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

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

  1. Great video – thanks. I have been successfully baking bread with a cast iron Dutch oven for six months or more, and I use parchment to drop the bread in.

    In the video, you said to remove the parchment about 2/3 of the way through, but you were baking on a pizza stone. Should I remove the parchment part way through when baking in a cast iron Dutch oven?

  2. My favorite way to add steam with a home oven is to use a dutch oven that’s bigger than your loaf. Lower the bread into the pot. Pour 2 tablespoons of water into the side of the pot, and immediately cover the pot.

  3. Hi Jeff

    Can you clarify how you use the cloche?
    In the video, you say “use as the Dutch oven”.
    Am I right to think you mean “Heat the cloche in the oven at 450°F, then put you dough in the cloche”?
    Have you tried baking from a cold cloche (or a cold Dutch oven)?

    Thanks for the clarification and best wishes for 2011!

    Claudine in France

    PS: Just 2 more weeks before I get my hands on the UK version of AB5!

  4. Me again :)

    Having followed the links on using a cloche, I have the answer to my question.
    My apologies for not doing so earlier.

    This site has a mine of info, which I should explore more thoroughly!

    Claudine in France

  5. I’ve used a handful of ice (4-6 cubes). When the bread goes in, toss the ice on the metal floor of the oven. Two minutes later, toss in another handful.

    My water sprayer days ended some time ago when some droplets struck the oven light, and the bulb shattered — into the bread, my shirt and onto the kitchen floor — thankfully no injuries, but lesson learned.

    I like your pouring hot water into a preheated metal tray, but most times I bake in a Dutch oven. Great site and books; thanks, all!

  6. I use the la cloche and a schlemmertopf as well, and both give extraordinary bread, whether five minutes a day bread or more traditional methods. Can’t recommend them highly enough!

  7. This is completely off the subject, but I just came across a delicious-sounding recipe for sauerkraut rye bread. Of course, it was the old knead, rise, etc. method, which I now avoid like the plague. I looked in your books, but didn’t see anything similar. Have you ever done a sauerkraut rye using your method? (Maybe I just didn’t look hard enough) It sounds wonderful!

    • Deb: In HBin5 (http://bit.ly/3wYSSN), we add all kinds of vegetables and fruit into the dough mixes (the “Hidden Fruit and Vegetables” chapter). So I’m sure you could swap in sauerkraut, give it a try. You’ll need to adjust the water (I’m guessing downward), so this will take a bit of experimentation. Jeff

  8. Guess what? When using the cloche or the dutch oven, you don’t really have to pre-heat the base of the cloche or the pot.

    I always pre-heat the lid, but allow the dough to do it’s final counter “rest” in the base of the vessel itself. And it comes out just as perfect, without the danger of having to sling a slack dough into a screaming hot vessel.

    This really works, give it a try (and it will not shatter your clay cloche, either).

  9. Hi Zoe and Jeff:

    I have been baking your style for a couple of years now- love your books! One problem sufaced however- I had 2 loaves of your Panettone ready to bake on Sunday and my oven wouldn’t work! It turns out the main controller was fried- possibly from using the steam technique according to the technician. I have a Frigidare convection oven. So I am faced with replacing it as the repair is too spendy for what it is. Do you have any recommendations for a better brand- especially considering how I am using it with the steam? I am thinking about a double oven. BTW, I ended up cooking the panettones in a wood fired oven I have over my fireplace- it is a bit small and hard to get adequate consistent heat but they came out alright- just a bit crunchy on the top! I’d appreciate any advice or reommendations you might have on a new oven- thank you-

    Linda Bertrand
    Bemidji, MN

    • Hi Linda,

      Sorry to hear about your oven, what a shame. I have a double wall unit also made by Frigidaire and I love it. I have baked thousands of loaves and pizzas in it with great results. I have to say that Jeff has a Jenn-air and it produces a slightly more intense heat and is therefore perfect as a pizza oven. But, you have a wood oven so your all set for pizzas! ;)

      Good luck with your new oven.

      Zoë

  10. “Jan: Are you convinced that it’s equally crisp, have you actually compared them head to head?”

    Absolutely! It’s only dough–give it a try yourself.

  11. Off-topic question, if I may.

    I’ve made a couple of batches of the bagels now, and while we like them, I’m having one problem. When I take them out of the oven, the very middle (along the hole) is still very doughy. I don’t think they’re underdone.. the rest of the bagel is perfect, and the outside is a deep brown. Any suggestions to fix this?

  12. Hi Zoe,

    Another off-topic question. I’ve been making your gluten free bread for a few weeks and I just can’t get it rise or to not be damp on the inside. It’s nice and crispy on the outside and even tastes good, but just damp on the inside. I’d love some ideas for troubleshooting this.

    • Tammy– problem is that the flours vary, especially in their ability to absorb water. I’m guessing that your dough is too wet, so the first thing I’d try is to dry it out a bit. Decrease the liquids by maybe a 1/4 cup and see what you think. Unless…

      your oven temp is off. Have you tried checking with an inexpensive oven thermometer like http://bit.ly/czmco2 ?

  13. Richard, that looks fascinating! And it’s on sale! Might have to try that! Thanks for sharing!

    Zoe & Jeff, I mixed up a batch of Betsy’s Seeded Oat Bread night before last and baked my first loaf yesterday…oh my! Please thank Betsy for being your inspiration for creating this! I used almond slices instead of pinenuts and didn’t have enough honey so finished out the half cup with a bit of molasses and Lyle’s Golden Syrup and now my only problem will be not eating the entire loaf in two days!

    Happy New Year!

  14. Thanks Jeff. We just bought a new oven since the old one was off between 100 and 200 degrees at any time. :) We do have a temp gauge in there to check it and it’s about 20 degrees off now, so we have been adjusting that. I will vary the liquid though. I am going to make some up today and try it with less liquid this time. thank you.

  15. I love the oatmeal bread from the first book, but sometimes it is so “crumbly” that it doesn’t hold together when you cut it. It falls apart in the toaster. Tastes great, but doesn’t stay in one piece. Do I need to add more liquid to the dough?

    • Merrie: Sure sounds like it– go ahead and increase the water a little (1/8 to 1/4 cup?). Also, maybe do a more careful shaping step– see our videos on the tab above. Jeff

  16. Off-topic question (if you don’t mind!) – do you recommend using whole wheat pastry flour in any of your recipes? It’s new to me, and I’m trying to learn where it’s appropriate to use (and I have 25 lb’s of it! Yikes!).
    Thank you!

    • Hi Kitter,

      The reason it is called “pastry” flour is because it is lower in protein, which creates gluten. You want gluten for bread to create structure, but you don’t want it in pastries or they are too tough. You may be able to mix the pastry flour with some vital wheat gluten and create a flour that is suitable for baking breads. Are you baking from ABin5 or HBin5?

      Enjoy, Zoë

  17. Great video! I knew about the baking pan of water and the spraying but the baking in the pan was new to me.

    I would love to know where to get a large rectangular baking stone like the on Jeff has in his oven! I have a circular one but that isn’t really convenient for some bread shapes. Thanks!

    • Hi Katie,

      If you look on the left hand side of the webpage you will see an Amazon store that has all of the equipment we recommend, including the stone.

      Thanks, Zoë

  18. Man you’re fast! Thank you!
    I use both books, so I’m familiar with vital wheat gluten. I’ll play with that (and probably mix in some AP or reg. whl wheat as well).
    Thanks so much!
    p.s. Recently started baking brioche recipes from both books – SOOOO good! Thank you for those!!

  19. Hi, Jeff,
    I’m having crust issues. My basic white boule is coming out great, crunchy and crisp, and beautiful. But, making the wheat bread, my crust is pale and rubbery, and lackluster. When I am using the same method in the same oven, why am I having trouble with the wheat? (taste and inside texture are fantastic, by the way, just not as impressive on the presentation and chew of the crust)

    Thanks for any input you have!
    Jenny

    • Jenny: Whole grain bread never has as crunchy or crackly a crust as white flour-breads. But it’s possible that your oven is running low-temp, have you checked with an oven thermometer like http://bit.ly/czmco2 ? Likewise for steam in the oven– maybe you can use more, or a different method (see above).

      But it’ll never be the same as white bread’s crust. Not possible, because of the oil naturally-occurring in wheat germ. Jeff

  20. I have been baking from ABIN5 for almost a year (mostly free form and pizza) and I LOVE it.
    I got HBIN5 for Christmas and tried the 10 Grain Bread as a free form load which came out great.
    Is there anything special I need to do to make it in a loaf pan so it is more suitable for sandwiches?

    • Brian: Nothing radically different from other whole-grain breads that we do in a loaf pan– longer baking time is probably needed, and if it’s getting overly browned could turn down oven heat.

      Don’t make a huge bulging loaf the first time you do it, to be sure that it’s getting done to the center. Jeff

  21. I just bought a new stone which some recommend placing on the floor of the oven. If I were to do that, how would you recommend adding the water for steam?

    • Ann: I usually put my stone on a low or middle shelf, not the bottom of the oven. The strategy you suggest may help if you’re finding that the tops of your breads are overbrowning and the bottom crust is pale.

      Don’t put a stone directly on electric oven coils though.

      As for the metal steam pan, I’ve found that although everyone says put it under the bread (now impossible!), it doesn’t actually matter at all so long as your oven traps steam well– it all just circulates. Actually tested this, so put it wherever you like that won’t interfere with rising bread. Jeff

  22. Thanks! I had been putting my old stone (Pampered Chef – five years old) in the middle of my oven with the broiler pan beneath it. The other day, it cracked mid-baking so I bought a heavier Williams Sonoma Pizza Stone, and the packaging says it can be put on the bottom of my oven (which is gas). I can put it higher up, but was wondering if there was a benefit to having it lower, and if so, where I’d put the water. Will try it both ways. My bread’s browning very nicely.

    Also, I loved the gluten free batch I made – but, more importantly, so did my gluten free friends! They are thrilled. I may be on permanently for bread in the group supper rotation (life is so hard sometimes ;-).

    • Hi Ann,

      You can put the stone in the middle of bottom of the oven. It is ok if the steam is above the bread as long as it doesn’t effect the rising.

      Glad you enjoyed the g-f breads.

      Thanks, Zoë

  23. Jeff and Zoe-
    I must say “Love the method and Love the bread” made up my first batch yesterday. Made my first loaf today…family at it all, they said this is the best bread that they have ever eaten. Thank you so much! Have told many friends about your book!

  24. Question: why does my bread stick to the pizza stone when it’s done baking? I’ve been making your bread for a couple of years now and only once did it come right off. Just had to chisel another loaf off and I thought I’d come and ask the experts. I can’t identify anything that I did differently that one time.

    Thank you,
    Linda

    • Hi Linda,

      How long are you preheating your stone before you bake the bread? It could be caused by the wet dough hitting a stone that is not hot enough and then they fuse together as they both heat up.

      Let me know if this sounds possible for your situation. Thanks, Zoë

  25. Thank you Zoe, this definitely sounds possible. Shortly after I posted this I think I came to the same conclusion (of course!). I believe it was after reading the entry about the stones and pans you use and the thickness of one of your stones. Mine is thicker than recommended in the book at 3/4″. How much longer preheating would you recommend, just five minutes or more? Obviously I can fiddle with this as I go along.

    By the way, it was wonderful seeing that your stones looked like mine–used! I get freaked out when things don’t come clean enough to look like new and now instead of being embarrassed I’ll feel professional.

  26. Linda: More traditional books call for a one-hour stone preheat, but we didn’t think our readers would appreciate that. All I can say is that for a very thick stone like yours, the happier pre-heat time is going to be between 30 and 60 min. Make sure your oven is running at the right temp too; that could actually be the real problem (if it’s running low). Use an oven therm like http://bit.ly/czmco2 when the oven is totally pre-heated (like when a bread is finished) to see how your oven’s running. Jeff

  27. I think your video answers a lot of questions on steam. I love your book on Healthy bread and that is all I eat – no more store bought breads. I do have a question. I am interested in the long – lidded baker from King Arthur Flour. It is made of unglazed, porous stoneware. Will this work for your steam version?

  28. I just discovered your video/youtube on a blog. Within a couple of days I tried your recipe/method. It made 2 beautiful loaves of bread and 4 large rolls in just one day. Taste is great, both plain and toasted. I used to make bread the old fashioned way – but no more.

  29. My husband had pneumonia this summer and one of the silver linings of his eight weeks down was that we found your book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. My family is smitten with your bread, we have made Baguette, Boule, Pain d’Epi, Brioche, Light Wheat, Wheat and we have only just begun! We make a loaf or more a day. Our friends are catching the bug ~ the Vail Valley is going to be overflowing with your amazing bread! I teach at MOPs and have talked about the bread so much that we are going to do a demonstration due to all of the requests! After all of that, I do have a question, do I need to refrigerate a cooked loaf of Brioche? Thank you again for this awesome bread revolution, amazing bread is a short step away for the home cook ~ Debi Schneider, Vail, Colorado

    • Hi Debi,

      Thank you for the wonderful note, I am happy that your husband has recovered!

      You do not need to refrigerate a baked brioche.

      Thanks, Zoë

  30. Yesterday, I was mixing up two batches of dough at once: the master recipe from HBIN5 and the Light wheat from ABIN5 and I accidentally put gluten into both the master and light wheat..
    Will make much of a difference in the Light wheat? handling, baking, resting, etc?

    • Hi Brian,

      The VWG is a protein and it is what absorbs most of the water in the dough. Your dough may just be too dry now. You can always add another 1/4 cup to the dough and mix it in. You will want to let it rest again to allow the dough to absorb the water. Other than this the dough should be just fine!

      Thanks, Zoë

  31. I just got your first book and have read it through. I made up a batch of the Boule formula. Made one loaf yesterday. It is quite good, but I noticed a distinct taste of salt in the crust and some in the crumb.

    I’m wondering why you call for 1 1/2 tbsps of salt. In retrospect it seems to be more than necessary.

    Dick

  32. Hello!

    I recently bought your book and just finished my first batch of basic boule dough. All four loaves turned out quite tasty, but not quite the way they look in your pictures.

    1. Crust is golden, not deep brown.
    2. The loaves don’t seem to be as large or rise as much as yours (but I made precisely 4 loaves with 1 batch of dough) and barely appear to rise at all during the resting period (I’ve been giving them a good 40 minutes).
    3. The loaves do seem to rise in the oven, but mostly in the bottom half of the loaf, such that they take on an odd shape and there is cornmeal all over the bottom half of the sides.
    4. The inside of the bread is delicious, but not as springy and airy as I would expect from an artisan french bread.

    Any idea what’s going on? I have to admit I’ve been using a metal ungreased cookie sheet because I haven’t sprung for the stone yet. Other than that I think I have followed all directions faithfully. I read in the book that getting a great crust using metal instead of a stone isn’t possible, but I’m a bit confused about why that would be the case given this post’s recommendation to cook using a (metal) dutch oven. Stone or no stone, I’d still like to see it rise a bit more/more predictably.

    Thanks for your thoughts, and thanks for writing the book!

    Megan

  33. First timer making your bread. Did the whole wheat recipe (followed your video) and it turned out fantastic. I used my pizza stone that I’ve had about a year (and used about 1-2 times a month). It cracked in half and I’m wondering if the steam could have contributed to this? I routinely cook pizza on it at 500 degrees.
    Thanks for the great recipe!

  34. I don’t remember which page I put my comment so trying again. What kind of knife do you use to cut the bread. I killed my electric knife. Thanks.

  35. We’re renting a beach house during Spring Break and won’t be able to take my Silpat or pizza stone. I was thinking about using parchment paper but the box said for temp up to 420. Would I be able to use parchment paper and just bake the bread longer? If so, how much longer? I was going to do my usual “Light wheat bread” and the recommended temp is 450. Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Kathy,

      The parchment should be fine at 450 degrees. Most brands make this claim and yet I have baked at much higher temps. If you are nervous you can just bake the bread on a cookie sheet that has a coating of cornmeal.

      Thanks, Zoë

  36. HI I got the recipe for ww bread from http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/Artisan-Free-Form-Loaf.aspx and as I wrote, the bread tastes great but the crust is soft and not shiny. I covered the bread in the oven with an aluminum pan. Perhaps it wasn’t totally flat on the stone.?
    another question I have is with the boule- the crust is fabulous but the bread it VERY dense with few holes. I form it in bout 10 seconds so I don’t think I am over handling it. Suggestions? and can you tell me the differences among hard wheat flour, soft wheat flour and bread flour? THanks for having these q&a columns, they are fascinating and so informative!

    • Sam: If it wasn’t flat, you are right, U won’t get a great crust. Check out other ways to get steam in our second book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (http://bit.ly/3wYSSN), also go through our FAQs for your other questions– click that tab above. Jeff

  37. Just bought some Irish oatmeal and like the crunchy taste. Wonder if I could substitute that in your basic oatmeal bread recipe in ABin5. Any suggestions? More water and longer cooking time, maybe?

    • Hi Kathy,

      In our second book we have recipes that use the two oats interchangeably. It may result in a slightly drier dough, if the steel cut oats are particularly rough. If so, you may want to add a couple tablespoons more water. Baking time should not change.

      Thanks, Zoë

  38. Thanks Jeff.
    is there a way to get free form breads to be taller than 1.2- 2 inches? As you can tell I haven’t made much bread before

  39. I have been using the “Artisan Bread in Five….” for well over a year AND recommended it to all my friends! I use the french bread recipe and the deli rye bread recipe a great deal. We are in the Caribbean for 4 months of the year and I take down the rye flour since it is inaccessible here. I think that , for me, I really have perfected it. I use bread flour to give it more spring but the piece de resistance was the addition of diastatic malt powder (according to King Arthur directions). The loaf was absolutely perfect. It rose higher than before with a more open texture.
    I wonder what you think about this.

    Cheers.
    Charlotte

    • Hi Charlotte,

      Wow, thanks for the feedback and the tips about the malt.

      Lucky you to spend the winters in the Caribbean! Enjoy, Zoë – Just shoveled my car out of a 4′ snow bank! ;)

  40. I watched a YouTube video yesterday on this topic which suggested practicing with a cold oven and a 2nd kitchen towel (as a stand-in for the bread) if one hasn’t done this before. It was an excellent explanation of the technique — although I almost forgot to remove the towel from the oven door when I was putting my first loaf of your Master Recipe from ABI5 on to bake last night. (Oops!) I used the heaviest of my rimmed baking sheets (an old one, but durable), since I don’t own a broiler pan. Everything came through safely, and my first loaf of the ABI5 Master recipe baked up small (I’m used to 2-lb. loaves from my bread machine), but delicious.

  41. I am new to the master recipe but have tried it several times in the past weeks with good results…except…the last two times i have made a loaf from dough that was only about a week old, the loaves were gray inside, gummy, and awfully sour smelling. very unappetizing and distasteful. this happened with two separate starters. the first two loaves done early on were perfect. the ones used later in the week from the same starter were the ones i had trouble with. any tips would be appreciated.

    • Nancy: Need some more info to help you, which book are you using, which page number is the recipe from?

      Meanwhile try the low-yeast version of our recipe; go to the FAQs tab above and click on “Yeast, can it be decreased…” If that doesn’t work, my guess is that the natural sourdough notes that our dough accumulates just aren’t to your liking, in which case I’d say use up all your dough within four days or else freeze what remains in one-pound well-wrapped portions, defrost in fridge overnight and use the next day. Jeff

  42. I mixed up a batch-and-a-half of the Master Recipe from ABi5 over the weekend, and baked 2 of the small boules to go with last night’s supper. My spouse (who’s almost always a white bread-only person) loved it, but . . .
    While preheating the oven this afternoon for cooking supper (no bread baking today, part of the lower element in the electric oven melted! It’s under warranty, and can be repaired later this week (while I use the old, cranky, built-in gas wall oven in the meantime); however, I suspect the water in the heavy rimmed baking sheet on the lower oven rack the previous afternoon may have had something to do with the oven element burning out.

    My spouse will probably insist that I find ways to make the crusty bread he likes that are easier on the oven. I have 2 Dutch ovens which are already all-metal, and will investigate the “aluminum roasting pan inverted over the bread” method mentioned in the post. (I assume the cheap foil disposable roasting pans are what’s being referred to?)

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