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Best Dutch Oven for Sourdough

Looking for the best Dutch oven for sourdough and baking the most delicious sourdough loaves are interlinked.

If you read some of the best cookbooks on sourdough and artisan breads, you’ll see that all the authors mention using a Dutch oven for baking. The same goes for artisan breads.

Books like Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish and Bread Baking for Beginners by Bonnie Ohara bake most of their recipes in a Dutch oven.

Why You Should Get a Dutch Oven for Sourdough

sourdough bread baked in a dutch oven

If we want to bake like a professional, we need a Dutch oven.

A Dutch oven is a tool that creates the same baking conditions that are created in a professional baker’s oven: a sealed moist chamber and strong heat. That’s what these pots with a lid do.

The same goes for a bread cloche.

We get the best oven spring (dough rise), crispy crust and chewy crumb.

One of my favorite books on how to make sourdough loaves like a professional baker is Tartine Bread by Robertson Chad.

Surprisingly, the baker and author of that book uses one of my favorite combos for baking breads and cooking all sorts of dishes. It bakes in a cast-iron combo cooker.

What does a cast-iron combo cooker mean? It’s actually composed of two parts: the pot (a deep pan like all the other Dutch ovens) + a lid that is actually a shallow frying pan.

Thus, instead of the usual lid that isn’t used for cooking, we get a lid that is a cast-iron pan, a frying pan. We can use both the pan and the lid to make so many wonderful recipes on the stovetop, in the oven, and on the grill.

Moreover, the author of Tartine Bread bakes the bread in the frying pan, which is the shallow part of the combo. And he uses the deep pot as a lid.

Thus, it creates something that resembles a cloche from a cast-iron combo cooker. It’s such a fascinating idea.

But you can also use the cast-iron combo cooker like a classic Dutch oven for sourdough: bake the loaf in the deep pan and use the frying pan as a lid.

As you can see, the search for the best Dutch oven for sourdough is a fascinating journey.

Best Dutch Oven for Sourdough: My 5 Favorites

fresh sourdough bread

If you somehow change your mind and decide that buying the best Dutch oven for sourdough is not something that you want to do at the moment, then you have two amazing alternatives: getting a bread cloche or using a pizza stone to bake your loaves.

I also recommend using a proofing basket if you want to get that perfect boule shape.

Nevertheless, I must absolutely state that using a Dutch oven to bake sourdough loaves is the way to do it.

Not only because you get to bake some of the most delicious and best looking loaves but also because there are so many ways to use these lovely, versatile pots.

If you want to know more about that, you can check out my article on Dutch oven cookbooks. Cookbooks like those will show you that you can cook everything in these pots, whether it’s in an oven, on the grill or on the stovetop. Plus, a cast-iron Dutch oven is the perfect pot for camping.

The exception to using a Dutch oven is when you want to bake a sourdough sandwich bread with soft crust. For that type of loaf, you’ll want to use a loaf pan. If you enjoy toast, check out my reviews for sourdough toasters.

1. Lodge Combo Cooker Cast Iron

Some home bakers have a bit of a problem when it comes to using a classic Dutch oven because the sides of the pot are so high. Thus, when we have to transfer the dough into a preheated pot with high sides that are really hot, we must be careful not to burn ourselves.

That problem can be solved if we get a bread cloche because those have low bases where we bake the bread and tall domes to create the steam and trap the heat during baking.

Or it can be solved by buying this Lodge Combo Cooker Cast Iron, which is not about half the price of what a cloche costs.

Just as suggested in the Tartine Bread by Robertson Chad, we can bake the sourdough shallow skillet and use the big pot as a dome/lid. That’s fantastic.

Overall the best Dutch oven for sourdough and artisan bread

The Lodge Combo Cooker Cast Iron is my first recommendation when it comes to choosing a Dutch oven for sourdough.

It’s very affordable, it’s hard to find a more affordable cast iron combo cooker to bake loaves and to cook whatever we want in the oven, on the stovetop, on the grill or at campfires.

What I love the most about it is that it can be preheated empty because it’s made from cast-iron. There’s absolutely no risk of cracking.

Frankly, I’m apprehensive about recommending the same thing for enameled Ducth ovens. If they’re preheated empty with the lid on, they might crack. They might also not but it’s up to you if you want to take the risk or not. I suggest not taking the risk.

This Lodge combo cooker is also incredibly popular. One user describes it as the closest thing to a miracle product.

The same user mentions that they use the skillet part to bake the sourdough in, transferring the dough from a round proofing basket (banneton). On the bottom of the skillet, they place a 9-inch parchment paper circle. The lid is the pot.

You can use it to bake a large loaf. The skillet is big enough to bake a loaf made with 1 cup (227 grams) sourdough starter and 5 cups (600 grams) of flour.

Dutch oven + Skillet

We get a 10.25-inch shallow skillet with a nicely sized handle. This is the component of the combo where users choose to place the dough for baking. I recommend the same thing.

The second part of the combo is a 3.2 quart Dutch oven. The pot is on the smaller side but you can still cook plenty of things in the pot.

The 3.2 quart Dutch oven also has a handle of the same size. When they’re put one on top of the other, a sealed chamber is created, which is absolutely essential for baking loaves like the ones baked in professional ovens.

However, if you’re looking for a much bigger pot because you have a bigger family and you want to cook a variety of dishes in the pot for the whole family then check out my next recommendations, which is a Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 5 quart.

In the skillet, besides baking sourdough, you can also fry, sear, sauté and cook whatever you want. You can also use this skillet as a substitute for a pizza stone, it will work nicely for making pizza.

In the 3.2 quart Dutch oven you can make soups, stews, cook meats, chilis, roasts and braises, and you can even make desserts.

This cast-iron combo cooker is seasoned for natural, easy-released finish. If this is your first experience with a cast iron, you should be reassured that seasoning it is quite easy. Check out this guide on seasoning from Lodge if you want to know everything.

2. Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 5 quart

I will admit that the above Lodge Combo Cooker Cast Iron is my favorite option for a Dutch oven for sourdough. However, that combo only has a 3.2 quart Dutch oven.

Thus, if you want a bigger pot, we have this 5 quart Dutch oven from Lodge.

Both products are made by Lodge, both have similar prices, both are incredibly popular and both are perfect for baking sourdough and artisan breads.

If you’ve never used a Dutch oven before, you’ll be surprised with the results, from how much the dough rises to how beautiful the crumb looks and how crispy the crust is.

We get chewy crumb and crispy crust and the most delicious flavor.

Cast iron Dutch oven + skillet for sourdough

Even if this Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 5 quart doesn’t explicitly say that it’s a combo, it can still work as one.

The lid doesn’t look like a classic skillet because it doesn’t have the long handle but it definitely works as a 10-inch cast iron skillet.

The other component is the 5 quart pot, which is perfect for larger families. If you’re looking for a bigger pot, I recommend checking out this one from Lodge first.

However, with this Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 5 quart, the people actually use the 5 quart pot to bake their sourdough or artisan breads. The lid is the shallow 10-inch skillet.

5 quart Dutch oven

The massive advantage with using the 5 quart pot for baking the loaves is that you can fit large boules.

You can fit a dough that is made with 8 cups (1000 grams) of flour.

You can bake large or smaller boules and in both cases obtain a loaf with a perfect, crispy crust and chewy crumb.

The skillet (lid) can be used for making pizza and whatever else you want to cook. The same goes for the 5 quart pot.

The recipes you can cook in both are endless.

You can use both at campfires, in the oven, on the stovetop, and on the grill.

You can preheat the empty pot with the lid on in the oven for 20 minutes at 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Then transfer the dough in the pot, while leaving the lid in the oven still at 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the dough is transferred, place the lid back on and bake it for 20 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

After 20 minute, remove the lid and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes. The lid is removed to caramelize the crust.

3. Emile Henry Bread Pot/Potato Pot

Unlike the above two Lodge Dutch ovens, this Emile Henry Bread Pot/Potato Pot is quite expensive.

Moreover, just as the name suggests, you can only use it to bake sourdough and artisan breads. You can also use it to cook a wide variety of vegetables at a low temperature.

But that’s it. There are no meats frying, no soups or stews cooked, no roasts, no desserts. It’s not as versatile as a classic Dutch oven.

Given all that, why did I choose to recommend it as a perfect Dutch oven for sourdough?

Because it is designed specifically for baking some of the best loaves that you’ll ever bake at home in a regular oven.

Users who use it to bake sourdough mention that the results are fabulous. The loaves will resemble those of a true artisan. That’s exactly what we’re looking for.

Clay pot

This Emile Henry Bread Pot is made of clay. That means two things.

Since it’s made of clay, it can be preheated empty with its dome on without any fears of cracking. Pay attention when you transfer the dough because the pot is quite deep so it can be quite easy to accidentally burn your forearms.

The second thing is that, unlike cast iron, clay is fragile. It withstands sudden changes in temperature without any problems at all. But if you drop the lid or the pot, it will most likely crack.

So, don’t drop it and you’ll be able to use it forever and you can pass it on to future generations.

You can also use it on the stovetop, in the oven, and on the grill. Just don’t drop it.

During baking, when it’s time to remove the lid to brown the crust, make sure to keep your face away because a lot of steam is released when the lid/dome is lifted. The whole point of using a Dutch oven is to bake for the first half in a steamy environment.

Pot size

It’s on the smaller side.

It only comes with a 2.1 quart pot (2L). That translates into 3-4 cups of flour capacity. Therefore, it’s for people who enjoy baking smaller loves.

If your favorite recipe calls for 400-500 grams of flour, this Emile Henry Bread Pot will work wonderfully. Otherwise, you have to split the dough in two and bake in two sessions. That can lengthen the whole process.

If you prefer baking 1-pound loaves, this Emile Henry is awesome. Otherwise, check out the Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 5 quart.

If you have large families, you need at least a 5-quart pot.

You might also choose to buy a 7-quart Dutch oven for sourdough if you make your dough from more than 8 cups of flour and you want to bake it all in one go.

Baking temperature

It is oven-safe up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thus, when you preheat it empty, you should only do it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

The baking is also done at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Emile Henry recommends baking with the lid on for 35-45 minutes and we can remove the lid for an additional 5 minutes if we want a brown crust.

As you can see, each Dutch oven for sourdough can come with its own instructions and temperature limits so always make sure to read everything about your pot before using it for the first time.

4. Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Oval Dutch Oven, 8 quart

Can we really talk about Dutch ovens without mentioning one of the most popular brands? I don’t think so.

Le Creuset is for Dutch ovens what KitchenAid is for stand mixers.

Well, since we’re talking about Le Creuset, I decided to recommend their 8 quart Dutch oven because there are not as many awesome options when it comes to buying very big pots that can also serve as the best Dutch oven for sourdough and artisan breads.

If you’re spending a lot of money, at least you get to spend it on an 8 quart pot. It’s definitely awesome for people cooking and baking for very large families.

However, if you only bake 1 pound loaves, then I recommend setting your sights on the Lodge Combo Cooker Cast Iron or the Emile Henry Bread Pot.

Why isn’t Le Creuset Ducth oven for sourdough a top favorite of mine?

There are 2 reasons: their Dutch ovens are enameled cast iron.

First of all, I would be uneasy with preheating this pot empty with the lid on.

Actually, the manufacturer absolutely doesn’t recommend heating an empty Dutch oven. According to them, preheating is really not necessary to achieve a delicious loaf.

I’m definitely capable of overlooking the fact that it cannot be preheated empty because we can definitely bake delicious loaves even if we skip this step.

Nevertheless, the reason why Le Creuset isn’t a favorite is the price. Their pots are incredibly expensive.

Still, if you can afford it without problems and you’re looking for a very big, wonderful, extremely capable pot for baking sourdough and artisan breads, then I totally recommend Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Oval Dutch Oven, 8 quart.

You’ll also be able to cook absolutely everything you want. You can use it in the oven and on the stovetop but not on the grill.

Enameled cast iron

Since it’s enameled cast iron, there’s no need to season it like we do with bare cast iron.

Moreover, it’s easy to clean but you should still use parchment paper because it’s the easiest way of baking.

The durable enamel resists dulling, chipping, cracking, and staining.

The tight-fitting lids are absolutely great.

And the 8 quart pot is the perfect size if you are in the habit of regularly cooking 6-8 serves.

Baking temperature

However, pay attention to one important detail: the pan is oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit but the lid is only oven-safe up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thus, when you bake with the lid on, you’ll have to bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of 450 degrees Fahrenheit as you might have expected.

When you remove the lid, you can continue baking at 450 degrees Fahrenheit until the crust turns the brown color you prefer.

5. Staub Cast Iron Round Cocotte, 4 quart

I reviewed 2 quart, 3 quart, 5 quart, and 8 quart Dutch ovens for sourdough. That’s such a varied selection not only when it comes to sizes but also when it comes to materials from which these pots are made. We have clay, cast iron and enameled cast iron Dutch ovens.

With Staub Cast Iron Round Cocotte, 4 quart we get a size that was missing from our list.

Obviously, Staub also offers a wide variety of sizes, besides the 4 quart. We can even buy a 9 quart Staub Cocotte if you have the budget for it.

This is another enameled cast iron pot. However, let’s see what makes it stand out.

Staub is almost as famous as Le Creuset. It’s pretty much as expensive, too.

High temperatures

Unlike Le Creuset, this Dutch oven from Staub can withstand one of the most impressive ranges of temperatures.

The lid, more exactly said, the nickel steel knob is safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pot is safe up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s amazing.

Moreover, the lid is called a self-basting spiked lid. It’s not only tight-fitted but it’s designed to retain moisture. The spikes inside help create a rainforest effect.

However, I wouldn’t recommend preheating it empty. It’s still made of enameled cast-iron. You’ll still be able to bake delicious sourdough loaves with crispy crust and chewy crumb.

Moreover, the unique interior matte texture will lead to exceptional browning. It’s an interesting addition to the overall package that constitutes the Staub Cast Iron Round Cocotte, 4 quart as the best Dutch oven for sourdough, if you’re looking for this size and you have the budget for it.

How to choose a Dutch oven for sourdough

There are three main focal points that we need to go through as we’re choosing the best Dutch oven for sourdough.

Budget

First of all, if your budget is under $100, then you have two options to choose from, which are also my top recommendations: Lodge Combo Cooker Cast Iron and Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 5 quart.

Both these models are made of cast iron. If you get behind the seasoning thing, you’ll be able to leave either of these Dutch ovens to future generations. That’s incredible.

I recommend the Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 5 quart if you are cooking and baking for a larger family.

However, my favorite is the Lodge Combo Cooker Cast Iron because, instead of using the big pot for baking the loaf, we’re actually using the 10.25-inch skillet for baking and the big pot as the dome. That’s amazing and it’s very easy to transfer the dough because the skillet has very little depth. It’s just like a cloche but it’s made of cast iron and very affordable, with prices around $50-$70.

If you are looking for an 8 quart or 9 quart Dutch oven for sourdough, then you can choose pots from Le Creuset or Staub. These are very expensive, with prices over $300 or even over $400.

The Emile Henry Bread Pot/Potato Pot is the only one made of clay, has a price a bit above $100, and it’s strictly limited to baking loaves or to cooking vegetables. It’s also a pot with a 3-4 cups capacity. It’s great for single people or for a small family.

Material

Another thing we need to pay attention to is the material from which the Dutch oven for sourdough is made from.

We’ve got: cast iron, clay, and enameled cast iron.

Those made from pure cast-iron, without any coating, can be preheated empty at 500 degrees Fahrenheit. They’re not fragile, there’s no risk of cracking, you can take them camping and use them everywhere without treating them like an egg.

Clay pots are sensitive to breaking if you drop them. They’ll crack instantly. Moreover, the Emile Henry Bread Pot/Potato Pot, which is made from clay, can be preheated empty with the dome on without problems. But it only allows temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for preheating and baking.

Enameled cast iron Dutch ovens shouldn’t be preheated empty. You will add the dough in the pot when it’s cold and then add the cold pot with the lid on to the preheated oven.

You must also pay attention to temperature limits because every enameled cast iron model is different. They will also have different temperature limits for their lids. Those are things that you need to check out before using it.

Size

When talking about budgets, I already mentioned things like going for an 8 quart/9 quart Dutch oven if you have large families. You can bake doughs made from a lot more than 8 cups of flour.

For cooking, the 8 quart pots are good for making 6-8 serves. That gives you a clear idea if this size is right for your circumstances.

For a family of 4, a 5-quart Dutch oven is really great. However, even the Lodge Combo Cooker Cast Iron bakes a loaf made with 5 cups (600g) of flour, which can be more than enough for a family of 4.

The Emile Henry Bread Pot/Potato Pot is the smallest among all these best Dutch ovens for sourdough because it has a capacity of maximum 4-4.5 cups of flour, it’s perfect for 2 maybe 3 people.