Bread baking in a Dutch oven: The best way to bake no-knead bread

Making crispy, crusty, golden loaves of bread at home has never been easier. It all starts with bread baking in a Dutch oven (lidded pot), the perfect vessel for making artisan-style loaves. The steam that’s created inside the pot miraculously transforms the dough, ensuring the bread’s crust will shatter into delicate shards with each bite. The best way to produce steam inside a lidded pot? It’s simple: preheat the pot.

Gently slipping risen yeast dough into a searing hot pot and adding the lid creates steam. In turn, this results in bread with a crackly crust and a glossy surface that’s beautifully blistered with bubbles.

We’re no strangers to baking with steam, but our excitement about this classic method has been rekindled. The arrival of Emile Henry’s Bread and Potato Pot, a unique Dutch oven, has us eager to bake!
Bread and Potato Pot via @kingarthurflourWhile this pot is often used in France to make perfectly cooked potatoes, it’s also a game-changer when it comes to bread baking in a Dutch oven. Some bread crocks can’t withstand the intensity of being heated empty and are bound to crack when nothing’s inside. However, this pot is part of Emile Henry’s flame line, which is known for its durability and high-heat resistance.

You’ll see why we love bread baking in Dutch oven like this — the loaves that come out of it are just a beautiful as they are delicious.

How steam leads to beautiful loaves

When the Bread and Potato Pot is preheated empty, it becomes a miniaturized version of a professional steam-injected oven. The heat is distributed more evenly than in a conventional oven, and the steam transforms the dough in a few magical ways.

When unbaked dough, with all its interior moisture, is put inside the hot pot, precious humidity is captured in the form of steam. The steam keeps the crust soft longer, so it can continue to expand during the early stages of baking. The result is a lofty loaf that looks like it came from the bakery down the street!

Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflourIn addition, the steam hitting the bread’s surface gelatinizes some of the starches there, which swell and become glossy, creating a crust with subtle, attractive luster.
Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflourAlso thanks to steam, any slashes or “scores” made in the risen dough open up beautifully during baking. They form “ears,” or crisp ridges that add crunch and an artisan-style look to your voluminous loaf.

Loaves baked with steam taste as good as they look, too.

Steam’s moisture keeps the surface of the dough cool for a longer amount of time as the loaf bakes, which allows enzymes (from the yeast) to continue reducing the starches in the flour to simple sugars.

“Simple sugars” might not sound delicious, but trust me — they are. These sugars caramelize and create the golden crust and irresistible flavor of a perfectly baked loaf of bread.

Getting ready to bake

Intrigued? Let’s show you how it’s done!

First, choose your recipe. No-knead bread recipes are particularly well-suited to this method, as they’re typically wet doughs that release steam when they come in contact with the hot pot (plus they’re easy to make and delicious, too).

I used the quintessential No-Knead Crusty White Bread recipe to put this pot to the test, but you can use practically any bread recipe that makes at least two pounds of dough. (Look for recipes that call for at least four to five cups of flour.)

Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflourPrepare the recipe as written, which often includes a 24-hour (or longer) rest in the fridge for no-knead dough; be sure to plan ahead.

Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflourWhen you’re ready to bake, measure out a two-pound ball of dough. If you don’t have a scale, it should look like it will fill the base of the Bread and Potato Pot most of the way.
Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflourShape the dough and let it rest on a floured kitchen towel or piece of parchment paper with the seam side up, covered, while it rises. (You can also use a brotform if you want to make some fancy rings on the surface of your loaf.)

Preheating the pot

To ensure you get a burst of steam when the dough is put inside the pot, it should be preheated empty for about 30 minutes. Start preheating your pot roughly 30 minutes before your rising dough is ready to bake.

Keep in mind the temperature of your kitchen will make a difference in how quickly the dough rises. The No-Knead Crusty White Bread dough can take anywhere from one to three hours to rise; in my cool Vermont kitchen, I usually let it rise for at least one hour before preheating the pot for 30 minutes, giving the dough a total of a 1 1/2 hours to rise.

When your dough looks like it will be ready in 30 minutes, put the Bread and Potato Pot (both the bottom and the lid) into the cold oven, and set it to 450°F (or the temperature your recipe calls for).
Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflourHalf an hour later, the dough should be risen and the pot should be thoroughly preheated. Carefully remove the hot pot from the oven, taking care to place it on a neutral surface like a cooling rack, wooden board, or kitchen towel. (Avoid contact with anything cold, such as cold water or a cold surface; this may cause the pot to crack.)

Ready to bake

Apply a gentle coating of vegetable oil-based non-stick spray and sprinkle in some semolina flour or cornmeal. (Be careful during this step — the pot may smoke slightly when prepared.)
Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflourSlide your hand under the towel or piece of parchment paper and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side down. You can gently shake the pot from side to side to help the dough settle evenly in the bottom.
Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflourDon’t worry if your dough doesn’t look picture-perfect here; it will turn into a beautiful, golden loaf as it bakes.

Make a few slashes in the top of your loaf (a lame works well for this), and then put the lid on. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes; remove the lid and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the loaf browns fully.
Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflourRemove the loaf from the oven and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing.
Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflourBeautiful crust? Check. Open crumb? Check. Yeasty flavor? Check.

Bread baking in a Dutch oven vs. on a baking sheet

I was stunned by the impressive looking loaf I pulled out of the oven the first time I used this method. I yelped with joy and declared it the best-looking loaf I had ever made! But then I wanted to find out, was it really the wonders of preheating the Bread and Potato Pot — or just this much-loved, no-knead recipe?

To see if there was any difference, I baked a second loaf (same recipe, same amount of dough, same length of time in the fridge) but baked it on a baking sheet instead of in the Bread and Potato Pot.

Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflour

The loaf on the left was baked on a baking sheet while the loaf on the right was baked in a preheated Bread and Potato Pot — same recipe for both loaves.

The side-by-side comparison shows that bread baking in a Dutch oven (and preheating it first) is the key to making an artisan-looking loaf. More steam is created inside the preheated Bread and Potato Pot than when water is poured into a pan in the bottom of the oven, one trick for making crusty bread. Plus, regular ovens vent, so it’s difficult to maintain a moist environment if you don’t use a covered baker.
Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflourWhile the crumb was similar, the height difference and crust color of the bread baked in the Bread and Potato Pot made it a more appealing loaf.

A preheated Dutch oven captures a burst of steam, resulting in a perfectly baked loaf. Click To Tweet

Using other pots for baking bread

While the Bread and Potato Pot is perfectly suited to this preheating method, other pots in your repertoire may be able to produce similar results.

You can try using a 4- to 5-quart heavy covered pot, like a cast iron Dutch oven. Some Pyrex and ceramic Dutch ovens might also stand up to the task, but you’ll want to check the manufacturer’s recommendation about preheating empty before giving it a try.

Dutch oven baking beyond white bread

The wonders of this pot aren’t limited to No-Knead Crusty White Bread — you can try one of the delicious variations of this recipe if you’re looking to make bread that’s a little more exciting.
Bread baking in a Dutch oven via @kingarthurflour
No-Knead Harvest Bread, No-Knead Crusty Whole Wheat Bread, and No-Knead Chocolate-Cherry Pecan Bread are also great choices when it comes to bread baking in your Dutch oven: the possibilities are endless when you use this simple preheating tip.

There’s so much to love about the Bread and Potato Pot — it can turn anyone into a bread baker. If you give this method a try, you’ll say goodbye to store-bought bread in no time.

Share your experiences and best tips for bread baking in a Dutch oven in the comments, below.

Thanks to fellow employee-owner Seann Cram for taking the photos for this blog.

Kye Ameden
About

Kye Ameden grew up in Fairlee, Vermont and has always had a love of food, farms, and family. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, she became an employee-owner at King Arthur Flour and is a proud member of the Digital Engagement Team.

comments

    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      Hi Judith, we’re sorry to hear about the trouble you had baking your bread. It’s important to season your Dutch oven well between bakes, which often includes rubbing a neutral flavored oil all over the inside. It also helps to spray the pot with non-stick spray and sprinkle a bit of semolina flour or cornmeal into the bottom of the pot before adding the dough. (These ingredients have a slight grit to them, which acts as a buffer between the pot and dough.) As for the burned bottom, try moving your Dutch oven further away from the bottom heating element. Baking in the upper third of the oven might help solve your problem, but you may also want to consider turning the oven temperature down by 15-25*F. Check for doneness about five minutes earlier next time. We hope this helps you make a perfect loaf next time. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  1. Mariel

    Love, love, love this bread!! I’ve only been making it for about a month now but for some reason, of late this bread has been sticking to my parchment paper making it impossible to transfer quickly into the dutch oven. I generously flour the paper before plopping the dough on the down and then I flour the top and cover with a towel for a total of about an hour and a half. Any suggestions? Bread comes out fine anyway but I have to stop and rinse the gooey dough off my hands once I’ve scraped it off the paper before I can replace the lid and pop it into the oven.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Mariel, if I were you, I’d plop the dough in the Dutch oven and leave the parchment right where it is, sticking to the dough. Put the lid on top right over the parchment and set a timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, pull the lid, and the top of the dough should be set enough that you can peel the paper off. If it still sticks, come back and try again in another 10 minutes. Susan

    2. Marilyn

      I also have the problem of the sticky dough being very difficult to transfer to the dutch oven. I struggle so much with getting it into the pot that the dough gets flattened as if it did not have the second rising! I have seen recipes that suggest baking with the parchment still attached and not removing it during the baking process. Wouldn’t removing the paper allow too much steam to be released?

      I love the recipe but I cannot seem to solve this problem. Please help.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Marilyn, we recently posted an article on our blog called Transferring bread dough, which shows a few different tips and tricks you might want to try. Also, you can certainly bake the bread with the parchment paper in the pot; just consider trimming it to size before placing the dough on it so it doesn’t make the lid sit ajar. It can be as simple as picking up the edges of the parchment paper and placing the dough gently in the pot. We hope this helps, and good luck! Kye@KAF

  2. Megan Hornby

    How much sourdough starter would I use if I wanted to do this without yeast? Is there a general ratio of sourdough to flour/water? I love the no knead process and I love my sourdough recipes and want to combine them!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Megan! Simply replace 4 ounces of the flour and 4 ounces of the water with 8 ounces of your ripe, bubbly starter and omit the yeast. You’re in for a tasty loaf! Annabelle@KAF

  3. christine Corbin

    I do like my bread making and I never knew that I could ever use my Dutch oven. I have learned a lot reading your blogs and learning from your wonderful ideas and recipes. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Elaine Fritz

    I have been making no-knead whole wheat/white bread for several weeks now (it is my only bread) and found a heavy covered aluminum Dutch oven at a thrift shop that works beautifully. I also add a variety of seeds for flavor and interest. I have been rising the dough at room temperature for 18-24 hrs. but I like the idea of allowing the dough to rest in the fridge for several days in order to improve the flavor. Is there a reason for the large amount of yeast you use for one loaf – my recipe calls for only 1/4 tsp. and it seems sufficient?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re so glad you found the perfect pan, Elaine! The recipes used in this post make 3 loaves, so there’s only 1 1/2 tsp per loaf. When you compare that to the average 2 1/4 teaspoons in a typical single loaf of bread (which is the amount of yeast in a packet) it’s not very much. You’re welcome to experiment adding less, this was just the amount we found most successful. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  5. Treven Dunning

    I don’t know if this was covered or not.

    I went online to Lodge, and the company states that their enamel coated cast iron Dutch ovens are not suitable to be heated while empty. I didn’t go into the area covering plain cast iron ovens.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Treven. To be safe, you’ll want to follow whatever instructions come from the brand of your pan. We encourage you to reach out to them and ask if there are any tricks around that that will protect your pan. Or, check out our post on Baking in a Cold Dutch Oven to avoid the problem altogether! Annabelle@KAF

  6. Suzanne

    My Potato pot arrived today and my dough is almost ready! I noticed somewhere the mention of pre treating the pot with milk? It’s not mentioned in the booklet nor website. I don’t have milk so….. Gonna try my no knead bread in a couple hours and will post a picture

    Reply
  7. Carol Allred

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments and tips for baking the no knead loaves. I have a new convection steam oven and wonder how I might use this oven to bake my bread. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Taking a look at the manual for your oven will be the first step, Carol, as they tend to all act differently and will require some experimentation. We typically don’t recommend using convection with bread as it can inhibit it from rising, but the steam function could be very useful. Let us know how your experiments go! Annabelle@KAF

  8. Judith

    Hello,
    I do not have a Dutch oven but I have a Le Cresuet cast-iron braiser. It has a lid as the Dutch oven but it is not as tall. Would this work to get the crusty crust?
    Thanks for the great recipes!

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      As long as it’s oven safe (even the lid — double check on that) you can definitely try baking your bread in it using this method. Try shaping your loaf in a way that leaves sufficient space for the bread to rise. It may expand more than you expect it will! Give it a shot and let us know how it turns out. We love being about to use kitchen equipment for more than one use. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Judith

      Yes, the lid is oven safe and it worked. The bread turned out great with the crusty crust. I shaped the loaf with a larger diameter so it could have space to rise. Thanks for the advice!

  9. JNOO

    This method produces an outstanding loaf ….. been using it for years. I’ve used an enameled cast-iron dutch oven (Le Creuset), and a heavy stoneware covered baker (Emile Henry). They both work! The sizing sweet spot is the 4 qt to 4 1/2 qt range. Fear not and bake on!

    Reply
    1. Mei

      It’s ok to preheat an enameled Le Creuset to 500F? I got my first Le Creuset and the instruction doesn’t recommend to preheat it empty. I was hesitant.

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