The Fresh Loaf

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Oven Steaming - My New Favorite Way

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SylviaH's picture

Oven Steaming - My New Favorite Way

I have been wanting to try this method for sometime and have just been putting it off until today.  Of coarse I had to pick today, my kitchen still in some construction mode after remodeling my shower, it had leaked through on the kitchen ceiling, an appointment with a glass and mirror installer...and today is Mike's birthday, so everything is in a bit of a rush.  I baked a couple of mulitigrain loaves, and upon doing this I decided to try a new method of creating steam in my oven.  I'm convinced the only way I'm going to get steam that's not continually 'vented' out of my oven is by using this method.  This is so much easier for me..a lot less effort to create constant steam.  Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Preheated the loaf pans in my oven one or two 5 1/2" X 9 1/2" dark non-stick loaf pans...I used 2 loaf pans with 2 tightly rolled towels in each pan.

Placed 2 water soaked towels into a 6X10 Pyrex glass dish.  Microwaved them for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.  Until good and hot.

I removed a pre-heated loaf pan from the oven.  Turned my pre-heating oven onto the Bake mode.

Using Tongs I placed the hot towels into the loaf pan. Placed the pan and hot towels back into the oven

Repeated for the other loaf pan and towels.

Using a 8oz. pyrex cup, I microwaved a 1/2 cup of water until it boiled.  Poured the hot water over the two hot rolled towels in one of the loaf pans.

I then repeated for the other loaf pan.  I covered my glass door with a towel and left the pans in the oven while pouring the hot water over the towels.

More or less water can be added.  I had my towels very wet with a little water on the bottom of the pans.

The oven was pre steamed and steamed.  There was constant steam coming from the towels..  Up to 10 minutes after the pans were removed from the oven, there was still steam present, lots of it.  Photos of this steam.  It's not easy to get photos of steam but I did manage if you look closely at the photo.

This is the first time I have tried this method.  It is so much easier for me and creates that constant steam I have been after, without losing it to my venting oven...there's always steam present until the pans are removed.  I think one pan would work nicely too. 

My bread is still cooling.  Mike and I are off to enjoy the evening out.


            Tongs should have been included in this photo.  A couple of  large multigrain loaves was todays's baking.


                  Microwave heating the wet towels in a the pyrex dish



                                                           Steaming the oven



                                                        Steam coming from towels, apx. 10 minutes after being removed from the oven



          ADDED: A little better photo.  Steam coming from the towels several minutes after being removed from the oven.

                                  As I said in the post to Larry, there is some scientific reason

why the steam vapors are not as visable in a hot oven..something I think to do with the air being hotter and so the vapors do not show like they do in cooler air...something like that!  But the steam is in the oven, even though you can't notice it as much as you do outside the oven.  I think I will try a little less steam in my next bake.









bnom's picture

Sylvia, I can't thank you enough!

I have a 50 year old oven and it really doesn't hold steam well, and I got very uneven results ( I might get one nicely opened loaf but not the other).  I had pretty much given up on the various lava rock and other "open" steaming techniques and was finding better results with tenting aka magic bowl. 

But I started using your technique a month or so ago and it's been incredibly reliable.  My variation is I use my lava rocks in the bottom of the bread pans.

Here are photos showing the eveness of the steaming approach -- all three baguettes opened nicely.

And just to prove the point, I baked two buckwheat/rye batards today. One I tented and the other I steamed using wet towels.  The loaf in the foreground was tented. Its crust is thinner and less crispy than the crust of the wet towel method.

The dough cooked with the wet towel had a crunchy crust, good ears and higher oven spring:

So thanks again Sylvia!


SylviaH's picture

wow a 50 year old oven and still putting out great loaves...I'm so happy you have resolved the problem of steaming your bakes!  I loved seeing your photos and thanks for posting.

Happy New Year!


davidg618's picture


I won't say this will work for everybody, but it works with my oven.

I don't heat my towels in the microwave. I simply boil water in the tea kettle, and about 10 minutes before baking I pour the boiling water over a towel-lined half-sheet pan, and place it on a a oven rack in the highest position, just below the upper heat coil.The oven is always pre-heated to 500°F.

When I first pour the heated water into the pan, it immediately cools, and it takes six or seven minutes before the water reboils and forms steam. It takes another two or three minutes to saturate the oven with steam. I watch the top oven vent for condensing water vapor as a guage.

A couple of day ago, I was baking two SD whole wheat loaves, and had a senior moment. I'd already slashed the loaves, turned to the oven and found I'd forgotten to pre-steam, and there wasn't any water boiling.

I poured about 2 cups of hot tap water onto the towels, and popped the pan onto its shelf. I switched the oven setting to "Broil" which defaults to 550°F. Withing 5 minutes I had copious steam pouring out of the top vent.

Covered the vent, returned the oven to "Bake" and went about my business.

I'm going to use this tweak routinely from here forward--unless I have another senior moment.

P.S. I'm really getting old. I just reread my original post on this thread. I "discovered" the
"Broil" trick last year, and reported it then. Well, its slick enough to deserve a second mention!

David G

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

A decade into this hobby and I was still using the garden sprayer technique. Open, spray, close. Open, spray, close. I never liked it! It seemed like the perfect way to vent the oven and lose much of oven's heat in the process.

Having used this method for the first time today, I can say unequivocally: the garden sprayer is banish'ed to the garage, never to be seen in my kitchen again.

If there was a Nobel Prize for Bread Hacks, I'd award it to you, Sylvia.

SylviaH's picture

You made me chuckle and get a big smile on my face with your very nice comment...I have a hard time just using a key to open a lock or door..that's another story :)

I'm very happy you are also getting good results with the towel steaming method.  I just noticed that today was the first time you have tried it.  I'm sure you'll find little ways to tweak it out to be more convenient for you.  I have tweaked somewhat and now just micro the towels, place them into 2 pans, add some of boiling water and place it all into the oven..for pre-steaming and then get my loaves boarded, sliced and into the oven..close the door and it's all done until I'm finished steaming and then just remove the pans, close the oven door and finish with convection baking.  This works great for me because a counter with my microwave just above it also has my Brevilla Tea/Hot Water maker sitting on it...with my wall ovens right there too.  I turn around there is my island with the loaves ready to be loaded.  I realize some have to work with their microwave ovens located a bit farther.  Thongs and oven gloves are a must for me transfering the towels and pans.

Guess what I'm not far from you today.  I'm having a little holiday with my daughter in Aspen.  Just got back from a bike ride...she got me an 'electric bike' so now I can follow along when we go on trail rides...'lol' I bet you get a chuckle out of that, being a cyclist.

Thanks for all your nice comments, they are very much appreciated!



thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Not sure about Aspen, but Denver is overcast today. Rather rare for Colorado. I moved here from Seattle about 3 years ago and still haven't acclimated to the near-constant sunlight. The rare rainy day is something I really enjoy.

Do you like how the weather changes every 15 minutes? That takes some getting used to too.

Careful not to overexert yourself with the bike. The altitude in Aspen is ~8,000 feet. People (even very fit ones) don't realize how different it is to live at high altitude until they end up at Aspen Valley Medical. That electric bike should help, though! I saw one of those recently! I'm committed. When I turn 85 in 2060, I can have one. :D

Thanks again for steaming idea! It's perfect. I just can't believe it took me two years to find it!

(I left the pans in the oven yesterday. When I opened the oven around 9pm, it was like an Amazon rain forest inside. The steam had condensed (condensated?) and everything was soaked. My parched Fibrament was probably saying, "It's about time you gave me something to drink!")

SylviaH's picture

thank you for the good advice about the altitude sickness!  I've been warned by my daughter to keep drinking water...I'm doing very good so far..just have to watch out for sunburn too!  We are going back to San Diego tomorrow and will return in August.  It's a little rainy and windy today.


kmrice's picture

I couldn't agree more. I've been using Sylvia's method in my WFO since October, 1010 and its much better than spraying. The steam is onstant until you remove the pan, and then stops. Much easier to do, and much easier to control, than spraying. I find it isn't necessary with a full load (7.5 kilos or so of dough) since the dough generates enough steam by itself, but I get wonderful results steaming smaller loads using Sylvia's method.

I use a clay loaf pan with a towel. I put the kettle on and, just before loading the oven, I pour boiling water over the towel and put it in the oven. I then load the oven, shut the door and, ten minutes later, remove the pan, which will still have boiling water in it.

Thanks, Sylvia!


SylviaH's picture

Your welcome, Karl!  I also use the method in my wfo, too!  Your comments are much appreciated.


salma's picture

Hi Sylvia,

I dont write too often, but I have to chime in to thank you.  Yours is the only method I use for steaming for about a year, no matter what bread I am making and what steaming method is recommended.  I works great.  You are the Guru!


SylviaH's picture

no matter what steaming method is used

  I have quite a collection of all those steaming devices used for trying different methods,  (purchased, metal lid w/the steamer, turkey pan lids, clay la cloches, stainless steel, pirex bowls, iron pan with lava rocks, pie pans with holes, nuts & bolts, lodge iron set, iron ceramic lined pots w/lids, foil lids, spray bottles).  I'm sure I've forgotten some others..  tucked away into my cupboards and some now moved into the garage...what a lot of space and money I could have saved.  Some of these things are still very usuable and steam nicely but are no longer used by me.

For more experimenting or my safety issues with steaming!


Skibum's picture

I tried your steamed towel technique this morning and it is way easier and safer than my previous method which involved pouring boiling water into a broiler pan.  It is so easy to heat the towels in the microwave, remove the pan and put in the hot, steaming towels, add another 1/2 - 3/4 cup boiling water and then return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes to let the steam build.   Then I just load the loaf and remove the steam pan when I turn the loaf @ the 10 minute mark.  The beauty of this technique is it's simpicity and saftey.  Many thanks for sharing!  

It is difficult to determine if this improved the bake, as all of my baking skills, from dough handling to scoring continue to improvewith each new technique discovered and learned. Each new bake seems to be better than the last and today's loaf was excellent tasting!

Once again thanks Floyd for this exceptional site and thanks for keeping it clean.

Regards, Brian

SylviaH's picture

for the nice comment.  Yep, steaming is just one of the steps to do to get a nice loaf!

Happy baking and steaming!


cor's picture

Hey Sylvia,


I just posted about the trouble with actually keeping the steam in the oven without throwing water on rocks or something really ridiculous and risky to the oven.  Your idea is awesome.  It remedies my problem of how to bake bread in a loaf pan on a hearth stone and keep the bread steamed without a Dutch oven.  I have yet to try it but from what I've seen it looks awesome.  Thanks Sylvia-  I'll definitely post pictures of my results depending on how they turn out! :)

SylviaH's picture

Glad you like the idea.  Thanks for the comment!  Hope you try it and like it even more.  I would love to see your photo results.  


cor's picture

I would have paid money to have this info, the water towels on the bottom of the oven. followed your way mostly, except used a sheet pan instead of loaf pans for the towels. also left the towels in for 30 minutes to mimic our wood fired oven. We load the oven completely full and seal it off for the entire bake, so the bread sits in steam the entire bake. And it came out great. Here is a pic. The bread is sourdough 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 whole rye, with hydration at 100% or more. Thanks again, Sylvia.



SylviaH's picture

Your loaf turned out beautifully.  I do change pans, depending on what works for me.  Sometimes I just put the towels in my cheapo recycled aluminum pie pans and I use the sheet pan in my wood fired oven...though I do prefer higher sides on my pans for my safety sakes.   So now, I' am changing to cake type pans instead of the sheet pans.  I don't bake a lot of loaves at once...maybe someday I will.  Right now just a few loaves for the two of us and limited freezer space. 

Glad you were able to save your money!  I sure wasted some on other steaming devices.

Happy Easter,


timbit1985's picture

Not a scientist, an HVAC-R mechanic.

Maximum humidity of air relates to the temperature. The hotter air is, the more grains of water it can hold. Thus, the steam in a hotter than hell oven will probably not be visible because it is constantly venting out the oven, reducing the humidity of the oven compartment, allowing more water to evaporate without condensing (That is what visible steam is.)

When you remove the hot towels from the oven, all of a sudden the air surrounding the towels is no longer able to hold all of that evaporating water, thus you can SEE the steam condensing into a cloud of vapour.