Domestic Oven Setup

Hi there everyone.  Recently finished a baking course at Red Beard Historic bakery and have been starting my leaven/wort over the last 2 weeks.  It was suggested we feed the starter for 3 weeks and so far (even with missing 2 feeds) it is looking and smellying good.

I wonder what experiences anyone can share when using their domestic oven - pizza stone, metal baking sheets?  John at Red Beard suggested we use bricks to get the thermal mass, and I read here someone using a dutch cast iron oven inside - does one preheat the oven and put loaf in or prove the love in the oven and then put in.

suggestions and tips welcomed in preparation of that first loaf...



336 users have voted.


Hugo's picture
Hugo 2013 May 3

I bake exclusively on a pizza stone, because I plan to build my own brick oven and this is a relatively similar surface. A pizza stone takes some time to heat up; it absorbs heat until it reaches its peak temperature. Count 45 minutes to 1 hour, and pre-heat 15°C higher than the intended baking temperature. When you slide the dough on the pizza stone, reduce the oven to the target temperature and close the door. A pizza stone helps getting an even crust coloring and normalizes the temperature during the whole cooking process (in the oven proper, the temperature will vary as the oven turns on and off its heating elements). Put the pizza stone at the second to last rack towards the bottom.


Electricboots 2013 May 3

Hi Richard,

It depends on the personality of your oven! I always have a pizza stone in the oven for thermal mass but baking open on the stone is not compatible with the characteristics of my oven on the whole as it bakes too dry and the loaves split at the sides rather than the top. Currently I am using a preheated high quality heavy aluminium dutch oven for boules and a cheap enamelled oval lidded baker for longer loaves. I am finding that the dough needs to be slightly underproofed to get a good result for oven spring. I remove lids from both pans after 20 minutes and always use a baking paper liner on the bottom so that the bread lifts out easily.

My aim at present is to aquire a second-hand oval cast iron pot for the batards but I have not spotted one yet- Maybe this Second-hand Saturday in our area will turn one up.


davo 2013 May 3

I have a wide oven (800 mm) which lets me do two loaves at a time. I got a stone off-cut from kitchen bench making, trimmed to fit with a bit of gap around the sides, but  covering most of the rack. It cost me nothing - my brother used to work next door to a place that made stone benches etc, and this was in some off-cuts they let him have for nought!  It's split twice, but that's fine, just means i have to assemble the 3 pieces each time it goes in/out.  Wroks well - and has more thermal iniertia than a pizza stone - it would be about 20 mm thick. I bake on the rough side.

I don't use dutch oven or any other device, but I do either add a tray with some water just before baking, or splash in a little water to the base of the oven, to steam things up in the first 10 mins, to keep the crust from setting too early. Mine is elec. I used to have a gas oven. People fret about gas ovens getting dry because the combustion gases have to circulate through, but I'm not sure that's valid, as gas combustion produces steam (read the blurb on gas ovens and they claim to be so much better for roasting than elc precisely because the oven environment is moist)! Bigger problem with gas I reckon is that the heat distribution is patchy...

Pre-heat for around an hour....

CHRISGREEN1066's picture
CHRISGREEN1066 2013 May 3

Hi Richard,

I am pretty new to this so I have been experimenting with different methods including pizza stone with cover and a cast iron casserole dish with lid. At the moment I get the best bake with the cast iron casserole dish. I tend to prove my bread in the fridge overnight. When i get up in the morning I take the banneton out of the fridge and take it out of the plastic bag. Then I switch my oven on with the casserole dish inside it. I preheat to about 220c for about 50 minutes to ensure that the casserole dish is fully up to oven temperature ( some of the guys on the website have a laser thermometer so that they can measure the temperature of the pizza stone or casserole dish etc - this seems a great idea and I have one on my Christmas list - not expensive !) When everything is up to temperature I tip the dough out of the banneton onto a flixible plastic board that has been floured and slash it. I then take the casserole out of the oven and remove the lid and slide the loaf into it. Replace the lid and put it back into the oven. I then cook for 20 minutes with the lid on. After 20 minutes remove the lid and bake for a further 20 minutes depending on size of loaf and how brown you want it. It seems to work quite well. The only tricky bit is sliding the loaf into the casserole but it is not too hard.



Hugo's picture
Hugo 2013 May 3

Just like Davo, I add a pan filled with water to provide moisture during most of the baking time. I remove it before the end, otherwise I get a very chewy crust (which is not fun to eat). I also spray some water over the loaf 2-3 times during the first 10 minutes to help keep the slashes flexible and moist; it helps getting a better oven spring.


MkII 2013 May 5

We have an electric oven that isn't big enough (can't get more than 2 or 3 loaves in at a time) and gives lots of top heat from the grill element.

For a stone, I have a piece of granite (a cheap "worktop saver") which I put right under the element at the top while the oven heats up. When the thermostat has ticked a few times I put the granite at the bottom. 

For steam, I put a metal baking tray on the top shelf after I move the granite. After a minute or so I pour some boiling water into the tray, then throw in the loaves. After ten or so minutes I remove the tray, usually with water still in. This keeps steam in the oven even though it vents out (into the cutlery drawer, condensing on all the knives/forks/spoons/random things kept for no reason). The bread is nicely sheilded from the top heat and has almost too much steam. 2013 May 5

Hi everyone, thanks for the tips.  @Hugo - thanks for the rack position.  Site had some problems yesterday so could not come back to everyone...

My first setup was to go with:

Bottom rack - roasting pan with boiling water

second rack from bottom - pizza stone

Oven temperature 250 degrees C - for about an hour

Esky served as my proving chamber.

I actually ran the pan with water for about 20minutes - i think I will reduce this next time. It gave a nice moist loaf, and the crust did have a nice crispness to it but had some background chewiness to it.  I note Hugo leaves his to almost to the end (last 10mins without?)

@MkII - your suggestion of 10mins came in after; so next weekend I'll try this.

I don't think my pizza stone (5mm) has enough thermal mass to it.  My base didn't quite get the crispness needed and the top didn't quite get the bloom i was after. 

I'm keen to try the cast iron, but I wonder if anyone has used a BBQ plate instead of a pizza stone.  Would this get too hot??  I can't see how this would be much different to a cast iron dutch oven so I am keen to try this.

Anyway, the first loaf by all accounts tasted great and I was very happy with it from a first go at it.  A few things to work on - particularly getting to know my oven from a bread perspective and trying some of the other techniques.

I'm not sure how to get the pics in but here goes...

The first loaf...




otherwise -

@ChrisGreen - many thanks for the video.  Will try give that a try next weekend.... something for Mother's day dinner....


Simon Sourdough 2013 May 6

Greetings All

I have been baking on and off for 30 years but have only recently got back into the swing.

I use a domestic 600mm wide electric Chef oven with good effects without the addition of any thermal mass.

I bake on the secong lowest tray and fit 4 x 850g loaves at a time ( I bake in tins) with steam bath of 100mls water @ 220C for 20 minutes and 180-200C for the remaining time (around 30 minutes)


Pictures to come.............




Electricboots 2013 May 6

Hi Richard,

There is a group of pizza bakers in US who go to endless trouble with converting Weber BBQs etc to bake pizza really fast on heavy BBQ plates. My impression is that the bottom of a regular loaf would incinerate if their technique was used. I have lost the link to their website but it was amazing to see what they do with very short baking times. I think they are trying to make NY style pizza in the US midwest on the whole.

jaywoo's picture
jaywoo 2013 May 7

This is my home baking setup in the electric oven.

Pyrex cassarole dish
In oven temperature gauge
Steam bowls

anniebakes 2013 May 15

In my opinion you cannot have too much thermal mass in a domestic oven. I have two recycled house bricks in the base of mine, which I sit my pizza stone on. I let it pre-heat for at least an hour. I haven't been baking bread for long (6 months or so) but I love this set up for cakes, pizzas and general oven use. Thermal mass prevents the tempurature dropping drastically if you open the oven.

In terms of oven spring for my loaves, I use a french cast iron casserole dish, which I pre-heat from when I turn the oven on. I remove the lid after 20 minutes (about half way through baking). This has worked for me with great success.

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