We’re here to talk about the best Dutch ovens for bread but first I want to tell you why they’re so fantastic for baking bread. And why a Dutch oven is more than a baking pot with a lid, it’s a great cookware tool, as well.
They’re so impressive because they emulate the baking environment in a professional bakery where the steam and the intense temperatures enable an even cooking, a perfectly risen bread with the perfect crust with a deep shiny color.
I love the fact that even those without much experience can use a Dutch oven for baking bread and get excellent results. You’ll see what I mean about that.
Most of all,
I love the variety of this pot with a lid.
You can use it for all kinds of recipes, a Dutch oven cookbook can be helpful once you come to love your new cooking and baking pot. But the Internet is also full of Dutch oven recipes.
1. Best: Emile Henry Bread Pot/Potato Pot
Unlike the large majority of Dutch ovens, the Emile Henry Bread Pot is actually made of clay, can be preheated empty in the oven for however long you want without any fear of cracking. It also has a spherical shape, the lid and the body create a perfect seal and can be used to bake bread and cook vegetables on low heat. However, it doesn’t offer the same versatility as a regular best Dutch oven for bread. It’s still my first choice because it’s just so awesome and made especially for baking bread.
2. Classic Dutch Oven: Staub Cast Iron Round Cocotte
The Staub Cast Iron Dutch oven is an amazing baking and cooking tool, made of cast iron and coated in enamel. It’s so good, so well made and of such impressive quality that even I can understand the high price. It can be used for everything from baking bread to cooking meat, making soups, pasta, etc. The manufacturer assures customers that this pot has an unique interior with matte texture that ensures exceptional browning. It’s definitely a top feature for perfect crust. The 4 quart is a good size but they also have a 5.5 quart one.
3. Affordable Option: Legend Cast Iron Dutch Oven
If you are looking for a best Dutch oven for bread that has a really affordable price tag, the one from Legend can be perfect for you. It’s pretty large, a 5 quart pot. But that’s not the impressive feature. It’s made of cast iron, no enamel, which means that you can preheat it empty without any fear of cracking. With this Dutch oven you can actually use both the pot and the lid. The lid can be used instead of a pizza stone, you can even make pizza on the stovetop. It’s impressively versatile and cheap.
What is a Dutch Oven?
A Dutch oven very much resembles a lidded pot. That’s exactly what it looks like. A large pot with a lid.
You might be wondering why everyone is so excited about owning one and using it for bread baking. What’s the deal?
Dutch ovens will help you make breads with delicious crispy thin golden crusts, that’s their main attribute and why these baking tools are so popular even though their price is not exactly cheap.
Furthermore, their versatility in being a cookware tool not just a baking tool is the added bonus.
There’s only one slightly difficult thing about them.
A Dutch Oven for Bread Needs to be Preheated
That slight difficulty arises when the Dutch oven for bread is preheated. There’s quite the debate on whether the preheating is essential to baking a nicely risen crusty loaf of bread or not.
The idea is that it must be preheated for quite a long time in order to be capable of creating the steam needed to bake the breads with a crusty deliciously thin golden crust and in order to achieve an even bake.
The preheating time should be around 25-35 minutes at the baking temperature stated in the recipe but remember to always start with a cold oven. That means, if you do decide to preheat your Dutch oven, you must place it with the lid on in a cold oven and turn on the heat.
Replicates a professional bakery
With the help of a best Dutch over for bread we can replicate the environment which can be found in a good bakery. A sealed chamber that combines both moisture and high even heat for perfect baking for all kinds of breads.
Everything sounds perfect so far. So, what could be the difficulty?
The pot is quite tall.
This pot can be used for cooking all kinds of recipes, which is a very good thing because it ensures that you can use a Dutch oven every day and not only for bread baking. I love cooking tools that don’t have a single use because, even though they are on the expensive side, I can be content with having spent my money wisely by creating wonderful recipes.
Since the pot is quite tall, you can easily burn yourself when placing the dough inside. Or you can get scared of the high heat since the Dutch oven needs to be preheated and drop the dough with more force than necessary, which can make it deflate or lose its shape. And then you can to go back to proofing the bread instead of moving on to baking.
Somewhere down below you’ll be able to find a few tricks for transferring the dough to a Dutch oven, keep on reading.
Top 3 Best Dutch Ovens for Bread
I decided to recommend you just three best Dutch ovens for bread because two you can actually be preheated empty with the lid on and one is a famous Staub that will help you achieve the same results even if you don’t preheat it.
My first choice for an amazing Dutch oven for bread is made of clay and it’s basically exclusively for bread baking. It’s just truly interesting and worth checking out.
The Staub cocotte is my second recommendation and it’s just as impressive as one would expect. Plus, it should looks so great and the price for the 4 qt size is not as scary as you would expect, although it’s definitely on the expensive size.
My last recommendation has the advantage of a very good price, it’s made of cast iron which can last a lifetime, and the lid can double as a pizza stone and frying pan and the pot can be used for whatever cooking you want to do, it has a lot of variety.
Two of these best Dutch ovens for bread can be used for basically a universe of recipes, from soups to frying to stews to pasta and so on.
The clay one is more fragile in the sense that it can crack if it’s dropped, otherwise it’s very sturdy in handling extreme temperatures, which makes it perfect for baking bread without worries.
Most manufacturers of enameled Dutch ovens advise against preheating them empty so, I decided to just review the Staub Dutch oven because it has a unique feature (its lid).
1. Emile Henry Made In France Bread Pot/Potato Pot – Overall Best Dutch Oven for Bread
The name already tells you what you can cook in this Dutch oven – you can bake either bread or cook a wide variety of vegetables at a low temperature. The price is pretty high for such limited use but if you only care about bread baking, it can be worth it.
This is not made for soups, pasta, or every other recipe that can be made in other pots.
It has a spherical shape with round corners instead of straight ones.
It’s a different design than the rest of them because the lid actually resembles a dome and there’s no knob on top. But there are handles on the side, both for the pot and the dome, and the lid seals it perfectly.
When lifting the lid don’t put your face right into the pot because steam is released. If you drop the lid, it will instantly crack.
Handle it with a bit of care and it will last a long time.
Made of clay
Pay attention to the fact that it’s a lot more fragile than the usual Dutch ovens since this one is made of clay.
It’s on the smaller side, it has a 2.1-quart (2 L) pot, but still it has a 3-4 cups of flour capacity, it bakes a 2 pound loaf. It even comes with a bread recipe. Even so, it might not be ideal for large families, unless you like baking consecutive breads.
The bread will be absolutely perfect and the thing that really grabs my attention when it comes to this particular model is that the manufacturer clearly states that it can be preheated empty for an ideal baking experience.
Can be preheated empty without worries
It’s capable of withstanding sudden changes in temperature and it can be used in the oven, on top of the stove or on BBQ grills.
That’s because this is not made of the usual enameled cast iron, it’s actually made of clay with a highly resistant ceramic glaze, made in France from natural materials, which is really nice.
Due to the fact that it’s made of clay, it’s also a lot lighter. It can be carried more easily.
The fact that it can be preheated empty without a care in the world that it might crack, the outstanding quality of the bread it bakes, and the whole uniqueness that sums up this Emile Henry Bread Pot/Potato Pot, all these factors are a clear indication that this is one of the best Dutch ovens for bread, albeit on the expensive side.
2. Staub Cast Iron Round Cocotte, 4 Quart – Excellent Versatile Best Dutch Oven for Bread
The Staub calls its Dutch ovens cocotte but it’s the same thing. And this is an impressive best Dutch oven for bread without a doubt.
The 4 quart is not exactly the biggest but the price for a Staub of this size is a lot more approachable. I think this would be the best choice for a lot of households.
They also have an identically looking 5.5 quart cocotte, in case you are willing to spend a lot more just to get a bigger size.
Unique interior matte texture
It is made of cast iron but it’s coated in enamel. Due to that reason, I would say that you should skip the preheating phase and go straight to baking in a cold pot with the lid on. You will still be able to bake breads with amazing crust and delicious crumb, this pot is definitely capable of that, as many users also praise it for this ability.
The manufacturer also states that the unique interior matte texture will lead to exceptional browning. This is not the type of shiny surface that the enamel offers to other Dutch ovens.
This is the type of pot with a lid that can be used for everything from baking breads to slow-cooking meats and vegetables to stews and soups and so much more.
The whole black design looks really great. Just the nickel steel knob that is safe for the oven up to temperatures of 500F/260C stands out from the whole black design. Without the lid, this Staub cocotte is safe up to 900F/482C.
Speaking of the lid, this is the most interesting feature for this Dutch oven. It’s a future unique to Staub and it’s called a self-basting spiked lid.
It’s not only tight-fitted, the type of lid that works best on a Dutch oven but it’s also designed to retain moisture. The spikes on the inside help create a rainforest effect that yields moist, flavorful results. Who could have thought of that? Well, Staub did.
It is recommended to wash it by hand.
3. Legend Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 5 Quart – Best Cast Iron Dutch Oven for Bread
Since I’m all for preheating Dutch ovens for baking fabulous bread, it only makes sense that my next recommendation would be a best Dutch oven for bread that’s made of cast iron.
Can be preheated empty without worries
Just like the first model made of clay, this one can be preheated with the lid on without any care of cracking, start off with a cold oven at the temperature stated in the recipe for baking bread and leave it in for at least half an hour.
The price is pretty affordable, even when compared to the more affordable enameled Dutch ovens, the quality is impressive, and this is cast iron that we’re talking about, this set will last for a lifetime if you treat it well.
The size is also impressive, this is no small pot, a 5 quart pot is perfect even for larger families and you can use it on the stovetop, too, to make all kinds of recipes.
Both the pot and the lid can be used for baking and cooking
You can use both the lid and the pot in the oven and on the stovetop. The lid can be used instead of a pizza stone and you can even make pizza on the stovetop. You can use it for frying, making soups, stews, as a casserole dish.
It even works on a campfire, which cannot be done with an enameled model.
They also have the Legend Cast Iron Multi Cooker Skillet Set, which is absolutely great. There are two components to their multi cooker skillet set: a shallow lid that can also be used as a cast iron skillet and the deeper pan, which represents the cast iron Dutch oven for bread. It’s not a very large pot but the set also has an affordable price and it’s another good option if you’re not looking for a larger pot but you are more interested in getting 2 skillets.
Let’s make one thing clear: it comes with instructions that are included in a booklet and you will have to follow them. If you already have experience with pre-seasoning and seasoning, it’s going to go well. If not, you will need to adjust to cooking with a new material that is sturdy but, at the same time, necessitates a bit of care.
The manufacturer states that it arrives with a foundational seasoning of 100% vegetable oil.
For those interested where this is manufactured, you should know that it’s made in China.
How to Pick the Best Dutch Oven for Bread
From materials to sizes and famous manufacturers, let’s see which are the criteria for choosing the best Dutch oven for bread.
Shape & Sizes
There are a lot of sizes and shapes to choose from.
Well, the shape issue is easy to take care of because the most popular models are round-shaped and that’s what works best for a Dutch oven for bread.
When it comes to sizes, the choices are more varied. The most frequently encountered sizes are between 4-quart (3.79 liter) and 7.5-quart (7.1 liter). There are Dutch ovens even larger than that but they’re usually extremely expensive.
A quart is the equivalent of a quarter of a gallon (0.94 liter).
If you’re cooking for one or two or even four people, a 4 quarts or a 3.5 quarts Dutch oven is perfect. For a larger family, with more than four members, it’s best to start with at least a 5-5.5 quarts model.
Go over 7-quart only if your family is very large.
Most of them are made of enameled cast iron, which is coated cast iron in glass. The enamel is the one that gives the shiny color and provides a non-stick surface but you can use parchment paper for complete non-stickiness or sprinkle it with flour or cornmeal or spread a bit of oil on the bottom.
The enamel part is the one that poses the question of whether you should preheat an empty Dutch oven or not, a debate about which I’m going to talk just below. Since enamel is glass there’s the trepidation that it might crack when preheated empty with the lid on in an oven, which is why most manufacturers warn not to preheat it empty.
This debate actually has a solution: getting a Dutch oven for bread made of bare cast iron, no shiny coating. They usually come pre-seasoned and I think that they’re absolutely a fantastic choice. And they’re cheaper.
You will have to season it, those used to cooking with cast irons will be comfortable with the process. And if you use parchment paper than you avoid the sticking risk.
Perfectly Fitted Lid
The lid is an essential part, a perfectly fitted lid will create a sealed space inside which the steam can work its magic. Staub has mastered the art of creating a unique perfect lid for its Dutch ovens.
For bread baking, a solid lid is the best option, definitely not a glass lid.
When it comes to famous brands for Dutch ovens, Le Creuset is usually the brand that comes to mind. They’re also unbelievably expensive but of the highest quality, the materials they use are the best but, as you can see above, there are other more affordable options that, in my opinion, are fitted representatives of what a best Dutch oven for bread should be like.
In terms of very high prices, Staub is the next brand on the list. These two are the classics, just like KitchenAid is for stand mixers.
How to Use a Dutch Oven for Bread
First thing first:
Let’s take on the debate of whether a Dutch oven for bread should be preheated and the risen dough placed in a very hot pot or if the dough should be placed in it for proofing (for rising after it has been shaped) and, once the dough has almost completely risen, the lid is put on and placed into a cold oven for baking at the temperature stated in the recipe.
To Preheat or Not to Preheat
King Arthur has done a comparison on baking in a cold Dutch oven vs the preheated version but pay attention that their case is only made on no-knead white bread. The differences between the two are not considerable, you can read about it here.
Some manufacturers even state that their pot shouldn’t be heated empty. Those made of enameled cast iron come with that warning because enamel is glass.
As a personal opinion, a Dutch oven for bread should be preheated. Obviously, it means it will be preheated empty with the lid on. As you saw, I think the Staub can be used without preheating it while still being able to deliver the same exceptional results.
Preheating means placing it in a cold oven, turning the heat up to what it states in the recipe as the temperature for baking (which is not that high in the case of bread baking, usually 450°F) and leaving it in there for 25 to 35 minutes or maybe even an hour. It depends on whom you ask.
If you put it in the cold oven, the pot with the lid will get heated up gradually so, there’s little risk of thermal damage. But there’s still a risk and you will go against most manufacturers’ advice.
It’s extremely important for the oven to be cold so that no thermal shock is incurred. That’s the rule.
But if you’re afraid of hot pots, use a cold Dutch oven in which the dough has risen and place the pot with the dough and the lid on in a cold oven for the baking phase.
The rest of the recipes, those made on whatever stovetop you have at home, should be cooked on low to medium heat. These pots are not made for high heat.
Can you use parchment paper in a Dutch oven?
Yes, of course you can and I definitely recommend it. I think parchment paper is the ideal non-stick solution because it always works, it doesn’t impact the flavor and it’s easier to handle than using oil or flour or cornmeal to prevent the dough sticking to whatever baking surface you prefer.
If the bottom of your loaf turns out too dark, you can use two layers of parchment paper and see if there’s any change in color.
Alternately, I also use olive oil to keep the dough from sticking because I like the shine it imparts, it can make the bottom even crispier, and I just plainly love olive oil and its amazing flavor so I use it every chance I got.
Olive oil and parchment paper, those are my two solutions. On a baking stone you can’t use olive oil but it definitely works in a Dutch oven for bread.
You can use a proofing basket to achieve the perfect round or oval shaped dough with those wonderful coil imprints. But if you don’t care about the perfect shape, just use a simple large bowl for proofing (the stage when the dough rises so it can be scored and then baked).
The tricky part with a Dutch oven for bread actually comes when it’s time to transfer the dough in. You can burn yourself or you might drop it a bit forcefully and the dough will lose its shape.
Last but not least,
When you’re baking bread with a Dutch oven, you have to put the lid on for the first 25 to 30 minutes and then take the lid off and bake for another 5-10 minutes.
Simple Tips for Transferring Dough into a Dutch Oven
Place the dough on parchment paper that is bigger than the size of the bottom of your Dutch oven so that you can easily grab it and place the dough together with the parchment paper in the pot. A full sheet of parchment paper should work well. Just don’t leave any paper sticking out, trim it with a pair of scissors.
Or slide your hand under the parchment paper and turn the dough over in the pot. Additionally, you can shake the pot gently to make the dough settle.
Dutch Oven Substitutes
There’s this baking tool called cloche or La Cloche. We’ll just call it cloche. It’s a bit less expensive than a Dutch oven for bread, made of ceramics not cast iron and enamel, and it’s exclusively for baking bread. The results are similar and the base is very small so the dough can be transferred without incidents and the dome is a lot more impressive than a basic lid. Most are round but there are also models that resemble a loaf pan but with an impressive dome.
If you are an avid pizza lover but you also want a baking tool that can be used to bake the same high quality of breads that a Dutch oven can offer, you can opt for getting a baking stone for bread, also known as a pizza stone. I wrote an article on the best baking stones for bread, check it out if you’re interested, you’ll find some surprising choices there.
For even more interesting Dutch oven alternatives, I advise you to read this article from life as a strawberry, it has nicely detailed steps for creating the needed steam inside an oven.
Well, this turned out to be quite a long article on Dutch ovens for bread, how to choose and use one, and which are the best Dutch ovens for baking bread plus some substitutes, but I’m pretty satisfied with all the info that I managed to deliver.