread was huge hit at our “welcome fall” dinner party!!

    • Hi Suzanne,

      Yes, I bake Betsy’s in a loaf pan most often and it works great.

      So glad you enjoyed the pumpkin brioche! Cheers, Zoë

  14. Gooday,

    I tried the loaf today, using the steaming tray effect, bread turned out great!

    Great golden colour, however, after it came out of the oven, crust softened.

    Could you tell me what to do?

    Many Thanks

    • Hi Angela,

      Did you let the loaf cool completely before you cut into it? The crust will soften as it cools, because it is releasing steam from the loaf, but when it is fully cooled, it should get crisp again. If not, you need to bake the loaf longer, try adding 5 more minutes.

      It sounds like your loaf needs to rest longer before you bake it. This will help the baking and the split in the middle.

      Thanks, Zoë

      • Thanks Zoe

        I think your right. It needed more resting time.

        It was excellent. The taste was very nice and our kitchen smelled like a bakery, even though we have a lot of heat today in Australia!

        Thankyou

  15. I have been making your bread for a couple years now and love it. However, the last few months or so – my crust is not awesome anymore. its soft. even after letting the warm bread cool down – my crust is still not the thick, hard, crusty stuff it used to be. i am doing the steam trick (the water in a broiler pan). my oven seems to be the right temperature (i have a thermometer). what is the deal? thanks!

    ashley

  16. Wow – a Dutch Oven is definitely the way to go!! I have always gotten a nice crispy crust (pouring water into a broiler pan) – but have never gotten the cracking sound after the bread comes out of the oven (until using a Dutch Oven). I bought a 6Q oval KitchenAid cast iron Dutch Oven. It has a silicone covered handle on the lid which is good to 500 degrees. I anticipate making all my bread in the Dutch Oven from now on.

  17. Along these same lines….I’m not getting alot of “oven spring”, like, essentially none sometimes. I’m thinking its a steam issue. I have a pyrex type glass cassarole lidded container, would that work?

    • First– never use glass or pyrex for holding water in the oven, it could shatter. Second, I don’t think your problem is steam, usually this is a too-cool oven, check with something like http://ow.ly/8CVPU .

      Also could try a longer resting time, see our FAQ above, on Dense crumb…, item number three, though all of the items at that FAQ may be useful to you in this situation.

  18. Another way of steaming is to buy an un-glazed terracotta flower pot from wallmart or another store. MAKE SURE IT IS UN-GLAZED. Glaze contains led which will cause some issues. Thats why the professional ones are un-glazed. The only downfall i have noticed to using a flowerpot, the bread can obsorb the flavor of the earthy tones of the clay.

    • I’ve had the same concern– if you get odd flavors from clay vessels that weren’t intended for food, that seems like a deal-breaker, so I can’t recommend this.

      • Lol, thats true. Thank you for pointing that out. According to manufacture, the clay used is non toxic, but not technically ment for food. This is at users own risk. Though alton brown does recomend it on good eats.. Thats where i got the idea. He was using a clay saucer for the base. So i figured i would use the pot as a cloche. However, this is at each users own risk and from a professional standpoint, i would use cast iron. Find them CHEAP at thrift stores.

        thanks Jeff.

      • Yep, everyone’s at their own risk here. You’re right about Alton, I think he’s also endorsed the unglazed quarry tiles for use underneath free-form loaves. Same potential problem there, although maybe because it’s not a vessel, just a surface, there’s less chance of vapor accumulating in the bread.

      • Jeff, great point. I could go into all the thermo dynamics of it but today is my no study for mechanical engineering day. its a day off of physics and pre med stuff. Just a relax and bake day. haha.

        I do use the unglazed tiles as well, but i made sure to get the resturaunt grade ones. The tile manufacture here in utah says they are food safe and ment for ovens.

        thanks jeff.

  19. Thanks for the great, updated video!

    Although I have been baking AB5 since the Splendid Table show (2007?), I wanted to see a good video about baking with steam. I’m nursing some injuries, and he’s helping me.

    Your video gave him a choice of methods. Thanks, and Happy New Year!!!

  20. I’m new to the book but am impressed. My question: Why not let the water heat up as you’re preheating the oven, then you don’t have to deal with the extra step and the steam is already present. I’ve tried this and it seems to work. Is there a reason it’s not suggested?

    • Traditionally, people talked about a “burst” of steam, and that the sudden-ness of it made a difference. Like a lot of received wisdom in traditional baking, it’s never questioned and never tested both ways. One problem that could come up– when you open the oven, you might get a burst of steam which could cause a burn.

      Other ways to get steam? Go to our FAQs tab above and scroll down to “Steam alternatives: How do I create a steam environment for a great crust when my oven doesn’t trap steam well?”

  21. Q for you: If you brush oil (or butter) on top, do you still need to use steam? Because I have been making a softer, different kind of crust on my sourdough bread by brushing it with oil before I slash it, sprinkle it with Maldon salt, and pop it in the oven. The goal here is not a crispy crust, so I’m wondering if steam is necessary in the presence of an oil topping?

      • Zoe, By the way, this Shortcut Goldrush Sourdough bread won a First Place Blue Ribbon at the 2014 California State Fair! I’ve learned so much from your Artisan Bread books and videos. I added a simplified sourdough breadmaking technique where I combine the starter and the dough into a one-dough process (a refrigerator dough), which I’ve found to be a clean and reliable new method. I hope you check out my idea and the prize-winning recipe on my Facebook page. (You’ll also see my grandkids with their home-made bear claws, thanks to you. Yum!) Vicki

      • Hi Vicki,

        How terrific! We love using sour dough in our method, it works like a charm!

        Love bear claws too! :)

        Cheers, Zoë

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