The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking bread on the charcoal grill

CurMudgeon66's picture
CurMudgeon66

Baking bread on the charcoal grill

My very first post to this esteemed bread board!

I have been lurking here reading for a while, and in particular looking for information on simulating a brick or clay oven by use of a BBQ grill.  While the topic is mentioned in some posts, most folks seem to then get into a discussion of pizza.  Now I love pizza as much as the next person, but that is not really what I want to bake.  I am after bread on the grill.

To that end I have begun experimenting on my charcoal grill with methods by which I can bake bread.  The first time I tried was a total disaster!  The top crust looked great, the bottom was burned beyond recognition, and the inside was still quite doughy!  Yuk! 


But one learns from one's mistakes.  So I have now had a second baking, and while the results were not spectacular, they were certainly acceptable, and the bread tasted good.  What more could one possibly want?

Thinking that I should reduce the number of variables in the process, I chose a very simple bread recipe, "Daily Bread" from the King Arthur Flour web site.  You can easily go to the King Arthur site and look for this one. I've made it before, and I know it is both good and simple.  Your very basic white bread.

That means that the variable in the BBQ baking will be in the baking process not in the bread itself.  So for the baking process I use a Char Griller, barrel type grill.  This is a fairly good sized grill, not one of the standard kettle grills.  I really want to simulate the effect of a brick oven or earth oven, so I needed some masonry.  For that I chose to use the pizza stone, and a terra cotta flower pot.  My pizza stone is about 14 inches in diameter, and I used a 12 inch diameter terra cotta pot.  I know that there is concern amongst many about using pottery from the garden store.  But my thoughts on this are that the bread is not touching the big pot, it is sitting on a pizza stone, and that flower pot is just resting over the top of the bread providing the simulated masonry.


I pre-heated the grill, stone, and pot to about 400 degrees (f), and the moved the flower pot long enough to slide the bread dough onto the pizza stone, added just a bit more charcoal to maintain, but not increase the temperature.  I was worried about how the process went, as the first time I tried my bread was burned after only about 10 minutes.  So this time I opened up and took a peek after 20 minutes when I had not yet smelled burning bread.

The crust was just barely beginning to brown.  Added another shovel full of charcoal and closed things up again for another 20 or so minutes.  By then the bread was a light golden brown, and when percussed it had a hollow thumping sound.  So off the grill and onto a cooling rack for a bit.

Then the first cut, it looked pretty good.  Tastes just fine.  But I wish I had gotten the crust just a wee bit crunchier.  I think I will have to continue experimenting to get this just the way I want it.

What?  You ask about pictures of this process.  Surely I can provide those, but not here, you must make a quick trip to my Flickr page.  Here is the link:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/12687649@N06/sets/72157621922724906/


Thats all folks


Curmudgeon66

deblacksmith's picture
deblacksmith

Interesting idea -- keep testing and keep reporting the results.  What happens if you build your fire in the sidebox?  Can you use wood in the sidebox?  (I call it a sidebox for lack of a better name, maybe it should be called a firebox.)  One thing I would try is putting a layer of brick or firebrick below the pizza stone to add more thermal mass to your unit.  I have thought about building a similar unit that is firebrick lined and uses a woodfire in the side or firebox.  Since I do welding and metal work that type of construction is easy for me, but hard or impossible for most folks.  Hence before I start that kind of effort I would like to continue to hear your results.


Dave

mistersmed's picture
mistersmed

I've been experimenting the last couple of days, and have had good success with the following on my gas grill:  My first loaf was burnt on the bottom, because the flames were overheating the pizza stone. So I went to a clay (pottery) supply place and got a 1" thick kiln shelf to fit underneath my original stone. (Another pizza stone would do as well.) So the bottom stone takes the majority of the heat. My top stone has little feet on it, so there is an air gap between the stones.


I preheated the stones for 1/2 hour on high, and continued to cook on high for the duration, rotating the bread half way through cooking time because it was getting browner on one side. 30 minutes did the trick, bringing the interior of the loaf to 198ºF. The crust was beautiful. I have a Weber gas grill, and the thermometer built into the lid never registered more than 400ºF.


The recipe was based on the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day approach, and had been in my fridge for 48 hours.


I'm really pleased with the outcome. Some of the best bread I've ever made. I didn't take pictures, but I will the next time---which will be soon.

possum-liz's picture
possum-liz

I make smallish loaves of sourdough--500 g or so--in the charcoal fired Webber after cooking a roast. I just sit the loaf on an old baking sheet, making sure the coals are well to the sides. The bread is ready by the time the meat has rested and ready to carve.


Have fun. Liz

Andreas's picture
Andreas

I've got exactly the same grill and the main problem I've encountered is heat retention. The grill is made from relatively thin steel and just radiates heat, rather than containing it. 


I've now lined the bottom and the sides with fire bricks. This has made a huge difference, with heat being much more even. I am also looking for a way to insulate the top and sides of the oven.


What I am planning to do is to build a wood fire, let it heat up the brick and a clay pot. Clean the fire away to one side, put the dough directly on heated brick, cover with a flower pot and then add some fuel to keep the temperature up. 

topslakr's picture
topslakr

Very interesting. I do a similar thing in the oven. I was given a round 'La Cloche' as a gift. Works great. Preheat it in the oven, toss in the bread and out comes amazing crust. The only difference I see if that your flower pot as a hole in the top, which I assume goes all the way through? You might try covering that with some aluminum foil. If you can keep the moisture inside the pot, the bread crust will steam and become amazingly crisp. It seems to replicate the process some people use to add steam to the oven. The water cooks out of the loaf, into the oven and if you keep it in the cloche it's enough to really do a nice job on the crust.


I've been recently toying with the idea of trying it on the grill too. I like to bake during the summer.. but I don't like to run the oven! I was going to give it a try on a gas grill and hearing about your success I think I might just give it a try!

Thx!

lynnebiz's picture
lynnebiz

Looks great!


Many years ago (way too long ago to remember the details) I made a loaf on our charcoal grill using a covered, cast iron pot (I love my cast iron - eating pizza right now made in my cast iron fry pan). All I remember was that it turned out terrific - but wasn't able to duplicate it a second time. Had little toddlers at the time (they're all grown up now), so my time was limited, and I gave up on trying it after that.


 


 

Pakrat63's picture
Pakrat63

i have been experimenting with the gas grill.  i have been mostly using the No-Knead method published in Mother Earth News a few months ago The biggest problem i was having was the bottom of the crust burning.  i finally decided that my problem was turning the jets on full, which caused the pizza stone to heat to 600f.  If i take time to be more careful and allow a long preheat that doesnt get above 400f (as indicated on the cheapo thermometer on the grill lid) i get very happy results, but i am never sure on the time.  But i don't seem to loose too mch heat if i just take a quick peek every few minutes.


i have been haunting the Wood Fired Oven sites on the web, so who knows where it will go from here...


 

Mustang 51's picture
Mustang 51

You guys are making some really expensive bread. Charcoal & Propane are very pricey ways to generate heat. Has anyone calculated the cost of fuel for this?


Paul

Andreas's picture
Andreas

My vices are few and far between these days. So I am using that as an excuse for opening another bag of charcoal, or bringing home a chord of wood. 


I also smoke and cure meat, so I can use the same heat twice. 

CurMudgeon66's picture
CurMudgeon66

Well, as the OP of this thread I may just jump in here.


 


I dont smoke as the above poster does, but I do like the idea of cured meat. 


 


Yes I know that as an energy source charcoal, especially by the bag full, is expensive, as is gas by the tank full.  But this must be thought of as a hobby or a fun passtime.  I know I could go buy a cheap loaf of wonder bread or something like that for a low low price.  I do not bake because I need bread for the next meal.  I bake because I enjoy the activity, and at the end I, hopefully, get something tasty that I can say I made. 


I am also a "hand weaver" by the time I buy expensive yarns, and spend hours making some particular project, I know I could have gone to walmart and bought something that would do that same thing for less, but I have satisfaction in what I have done. 


So as long as I can afford to indulge myself in baking on the grill, or weaving, and as long as I enjoy it and  personnally consider it to be worth my investment.  Then  I will say only "price  be damned".


And to others who have commented on my original posts, THANK YOU for your generous comments.  I will continue to experiment and enjoy.


CurMudgeon 66


 


 

Freddy's picture
Freddy

Interesting idea. I also now have the same problem. I want to grill in outdoor fireplace, but all I'm trying to make it burnt. Nada will be good to reflect on your method. Perhaps he will approach me.