Using a thermometer with yeast bread: how to nail the perfectly baked loaf

THUMP THUMP THUMP. Yeast bread bakers have traditionally tested their loaves for doneness by tapping on the bottom and listening for a distinctive hollow thump: a perfectly good method. But for those of us who don’t like juggling blistering hot loaves in order to get at their bottoms for the thump test, there’s another method: taking the bread’s internal temperature. Using a thermometer with yeast bread not only saves you the “hot potato” juggle, it offers excellent guidance — if you know how to interpret your temperature results.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

You may notice that many of our King Arthur Flour yeast bread recipes call for the perfectly baked loaf to reach an internal temperature of 190°F. And honestly, this is a good benchmark. Most loaves and rolls will indeed be done when they register 190°F at their center.

But some breads — baguettes, for instance — need to reach a higher internal temperature to be fully baked. And some bakers argue that large, dense/hearty whole grain rounds should be baked to an internal temperature of 205°F to 210°F, in order to ensure they’re completely baked at the center.

I recently baked an array of yeast breads, taking their temperature (at the center of the loaf) in 5-minute increments towards the end of their bake and detailing the results. Bottom line: 190°F is indeed a good benchmark. Every loaf I baked — except for the baguettes — cooled to an excellent texture when brought to 190°F during baking. Still, I discovered some interesting things along the way. Let’s check out the tests.

How to tell when to take your bread out of the oven: forget the guesswork, this really works! Click To Tweet

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

Using a thermometer with yeast bread:

Sandwich loaves

Here’s the dough for two of my favorite sandwich loaves: Classic Sandwich Bread, and 100% Whole Wheat Nut & Seed Bread. Each makes a close-grained, tender, moist sandwich loaf.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

For each bread, I bake one loaf to 190°F, one to 205°F. Once cool, I slice the loaves right through the center, to make sure I’m seeing the point where any under-baking would have happened.

Loaves baked to each temperature look similar at the center; the only visual difference is the slightly thicker crust on the loaves baked to 205°F.

Sampling the loaves, though, there’s a noticeable difference in texture. The 190°F loaves are moister and softer; the 205°F loaves, drier. And after a couple of days, the 190°F loaves still retain some moisture — making them seem fresher.

Verdict: Pan bread (sandwich loaves) are fully baked, yet still nicely moist and tender, when baked to 190°F.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

Large whole-grain rounds

Sprouted Wheat Easy Rustic Bread is a good example of a loaf that might be difficult to bake to the correct doneness without using a thermometer.

It’s a dark loaf to begin with, thanks to the whole-grain sprouted wheat flour, so it’s hard to gauge how done it is by its crust color. Add its dense texture, and its shape — there’s no bread where the center is farther from the edge than a round boule — and you’ve got a baking challenge.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

I bake one loaf to 190°F, the other to 210°F — the temperature many bread bakers claim is optimum for this type and shape of loaf, given the need to ensure it’s fully baked all the way to the center.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

The result? Just like the previous test, these loaves are similar in appearance. The center of the 190°F loaf (pictured at left) isn’t gummy/under-baked. But again, once I taste the two side by side, the 190°F loaf is definitely moister, its crust less tough. And it stays softer as time goes by.

Verdict: Even a large, fairly dense whole grain loaf is fully baked at 190°F. I enjoy a soft, moist, tender loaf, so the 190°F bread is my favorite. If you like your whole-grain bread drier/chewier, bake it longer — but baking to 210°F isn’t necessary to prevent under-baking.

Let me just add that I LOVE this bread. I’m not a devotee of whole wheat bread but this loaf, thanks to its mellow sprouted wheat flour, has mild yet rich flavor: vaguely nutty, somewhat grain-y. And its texture is nearly cake-like — it’s that tender.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

Soft dinner rolls

Does the ideal internal temperature change with the size of the bread? Let’s bake these Golden Pull-Apart Butter Buns and find out.

The recipe calls for buns to bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until golden brown.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

I decide to start taking their temperature at 15 minutes. At this point, as you can see, they’re barely browned. Yet the interior temperature of one of the buns on the edge is already 192°F, while the center bun is just 171°F.

I take the buns out of the oven. Meanwhile, I bake the other pan of buns for 5 more minutes — a total of 20 minutes.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

The 20-minute buns (right) are light golden brown. An outside bun registers 208°F, while the center bun is 199°F — well above the 190°F proving ideal for other breads.

So we have four different finish temperatures to evaluate with these buns: 171°F and 192°F from the first pan; and 199°F and 208°F from the second pan.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

Predictably, the 171°F bun is very soft and tender and moist. It’s not gummy, but it is VERY fragile; squeeze a piece in your fingers, and it turns into a dough ball.

The remaining hot buns are uniformly delicious.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

Notice I said “hot,” though. The big difference is apparent once the buns cool. All slice nicely; all exhibit fully baked interiors. But the buns from the first pan (the pale buns) are still soft, tender, and moist at room temperature; while the buns from the second pan (the ones with nicely browned tops) are somewhat dry and tough.

The less-baked buns remain moist for several days at room temperature, while the buns baked longer become progressively drier.

Verdict: If you’re serving buns hot from the oven, bake them until light brown. If you’re planning on serving them at room temperature — or reheating them — bake them only until they’re pale gold, and their interior temperature doesn’t rise higher than 190°F or so.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

Baguettes

My final test is a bread that’s at the opposite end of the texture spectrum from soft dinner rolls: crisp/chewy baguettes. I use our Classic Baguette recipe to discover the optimum way to bake the ideal crusty baguette.

First, I rethink my expectations. Do I want a baguette with a soft, moist center? No; I want a center that’s fairly dry, chewy, and filled with large holes: typical baguette texture.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

So rather than evaluating baguettes by their internal temperature, I decide to judge them by the darkness of their crust. The recipe calls for baking the loaves for 25 to 30 minutes; I take my first loaf out after 20 minutes, when it’s a medium golden brown. Its interior temperature is a whopping 212°F.

I take the next loaf out 5 minutes later: again, its temperature is 212°F. I learn later that bread’s interior temperature will never rise above 212°F, since that’s the boiling point of water (and the temperature of steam, which water becomes as it evaporates from the loaf).

The remaining loaf I bake the full 30 minutes; it’s a very dark golden brown. Once cool, I compare all three loaves: the darker loaves have richer flavor, due to caramelization of the crust. They’re also chewier, as their crust is somewhat thicker.

And, just as I found in my other tests, the loaf baked to the lowest temperature retains its moisture longest: which in the case of baguettes isn’t a good thing. Moisture in the interior of an under-baked (light-crusted) baguette will migrate outwards, leaving the crust soft and leathery.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

Verdict: You don’t need a thermometer to tell if a baguette is fully baked. For best results, simply bake until thoroughly browned. In this case, the color of the crust is more important than the bread’s temperature.

Using a Thermometer with Yeast Bread via @kingarthurflour

What we learned about using a thermometer with yeast bread:

  • Use a thermometer (I like the Thermapen) to assess the doneness of pan breads, freeform loaves, and soft rolls. A temperature of 190°F at the center will yield bread that’s fully baked (soft and moist) but not over-baked (tough and dry).
  • For thin/crusty bread with a dry interior, like baguettes, small crusty rolls, or focaccia, rely on crust color to determine the point of optimum doneness.
  • Due to certain inherent characteristics of rye flour, rye bread tends towards excessive moistness, and should be baked to an internal temperature of 205°F to 210°F.
  • Gluten-free yeast bread needs to bake to 205°F in order to gelatinize its starches, which “lock up” and provide the bread’s structure.
  • Bakers working at high altitude should reduce the desired internal temperature of their breads by about 5°F, to account for water’s lower boiling point.

Using a thermometer with yeast bread is a reliable way to ensure bread is fully baked. Do you take your bread’s temperature? Or are you a devoted “thumper”? Share your bread-testing experiences in comments, below.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Denise Hammond

    Your explanation pretty much says what my instructor taught us in out artisan bra baking class. He was very careful to make sure we baked to the higher temp to develop flavor. I think most of us home bakers do not have to worry about bread staying fresh in our homes for more than a day or two.

    Reply
    1. Patricia

      I know it is a typo, but I got a chuckle out of your “artisan bra baking class”. I am old enough to remember the bra-burning that took place back in the 60’s…lol.

    2. Robin

      Got a good chuckle as well! Loved it, and your sage bread baking advice as well. Love my Thermapen!

  2. Taxman

    Challah, and any other breads with eggs in the dough, need higher than 190 (200-205 is about right). I’m a tap the bottom guy myself, but have been experimenting with the thermometer the past few weeks.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Taxman, I’ve heard bread with eggs in the dough needs a higher finish temperature — but that’s not the consensus in our test kitchen. It’s not a food safety issue, so not sure why you’d go higher. Do you find baking to just 90°F results in too “eggy” or moist a finished product? PJH

  3. Monica

    I always use a thermometer for testing my bread loaves, and experience has shown me that anything higher than 190 degrees will definitely yield a drier loaf. I have been using a thermometer to test cake layers for doneness too. Usually 209 degrees is about right. I’ve saved myself a whole lot of trouble with gummy, fallen cakes. I love my digital thermometer. It’s not a Thermapen, but the less expensive model on your website, and it has been working very well for several years.

    Reply
    1. Patricia Harris

      When do you put the thermometer in the bread or cake??? From the very beginning or after 15 minutes or so????

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Patricia,
      Use the thermometer to take the temperature of your baked good at the very end of the baking process, when you think it has finished baking. The kind of thermometers we recommend using shouldn’t be left in the oven while the bread/cake bakes, but can be used to test when the bake time nears completion. We hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  4. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez -Petrópolis,R.J. BRAZIL

    I always baked with thermometer,because it give me an accurated result.
    My experience is similar to yours. I baked my 100% whole wheat breads up to 205 F specially those no kneaded loaves of high hydration. They turns out still wet and need a rest time to maturate and dry the interior crumb, so they´re completely baked with all of that humidity that let some unexperts think they could be underbaked, but they´re NOT.
    Another thing i discord is about let Challah breads go to high internal temperatures to assure they´re baked. Challah is a bread of great richness and this kind of bread is completely baked at lower temperatures like 190 F.For me the great tip to this kind of enriched breads is to bake this bread at lower oven temperatures, for longer time to assure this bread is ok, ready at 190F, at end of that longer baking time!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Ricardo, I agree — good point about the challah and other rich breads baking at a lower temperature. They tend to brown quickly, so it’s necessary either to bake at a lower temperature — or tent midway through with foil, to slow down the browning. Thanks for adding your thoughts here – always nice to see your name and hear from you again. 🙂 PJH

  5. waikikirie

    I haven’t been baking lately, much to my husband’s disappointment. However, I always use the thermapen. LOVE it. So takes the guess work out. I use it all the time. Great for testing a roast. Maybe today I’ll make some pizza crust for the freezer. It’s usually our Friday night dinner in the summer/warmer month as I cook it on the grill.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Well, Waikikirie, let’s get with the (baking) program! 🙂 Nice to see your name here again — hope you’ve been well. Let’s get that pizza going, yes? PJH

  6. Jerry Wolf

    Thanks for the test results in your article. You make the point that you tested yeast bread recipes only. Is a sourdough article in the works?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Jerry, the internal temperature of sourdough bread should reach just a smidge higher than the loaves shown here; usually 190-195°F is just about right for sourdough. Like baguettes, you should also use the look of the crust and aroma to help guide the bake time. While we made a point to emphasize yeast breads in this post, that was to separate it from things like quick breads and cakes, which require different internal temperatures. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Take a guess… if you guessed 190°F, you’re right! We encourage you to take the liberty as the baker to look for slightly higher or lower temperature based on the desired texture of the cinnamon buns, but 190°F is a reliable middle-ground for doneness. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Chris, gluten-free loaves need to reach a higher temperature in order to gelatinze the starches (fully bake). Look for 205-210°F for gluten-free yeast breads. Happy GF baking! Kye@KAF

  7. cate ryan

    How timely! I recently began using a thermometer because of the moodiness of my oven. I think it’s going through menopause, hot, cold, hot cold. The first time I decided to use a thermometer I only had a meat thermometer, I figured, what the heck, and used it. Voila! Perfect. I guess heat is heat. I’m sure our muse Julia Childs did not use a thermometer, she was a baker first you know. Her thermometer was internal. Bon Appetite!

    Reply
    1. Lynne Marie Hoyt

      Cate – I have the same problems, both with my oven temp and my body temp. I have found a way to “fix” my oven temp problem; invest in a good thick(1/2 inch thick or more) baking stone that fills most of one of your oven racks. Pre-heating it in your oven for at least 30 to 60 minutes will maintain your oven temperature while the thermostat cycles on and off. And they’re awesome for baking free form loaves and pizza. I rarely remove my stone from the oven because it makes the temperature so much more consistent.

  8. Carol Hixenbaugh

    I make Oatmeal bread for Christmas gifts and learned from the King Arthur Whole Wheat baking cookbook that using a thermometer is the best way to ensure you don’t end up with dry bread. I started using the thermometer instead of thumping the loaves and have found the results to be more reliable. Thanks for the detailed lessor.

    Reply
  9. I. Howard

    I have become dependent on my Thermapen, especially with loaves of bread. It takes all the guesswork out. I use it for so many other cooking projects as well–would not be without one.

    Reply
  10. Nona

    PJ, would you say the 190 rule would also apply to quick breads? ( or have I just given you the premise for another round of marathon experimentation?)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Nona — the latter! I hope to examine cakes and quick breads sometime in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, my sense is that quick breads might need to go a bit higher, like 200°F. But as I said — no data yet. PJH

  11. MarcyG

    What a great article. Thanks PJ Hamel ! Do the temperatures hold true for breads such as Irish Soda Bread?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      As we found in this post about baking American-Irish Soda Bread, the right internal temperature should be between 200-210°F when it has finished baking. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  12. Sherilyn

    I appreciate the detailed information in your post-it will be very useful.
    I bake no knead spelt and other dense, grainy breads in a preheated cast iron enameled pot, use a thermometer and remove from the oven once it’s 200 degrees internally. I also bake baguettes using white / rye / whole wheat combos to 200 degrees and have been happy with the result.
    What’s your experience & suggestion for ideal internal temp for no knead ?breads

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sherilyn, no-knead bread, if nicely risen, is no different than any other; it depends what shape you form it into. A big fat round will be pleasantly moist at 190°F, drier at 205°F. A thin baguette needs to bake to a higher temperature. PJH

  13. Gae Bergmann

    Glad to read this as when using the thermometer if it came out ‘doughy’ on the tip, I assumed it needed more time. I’d always read 210F or more for doneness and would bake the bread an additional 5+ minutes………..I mostly make the no-knead bread so if less time is the answer=quicker cooling=sooner eating 🙂

    Reply
  14. Thalia Goldsworthy

    Thank you all for the great info. I bake both regular breads and gluten free. All the hints help a lot.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thalia, keep in mind gluten-free yeast breads need to reach a slightly higher temperature of 205-210°F to bake all the way through. Happy GF baking! Kye@KAF

  15. Nancy Vogel

    In the past, I have always thumped on the bread to see if done. Since making sourdough, I have gone more to taking the temperature. I was really glad to read this information, since I’m not always sure of the correct temperature, and this helped. Thank you!

    Reply
  16. Cynthia Gilbreth

    PJ, This is a very informative article, Thank you for writing it. I have just begun to use a thermometer, I use a Thermoworks which is much smaller than the Thermapen and under $40. I know it’s pretty accurate as I tested it with ice water and then boiling water (learned that in Chemistry class), which at my altitude of 5,000 ft is 202℉. If the thermometer is accurate at those two points it will be accurate over its entire range. I appreciate the comment about high altitude baking, so I’ll start taking the loaves out at 185 ℉ and see how that works out.

    Reply
  17. Margaret Guillaume

    What about quick breads? I’ve been making bran bread with All bran cereal and It’s difficult to determine when it’s done.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Margaret, we hope to test quick breads, cakes, and other baked goods at some point; just haven’t gotten around to them yet. Thanks for the feedback — PJH

  18. Marie Barry

    Another reason not to get too used to thumping the bottom is that with aging, the hearing isn’t what it used to be, or one forgets to put the hearing aids in. As the eyes fail, a flashlight lets the temperature on the thermometer be seen. Terrific article. Thanks..

    Reply
  19. DVW

    I’m wondering how to best take the temp of this month’s bake-along recipe, the chocolate babka? I have a Thermapen but am concerned about hitting the filling and getting that temp instead of the bread dough. Should that be a concern or no? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Don’t let the filling concern you too much, DVW. Look for at least 190°F on your thermometer, and your babka should be perfectly baked. You can move the thermometer around slightly to ensure you’re getting a good reading. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  20. Kristin

    Great article! Very helpful. What about quick breads? I just had a batch that was sadly undercooked. What would be a good temp for those? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sorry, Kristin, I don’t know; haven’t done the tests yet. I think you can safely assume anything under 190°F isn’t baked enough, though. PJH

  21. Barbara Neal

    Thanks for this great article. I’ve recently switched from thumping to thermometer and am very pleased with how my bread has turned out using this method. Do you find that the same temperatures hold true for quick breads?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Haven’t tested quick breads yet, Barbara — looks like I’d best get busy! PJH

  22. Marijke Schellenbach

    Another great article! I love reading the articles that show the comparisons and explaining why certain things happen. I use a thermopen often but never yet on bread, but that is about to change. Thank you for teaching us all about baking.

    Reply
  23. Karen Sievertson

    I do both. This info is very helpful.
    Do you put the temps in your recipes? I haven’t noticed if you do.
    I’ve gotten so used to using a thermometer, I’m sticking everything now! Mostly, 190 is just right, but I go to 205 for some. I also go by color and smell. Yes, smell. Plus, I keep a thermometer in my oven so I know where I’m at with that.
    Thanks for posting this info!!!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Karen, you should certainly feel empowered to continue using sight and smell to gauge the doneness of your loaves, but we do try to include internal temperatures for yeast breads, especially if it’s a tricky loaf to bake properly. But as you learned from this article here, 190°F is a great rule of thumb for most cases. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  24. Lori Felber

    Glad to hear that 190° is the right temperature, since that is what I’ve been using, lol. However your last statement concerning high altitude was interesting since I live at about 7350 feet. I make no adjustments in bread making and my bread turns out great.

    How about sweet doughs? Someone at the Bakers hot line told me that sweet breads should cook to 205°

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Lori, I’m not sure there’s any “should” to all of this: it’s all personal preference, within certain bounds. I like my sweet breads at 190°F; some may prefer them drier. Thanks for sharing your experience with high altitude baking; whatever works for you, in your kitchen, is what you should do. 🙂 PJH

  25. Jack Lindahl

    My oven temperature drops a LOT when I open it to take the loaves out to test them. And then it takes a while for it to get back up to temperature. In the meantime, the loaves still bake, but slower. I imagine your test kitchen ovens are a bit better than my kitchen stove’s oven (!), but do you have to compensate for that temperature drop when you do these tests?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sometimes the loaves need to go back in the oven for a few minutes longer than they would have if they never had to come out at all. However, we think it’s better to test early and often with yeast breads rather than risk over-baking and drying out your loaf. Sounds like you might want to use sight and smell to hone in on the doneness of your loaf and test it when it’s likely properly baked. Good luck! Kye@KAF

  26. Susan

    I loved this article and I learned some things. I always check my bread with an instant-read thermometer. I poke it in through the top of the loaf, but then when it’s cooled and I slice it, the thermometer leaves a “keyhole” hole in that slice. Is it better to insert the thermometer into the side of the loaf?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Either approach will do, Susan. Inserting the thermometer in the side of the loaves is one way to make the hole a slightly less prominent, but you can go straight in the top if you don’t mind the little blemish! Kye@KAF

  27. Sandy Severance

    What about baking something other than bread? Cookies, banana bread? Can a thermometer be used for them?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sandy, we’ll do all those tests someday; just haven’t gotten to them yet. In the meantime, I think you can safely assume that anything you bake should come to at least 190°F, and will go no higher than 212°F — so at least you have a range. PJH

  28. Rebecca Jones

    Thank you so much for this article. My dad was a military cook/mess sargent for 20 years, and his special talent was baking. With advanced age, he’s been forced to give up many of hus favorite activities, including baking, as “Nothing comes out right anymore, it’s burned or undercooked”. Now I know why – severe hearing issues made the “thump test” he’d always relied upon useless. A Thermopen + this article might let him get back to baking.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      TB, I don’t; but I’d assume a bit higher than pan bread, given scones are usually somewhat drier. Probably around 200°F is my best guess. PJH

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sandy, we try to include the internal temperature for loaves that might be tricky to tell when they’re done or if they’re something other than the expected 190°F. As you can see from this article here though, even if it’s not listed, 190°F is a good place to start. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  29. Linda Arzoumanian

    I loved the article. Now how about the preferred temperature for both English scones and the heavier Scottish Scones (with oats).
    Thanks

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Maybe someday, Linda — haven’t tested beyond yeast breads yet, though. PJH

  30. Deborah Hobbs

    Wait, I just saw that you said cakes and quick breads need a different temperature? I always use the old fashioned cake tester method, but I find that for tricky things like brownies, I’m never really sure when to take them out so that they are perfect both on the edge and the center. I’m new to using my Thermapen to test bread. Such a helpful tool! I wish I had known about it years ago!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Deborah, interestingly I’ve started taking the temperature of my fudgy brownies, and find they’re perfectly done at 189°F in the center. The very edge will be a tad dry/crusty, but from about 1/2″ in, very nicely baked. Enjoy your Thermapen next time you bake bread! PJH

  31. Karen Koon

    Thank you for a helpful article. The pictures were great, too.
    I was just about to start my Easter potica when I saw this link. It is a rich, egg dough that is stretched thin and then rolled up with a gooey nut filling. I have trouble telling when it is done. Could I use a thermometer on this or would I not get a good reading because of the filling?
    Thank you for any suggestion!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Karen, unfortunately I think poticza is one bread that’s a challenge when trying to gauge doneness by temperature. As you say, so much filling, and the layers of dough are so thin, I don’t think a thermometer would give you a very good read. You could certainly try, though – take its temperature when you think it’s done; and if it is, write it down, so next year you’ll know. Good luck — PJH

  32. Susan

    I usually relied on baking times and my baking sixth sense. I attribute it to unconsciously processing the doneness by the smell coming off of it, but as long as I remain somewhat near the kitchen, I’m good to go, even when the timer is wrong. I will now probably start testing the internal temperature out of curiosity. How accurate is my sixth sense?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      When you find out, be sure to let us know! We’d love to hear. Good luck and happy testing! Kye@KAF

  33. Cheryl Shaffer

    Thanks for a wonderful article, chock full of information I can share with my clients. I’m excited to use your recommendations, especially with a less than stellar oven at home.

    Reply
  34. Julie Kostick

    I’m very much still a novice baker, but learning as much as I can. I use KAF instruction as much as possible, which is why I too take my bread’s temperature. However, instead of using an a Thermopen type thermometer, I use my C ooper Cooking Thermo Timer. It has a digital timer/thermometer display that stays outside of the oven. The probe is on a 3 foot wire that plugs into the display unit. This is the same thermometer I use for roast meats and poultry.
    About 10 or 15 minutes before the bread is due to be done per the recipe, I check by inserting the probe into the middle of the loaf, then quickly close the oven door. I have the reading within a few seconds. If the loaf is not yet up to temperature, then, of course I leave it in longer. By using this thermometer with the remote display, one does not need to keep opening/closing the oven door to check the bread each time. Additionally, this unit has temperature alarm on it that I can set to 190 degrees and sounds off when it reaches that temp. That keeps me from losing track of time and forgetting to check the bread!
    Also, I have a baking steel that I usually leave right in my oven, either on the top or very bottom rack. This seems to shorten the baking time for most loaves, so this temp alarm helps out there too.
    It seems like such an obvious choice that I wonder if I am missing something that I don’t know about in regards to the Thermopen type?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Julie, your method sounds just fine; keep it up. But not everyone has that type of thermometer; so I provided directions for those working with a standard digital instant-read thermometer. PJH

    2. Jim

      I was wondering about just using my temperature probe with an alarm as well. I have both but I’ve never used the cable based probes on breads. I usually set the timer for the minimum time and start checking with the Thermapen. More than half the time I miss the ideal temp.
      It’s going to be the probe with alarm from now on.
      Perhaps KAF could promote the cable based temp probes and give the finish instructions for their recipes prominently in temperature and parenthetically in minutes.
      It’s similar to using weights over volume; one is absolute and the other is variable.

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for your suggestion, Jim. Many of our recipes do include the final temperatures for breads, especially if they’re tricky to bake. However, as you can see from the post here, 190°F is a reliable end-goal for almost all yeast recipes. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Martha, I’ve always said, no baking police: whatever works for you, in your kitchen, is exactly what you should be doing. Thump on! PJH

  35. Marianne

    Thank you so much for your interesting article.I have been making the No Knead Crusty White Bread both on my baking stone and Dutch oven using the tap method. I have the thermapen.I will certainly use it the next time.

    Reply
  36. Rosemary Griffis

    Thanks for a great article! I’ve had trouble with thick crust and gummy interior. I’ve been baking my breads to — sometimes — 210 degrees. Not that I planned it that way. I’m going to try 190 degrees by taking the loaves out before the suggested time. Now for my question: do you take the bread out of the pan to take the temperature? If it’s too low, is it okay to put the bread back in the pan to bake longer?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Rosemary, a thick crust usually points to over-baking at a too-low temperature. You might want to try a higher temperature, and tenting the loaf with foil if it starts to brown too much before its interior is fully baked. I don’t take the bread out of the pan to take its temperature; I simply stick the probe in on the side, right above the rim. I do make sure I stick it in far enough to reach the middle. If you choose to take the bread out of the pan, though, then yeah, it’s fine to put it back into the pan and back into the oven to finish baking. PJH

  37. Matthew G.

    I usually go by look and smell. If in doubt I reach for the thermometer for hearth breads. But for pan loaves and rolls, I do what my mom taught me: quickly touch a wet finger to the bottom of the pan. If it sizzles, it’s done! I’m not sure where she learned this, but it has never failed me. Next time I should take it’s temp.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Wow, Matthew, that’s an interesting testing method! I might get brave enough to try it someday — kind of like the wetting your fingers and snuffing out a burning candle trick… PJH

  38. Jane Stevens

    P.J., I have what may seem like a silly question but…My “instant read” thermometer takes a minute (less) to read the temp. If I take it when the bread is outside the oven, can I put it back in? Won’t it have already cooled a bit? Will it resume cooking correctly? Also, if I leave the bread in with the door open, haven’t I let the oven heat cool? I was always instructed (by the adults in my life) that you lose 25 degrees when you open the oven door so I try not to but that leads back to my questions. Help..how and when do you test.
    Love your articles.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Jane, that’s a perfectly sensible question. If your thermometer takes a full minute to reach its true reading — well, that’s a long time. And yes, it would be better to take the bread out and put it back in since you don’t want to be standing there with the oven door open (and your arm inside to boot!). If it’s actually less — more in the 15 to 30-second range — then you could do what I do: open the oven door just enough to safely get your arm inside with an oven mitt; stick the thermometer probe into the side of the bread, right by the pan rim, where the hole won’t show as much; and take your reading. If the reading starts to slow down at a low temperature (like, 170°F or so), then don’t even bother to get the exact temperature; the bread’s not done. If it looks like it’s going to be close, leave it in until it settles at the final temperature. All in all, though, this hopefully won’t take more than 30 seconds. BTW, when I open my oven door and close it, the temperature remains steady; if I opened it wide and left it open, yeah, it would drop. But I think that “drop 25°” advice is maybe geared towards the days of a less steady heat supply, e.g., a wood oven where the fire’s gone out and just the oven itself is providing residual heat. Hope this helps — PJH

  39. John

    Having baked bread for years and now getting into whole grain and rye pumpernickel breads i will order a thermapen. Your explanation tells me why my rye bread isn’t done like i wanted . Thank You

    Reply
  40. Kitty Norton

    Excellent information and so helpful – I’ve been looking for information about baking temps for ages. So looking forward to the sequel on cakes, scones, quick breads, etc. Thank you so much.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Great question, but because quick bread recipes vary so much by formula, it’s hard to give a magic number to shoot for. Some quick breads are light and tender, more like cake, while others are designed to be more dense and heavy, like pound cake. Also, breads with moist ingredients (like banana breads) likely need to reach a higher temperature (perhaps 212°F). We recommend using sight, touch, and smell to help guide the baking time in each of these cases. Inserting a toothpick into the center is also a great approach to use. (It should come out mostly clean once it has finished baking.) We just might have to do some further investigating, April! Kye@KAF

  41. Toni

    I have the kind of thermometer that is oven safe. Can I put it in the loaf right from the start, like I would a roast, and set the temp alarm for 190? Or will it affect the baking somehow?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Toni, I wouldn’t put it into the loaf right at the beginning, for fear of deflating it; it’s unlikely, but might happen. Instead, put it into the loaf maybe 10 minutes before you think it should be done. By that time, it should be fully set, and you’re less likely to disturb its rise. Good luck — PJH

  42. Molly

    Great article but I wish you had included gluten-free loaves too. When making GF bread for my daugher who has Celiac’s it is too costly to have a failure unlike when baking with traditional flours. I completely gave up on the thump test and have still not been able to get reliable results in a sandwich loaf even with using an instant-read thermometer. Seriously….I’ve been trying to perfect a loaf of sandwich bread for her for over 4 years now. Lol! She’s a darling and appreciates even the flops but I really want to have a go-to formula.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Molly, did you see the gluten-free bread tip at the end of the post? GF breads need to be baked to a higher temperature, in order to “set” their starches. Also, you might want to call our baker’s hotline to discuss gluten-free breads; I think they can really help by walking you through the process, understanding the results you’re getting, and then making suggestions for things to try. Good luck going forward — PJH

  43. Lynne

    I love this thread and read every comment. You are my kind of people.

    I need one of these thermometers as I rely heavily on sight and smell. The smell part gets harder once the weather gets warmer with breeze coming in. I’ve even taught my husband the smell test. So when we are in different rooms he can help me keep a nose on it.

    I baked cinnamon rolls the other day and the recipe said 25-30 min. Bake time. Mine were done in 19. I could smell it at 18. I didn’t know whether to let them bake longer due to the doughiness issue. I did not as they were golden brown and they were completed baked. I’m going to make them again and test that temp at 18 minutes.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      I love this! “Honey, can you help me keep a nose on my bread?”. That’s seriously adorable. ~ MJ

    2. Robin Burgess

      That sounds like your oven is running hotter than it should be. Have you tried putting a free standing thermometer inside of it to test for accuracy of the temperature? I found that one of mine was off by 45 degrees F! Once you know whether it is accurate or not, you can either have it recalibrated or just adjust for what you know you want the temperature to be.

  44. Paul

    I’ve made the Babka bread twice now and it is really excellent. Only issue is that the loaves tend to sag in the middle when cooled. I bake to 195 degrees at oven temp 300 per the instructions. What you think?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Paul, I’m not sure; maybe you need to bake just a tiny bit longer. Then, if possible, let the bread cool on its side rather than its bottom, to help prevent sagging. Worth a try? PJH

  45. Cyndi

    I do t like the pale apoearance of the 190 degree rolls. What can be done to make them a tad more golden brown yet not be overdone?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Cyndi, you can brush them with butter before baking, and be sure to bake towards the top of the oven. You could also try increasing their fat and sugar, the fat to keep them moist, the sugar to provide more browning. But this is one of those instances where you might have to simply accept you can’t have it both ways: perfectly moist rolls that stay fresh for several days, and perfectly browned to boot. PJH

    2. Cyndi

      I tried it today with my variation of the KAF Quick Batch rolls. I normally cook them for 20-25 minutes (which was usually about 200 degrees in previous experience), but at 15 minutes I inserted the thermometer — and they were already at 192! I pulled them out of the oven immediately.

      They were much paler than usual even though I brushed them with olive oil prior to baking, but yummy and fluffy. I may try your other tricks for browning them, but I will likely stick to the lower temp.

      Thanks!

  46. Bonny

    Great article. Thanks. Just confirmed what I’ve been doing for a while. I often
    Wonder how I cooked at all without my thermometer.

    Reply
  47. Kelly Hechinger

    Thank you for the added high altitude info! You know I appreciate that. And with my yeast breads I have found that it’s true. At 6000ft above sea level my baking time is much shorter!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Ron, I use whatever oven temperature the recipe recommends. If there’s not a given temperature, I use 350°F for softer pan breads; 425°F for crustier free-form loaves. PJH

  48. Deb Buker

    I own one of these thermometers that we purchased at your store in Vermont a few years ago. It’s one of the red ones. I think it may need to be recalibrated. Do you have instructions for that?

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Deb,
      You can reach out to Thermoworks, and they’ll be happy to assist. You’ll find them online at www(dot)thermoworks(dot) com. ~MJ

  49. Linda Barnes

    My brother gave me a digital thermometer a few years ago at Christmas, mainly for meats or casseroles. But when I mentioned I never know when my bread to done, he told me to take its temperature. He suggested 195 to 200 degrees. I’ve not had an over-baked or under-baked loaf or dinner roll since!

    Reply
  50. Lyn

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. With old age comes hearing loss, and hard to hear the hollow sound in finished bread. I bake about four loaves of bread for my family every week or so. I also use the same recipe for hamburger buns. Should the buns come out at 190, or should they stay in to 210 for a thicker crust? I’m thinking longer so they hold up better for juicy hamburgers.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Lyn, I think 190°F for rolls would be fine — they should be plenty substantial enough, yet still offer some nice moisture. Glad we could help keep your bread baking going! PJH

  51. John Carver

    I faithfully use my thermometer (190ish depending on color of crust) for all my breads; however, is there a temperature for cakes such as the Lemon Bliss Cake in a Bundt pan?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      John, cakes are much more difficult, what with their large variability in texture, sugar content, moisture content, ingredients, etc. That said — I’ve been taking the temperature of my Bundt cakes recently, and find that about 210°F seems to be the sweet spot. Test it out, see what you think — PJH

  52. Chana

    If I’m making a gluten free bread, but a significant amount of the “flour” is GF oat flour, would the required temperature still be 205 or would it be closer to 190?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Chana, most gluten-free breads need to reach higher temperatures in order for the structure to fully set, so we’d recommend looking for at least 200°F on an instant read thermometer. We recommend following a recipe for best results, as oat flour behaves differently than other kinds of gluten-free flour does. Happy GF baking! Kye@KAF

  53. Apprentice

    Very interesting and I assume that this would be valid at levels up to 3000 ft.
    What happens above that altitude and with a very dry environment?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The science-minded bakers here have said that the target temperature for yeast breads would drop, just like the pointing point of water. (From the USDA: “At sea level, water boils at 212 °F. With each 500-feet increase in elevation, the boiling point of water is lowered by just under 1 °F. At 7,500 feet, for example, water boils at about 198 °F.”) That means you can look for slightly lower temperature based on your elevation to help gauge for doneness in yeast breads. We have a few bakers doing some test baking at altitude for us right now, and we may be able to share more specifics once they return next week. If we have updated information to share, we’ll be sure to post it here. Kye@KAF

  54. CatherineJane Morgan

    First time reading a baking blog. Most friends/acquaintances I know do not talk “bakeshop”, so finding advice from humans that do is really a gift! Almost anyone can follow a well written recipe, but baking even a few minutes over or under can produce a disappointing product or worse. Not possessing the best of ovens, I have found this –at times–challenging (however, best remembered that, “a poor artisan blames his/her tools…”) – and so I thank you all for this experienced-based help. I had just started using an instant read thermometer for bread, so everything touched upon here is enlightening. Thank you and please continue! CatherineJane

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We’re always concerned about food safety here at King Arthur Flour, and under-baking raw dough and batter does present some level of risk. (Flour should never be consumed raw; for more details on safe handling of flour, check out this page here.) Because of this, we recommend baking according to the recipe’s instructions for best results. We hope that helps! Kye@KAF

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