The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Spraying water in your oven

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FaithHope's picture
FaithHope

Spraying water in your oven

Is spraying hot water on the sides of the oven bad?  Will it break your oven down the line?

gcook17's picture
gcook17

I sprayed the sides of my oven when baking bread one to three times a week for over a year and it never caused any problems.  I also wondered if it would be bad for the oven but I was willing to take a chance because I kind of wanted to get a better oven anyway.  Now I have a cast iron skillet full of rocks in the bottom of the oven that I poor boiling water into.  I'm still using the same oven, too.

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

does the skillet sit on the very bottom between the heating elements ? That certainly would save space.


 


Thank you !


anna

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

I don't think it is bad for your oven, but I am not convinced of its effectiveness.  My primary method for steaming is to preheat a cast iron skillet and pour 1/2-3/4 cup of water into it right before throwing my breads in the oven.  When spraying, you get so much less steam in the oven, and need to keep your oven door open for muh longer.


I have definitely seen differences in my loaves with steaming with the cast iron and not steaming at all, but I have not run any further tests yet.  Does anyone else have any experiments they have run?


Take care,
Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

Danny,  newbie here.  Are you leaving the cast iron skillet with the water in the oven after inserting the bread?  Do you bake your bread on a stone and/or covered with a Cloche-like contraption ?


Thanks much,


anna

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I use a method similar to what SourFlour describes.  I put a cake pan on the lowest rack positon in the oven and then place the stone on the rack just above it.


I preheat the oven (with pan and stone in place) and just prior to loading the loaf into the oven I pour about 1 1/2 cups of boiling water into the cake pan.  I load the oven, remove the cake pan of water at the appointed time, and voila  -  no spritzing necessary.  I wouldn't spritz the oven for fear of damaging the stone (I've already destroyed one because some of the mist happened to contact the stone  - CRACK  -  no more stone) and I'm not convinced that the little bit of steam generated from spritzing the walls of the oven are as effective as some claim.

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

I am curious as to the different ways people use a cast iron pan, or another type, to steam their ovens.  I think the first time I ever did it, I was using a technique of preheating the pan, and then adding a few ice cubes right before baking.  At some point I swithed over pouring some boiling water into the preheated pan, but then waiting 3 minutes (I could never wait that long), before opening the door once again and putting in the bread.


The rational for the boiling water versus the ice cubes was that there was potentially some extra oven heat loss from ice cubes rather than boiling water. I'm not sure I buy that, and more recently I have started simply measuring out room temperature water and using that.  One of the things I like about that is that the boiling water instantly evaporated, and I tend to think that once I open the door again, the steam will come out. By pouring enough room temperature water, I can get the steaming to persist for some minutes afterwards.  I believe at 550, 3/4 of a cup will steam for around 5 minutes or so. 


A technique that I want to try, but havn't yet, is to pour somewhere around 2 cups of water into the pan before preheating the oven.  I would want to figure out the correct amount of water for any given oven temperature so that the steam would finally run out at the desired amount of minutes after starting baking.  I'm not sure what the exact effects of any of this would be, but my rational behind doing it this way would be to be able to minimize the time that the oven door is open when loading the bread.  By having to pour water in a hot pan, or insert a pan full of water, in addition to loading the bread, you spend more than twice as long as it would take to just open the door slightly and toss in the bread.


As soon as I do some experiments I will report my results.  If anyone else has played around with any of this, please let me know.


Take care,
Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Looking forward to the results of your experiments, Danny.   I hope you'll try it with the same amount of water in various diameter pans.  If you come up with a linear formula you'll get the hero of the steaming oven award from this group.


Furthering the discussion, I'd like to add that because water vaporizes at 212 degrees at sea level, it never gets any hotter (unless it's under pressure)  so once it's come to a boil it's done its job.  Also, only the surface of the water lifts off as steam as heat rises through the water and carries those molecules into the atmosphere.  A large surface area will, theoretically, produce a more rapid amount of evaporation than a small surface area so a 10 inch wide pan of boiling water should be superior to a 6 inch wide pan.


The idea of ice cubes has never made sense.  Water doesn't turn to steam until it reaches 212 degrees so all the ice cubes do is reduce the amount of time it takes the water to vaporize and, because vaporization if what we want if we're producing steam, using ice cubes is counter productive. 


I use a cake pan because I don't want to have to re-season my cast iron pans any more often than necessary.  But the idea has some appeal.  Cake pans are cheap (I get them at second hand stores and use them only for steam production  - never for cake baking) and disposable.

SourFlour's picture
SourFlour

I will let you know once I begin to run my experiments and have some data.  I agree with you that diameter of pan is important, but so is the heat conductivity of it.  The cast iron will more effectively steam, because it takes in the heat so well, but I do hate the fact that I should be seasoning it quite often or I will ruin it.  Because of this, I might switch to cheap cake pans as well to try them out.


As far as ice cubes, I don't get your rational behind them seeming counter productive.  The boiling water will produce instant steam, but that isn't necessarily what we want.  It is true that the ice cubes need to absorb heat, melt, and then they can steam, but if you have the proper amount, it seems you can get a steady stream of steam for any amount of time you choose.  Or are you thinking that you should have a large amount of steam right at the beginning?


Anyway, I think there is a lot more research that needs to be done here for the home baker, and I hope to dispel some of the myths out there and find the simplest, most effective technique.


Thanks for thinking these things through with me.


Take care,
Danny - Sour Flour
http://www.sourflour.org

flournwater's picture
flournwater

"...are you thinking that you should have a large amount of steam right at the beginning?"


Yes, Danny, I think it's important for the quantity of steam to remain as close to a constant as possible throughout the baking cycle.  One of the primary purposes for the steam is to prevent the crust from hardening too quickly, thereby curtailing the oven spring and producing a dense loaf.  If the out layer of the loaf can't expand, the interior of the loaf has no place to go.  So a good supply of steam early in the baking process is going to be essential.


I truly admire your inquisitiveness and your willingness to take on "myths" (valid or not) to convince youself about what truly works.  Be careful of the one time non-repeatable results however.  They'll trap you if you're not careful.

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

I like your idea!  Please do let us know how much water and time it takes to steam properly from a cold oven.  Thanks.


Summer

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Steaming and how to best do it has been a continuous topic here for as long as I can remember. We steam to help the crust stay flexible for the first 10-15 minutes while the oven spring is occurring. As soon as the dough starts to color, the need for steam is over.


The ice cubes in the pan idea has been discussed and dismissed by the scientists among us because of the inefficiency of having to first melt the ice and the heat loss required to heat the water to 212F. I really enjoy when people take a strong position about why you shouldn't use ice. In theory I suppose it makes sense to use boiling water so not to cool down the oven so much. The only problem is that one of the best home bakers I know, who makes wonderful whole grain breads with remarkable spring--uses Ice Cubes. Search hansjoakim's posts in the blog area.


Persona;;y, I use a cake pan with a fire brick on the bottom and lately people have been having success with lava rocks which seem to have a lot of surface area and generate a huge burst right off.


Keep in mind the bread needs to dry out after the first 10-15 minutes of moisture. I don't add more water than will evaporate in that time. Otherwise you should remove the steam pan during baking. That is potentially dangerous and slows down the operation if you want to bake a second session while you wait for the steam pan to reheat. I add 1/2 cup hot water which is plenty for me.


Covered Baking:
If you bake using a cover of any type over the bread for the first 15 minutes, there is no need for steam pans. Search Susan's magic bowl or turkey roasters. This method calls for misting the dough with water before it is loaded and covered. I've done it without the misting and still had good results. With Susan's original method she used a 4 Liter Pyrex bowl and carefully lifted it off with a spatula when the dough started to color. You can see from her results, covered baking is a way to produce great spring and color. Most people use a light weight pan that fits on your stone or broiler pan. You can also use a clay bell (Cloche) or large clean clay flower pot with the hole plugged for small round loaves.


There are lots of options available for steaming. You can experiment and find something you like with your oven/equipment. If the st6eam bothers you and you have a nice oven with electronics, you might want to think about the covered option above. It is effective, safe from the standpoint of no steam cloud rushing out in your face, and you will never break the door glass or damage the electronics. Worth considering.


Hope this helps.


Eric

flournwater's picture
flournwater

I've read a lot about this idea of covering the loaf for the initial five or ten minutes and my interest grows with each comment I read on the concept.  Your straight forward explanation of the process and your comparison (by various examples) of the variety of methods used for steaming has convinced me to try the covered loaf method.  Thanks for the final inspiration to find a cover I can use to get started.

jj1109's picture
jj1109

either a large pyrex bowl, like susan, or a smallish casserole pot if i'm baking a smaller loaf. i get far better results using this method than adding water (ie steam) to the oven at the start of baking.

deweytc's picture
deweytc

I have been using a cast iron skillet with lava rocks for the past five years.  I poured boiling water in, just after I load my bread.  Lately, though, I have changed my method.  Now, I use 2 cups of ice, filled with tap water.  I have great results (oven spring) with this and have not been getting burned from the splash of boiling water.  The cast iron skillet I bought at a junk store and only use it for this purpose.  I preheat my oven to 475F for at least 45 minutes, with the skillet and stone. After placing the bread on the stone, I pour the mix of ice and water into the skillet, then turn my oven down to 425F.  I placed a digital thermometer in the oven and notice only a slight drop in temperature.  By the way, I place my bread on parchment paper, so I can remove it quickly, and I use the parchment  paper more than once.  Works for me.

caviar's picture
caviar

I have used the method of pouring one cup of water into a cast iron pan (also filled with rocks) just before putting the bread in the oven then spraying the oven with water at 3 minute intervals. Unfortunately I found that occaisionally the water boils over and some gets on the floor of the oven (no exposed heating elements) and turns off the oven. Not good. Now I spray the pan with water from a garden sprayer ( pump style) just before loading then again after 3 minutes. The pan is still hot enough vaporize the water. Even then after the bread is done I have to turn off the circuit breaker so it stops giving the message "oven cooling" for ever. At one time I tried the Monster 1200 but was unimpressed with the amount of vapor. My bread is looking better, nothing like  the pictures of bread by all the great bakers here but it is getting better and I'm still working on all the various skills.      Herb