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 Marketing Team.

comments

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Kristine, that would depend on your altitude! For help modifying recipes based on your elevation, our High-Altitude Baking Guide provides all the details you need for adapting recipes to your special circumstances. Happy baking! Kat@KAF

  1. Stefanie_B

    I just baked this in my Le Creuset cast iron lidded casserole dish with parchment paper inside. I baked it to 209° (tested at multiple spots in loaf) but the center was under baked. The bottom has a very thick crust. After reading through several of these comments it seems that my oven rack could have been too low thus producing the thick bottom. But, how do I resolve the doneness issue? Please advise.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      Hi, Stefanie. It’s possible your oven is running a little hot; I would lower the temperature and plan on a longer bake. Also, worth checking your thermometer’s accuracy; dip it in some boiling water and make sure it’s reading 212°F. One last thing to try is a bit longer time with the lid off to allow moisture to escape for a little longer time. Susan

    2. Peter Van Erp

      Hello Stephanie,
      I’ve been baking bread for some years using a cast iron Dutch oven, and I had the same problem with an underdone center. I finally started to turn the whole loaf out of the pot for the final 10-15 minutes, and that solved the underdone problem.

  2. Beck Daniel

    Hi,

    How does the Bread and Potato pot differ from the Cloche? Can you use the cloche instead of the B&P pot and are there difference in handling the dough? Or is the dough not strong enough to be placed in a cloche?

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Beck! The main difference between the Bread and Potato Pot and the Cloche is the shape of the vessel and resulting loaf. Either can be used to bake the bread referenced in this article, but your loaf will be slightly more flat when using the cloche because it allows it to spread outwards more than the pot does. When baking bread with a cloche, you’ll want to do your best to shape the loaf little more tightly to prevent too much spreading. We hope this helps and happy baking! Morgan@KAF

  3. Bubbi

    I learned this covered pot bread making project at my local library and it is the best bread experience ever. After heating my CorningWare Brand pot and lid together, I place parchment paper cut to size in the bottom before I dump the dough into the pot.
    everyone says this is the best bread they ever ate.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Absolutely, Susan! You will probably want to make good use of parchment paper to prevent your dough from sticking to the bottom, however. Happy baking! Kat@KAF

    2. Doreen

      I use my Lodge cast iron Dutch oven for this bread. A few tips for perfect results….put a parchment round in the bottom of the pan. Bake on middle rack with a cookie sheet on the lower rack (not directly under the Dutch oven). The flavor is simply wonderful, and crust, scrumptous.

    3. Susan Reid

      Hi, Stefanie. It’s possible your oven is running a little hot; I would lower the temperature and plan on a longer bake. Also, worth checking your thermometer’s accuracy; dip it in some boiling water and make sure it’s reading 212°F. One last thing to try is a bit longer time with the lid off to allow moisture to escape for a little longer time. Susan

  4. Prencella

    Ordered the bread and potato pot and made the no knead bread recipe. Used 2# dough and it was pretty, tasted good but stuck! See comment below. But the remainder of the dough isn’t 2#, only 1#9oz….. So, what to do with the rest of it? I put it in the pot to rise and hope for the best. Other ideas , rolls? Also the bread stuck in the pot the first time, big mess. Called bakers hotline, they said use Crisco on pot, I don’t keep that stuff. Trying parchment this time.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Prencella! You can still use the remaining dough to make one larger loaf, or you can divide it up and make two smaller loaves if you’d like. You can certainly try to make rolls, but no-knead dough is a bit sticky so this may be a bit tricky. Using parchment paper on the bottom of the pot will definitely help to prevent the bread from sticking. We hope this helps and happy baking! Morgan@KAF

  5. Heidi

    I love using this method for bread. After the first time, I was sold. I tried using the same method for making crusty dinner rolls using the Rustic Dinner Roll recipe from the King Arthur site. The dinner roll recipe did not quite meet my expectations because the crust was not as thin and chewy as I was hoping. I used a dutch oven, but the crust was a little too thick, but the chewiness was there. Maybe I need to make the rolls larger in order to get a thinner chewy crust with a nice fluffy inside (maybe 8 rolls instead of 16)? Any suggestions?

    Reply
  6. OkieDokie

    You say pre-heat the Dutch oven yet your recipe for No-Knead Harvest bread instructs us to “place the lid on the pan and put the bread in the COLD oven. Set the temperature to 450 deg F.” No pre-heating is mentioned. This is what I have been doing using the Emile Henry pot and it works out fine

    Reply
    1. Kye Ameden, post author

      We’re glad you mentioned the cold start method, which is another one of our favorite ways to bake no-knead bread in a Dutch oven. We’ve written a full post detailing how to bake bread starting with a cold oven, which is the method we use to bake our No-Knead Harvest Bread (and other recipes). You’re right: the final results can be fantastic. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  7. Brenda

    Oh my gosh, my loaf came out wonderful, I can’t believe I made it. I used the King Arthur No Knead Crusty bread recipe linked above. Dough sat in fridge 2 days, I pulled off two pound chunk today, let it rise as described above (1.5 hrs, then turned on my oven with my 3.5 quart LeCreuset Dutch oven inside for the 30 minutes heating, so total of 2 hours of rising.) I too was clumsy with my dough, it had stuck to the parchment when I plopped it in the hot Dutch oven and I didn’t think it would come out. But with baking 25 mins lid on, almost 10 minutes with lid off, it slipped out perfectly and is now cooling on rack. Looks like a baker’s loaf! (I weighed my King Arthur flour when making the dough). I am so excited!

    Reply

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