The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Spritzing Oven

sewcial's picture

Spritzing Oven


Some recipes say to spritz the inside of the oven a couple times during baking for better crust. I am afraid of breaking my stone if water hits it. 

I am also puzzled about pictures I've seen of the steam pan placed on the top rack of the oven with the bread on the lower rack. I thought the bottom of the oven was best for steam...steam rises, right?

I saw pictures in BBA, pages 92 and 93. They are showing baguettes going into an oven with the steam pan on the rack above the breads. Then it shows him spritzing the oven right over the stone. Isn't there a risk of breaking the stone when the water hits it?  I have a broken pizza stone because a pizza with too much saucy toppings dripped onto it and it broke in the oven with a loud and sudden crack sound. My son had one he had washed and the moisture left in it caused it, too, to break in the oven. I am afraid of getting my stone wet with direct water.

Another photo (page 86 in Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads), showed protecting the glass oven door with a towel, but sprtizing the oven without concern for the stone. That one, also had the water pan above the bread. 


So my questions are:

Do you all spritz without fear of breaking your stones?

Why would the steam pan be put on the top rack?




drhowarddrfine's picture

I used to spray the inside because they said to do that but no longer. I've gotten plenty of water on my stone without it breaking but I've heard some do; possibly an inferior product? Don't know.

It just seems to me that spraying the inside, then closing the door, you lose almost all that steam in the process. I just prefer to put a small pan on the bottom of the stove and let it preheat. Then throw 3/4 cup hot water in there after loading the bread. Works for me.

Why 3/4 cup? Cause that's how much evaporates in about 10 minutes in my oven. ymmv.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Catherine.

If you search TFL (see the search box in the upper left corner of any TFL page) on "steaming" or "oven steaming," you will find many long discussions and many methods described.

I stopped the repeated spraying of the oven long ago. I think there are several better methods. Remember, each time you open the oven door, you are lowering the oven temperature, and I suspect most of the steam you add by spraying escapes before you close the door.

My current favorite steaming method involves pre-heating a 7 inch cast iron skillet filled with lava rocks. I pour about 1/3 cup of boiling water over the rocks before loading the bread and again after loading. It is easiest if you push your baking stone (if you use one) on the middle shelf over to within an inch of the left oven wall and the skillet on the bottom shelf against the right side of the oven wall (assuming you are right-handed). That way, you can pour the water without pulling out the bottom rack.

Please wear an oven mitt on the hand you are pouring with to avoid steam burns!

I hope this is clear and helps you.


Muffin Man's picture
Muffin Man

I'm definitely with David here.  I have an old cast iron chicken fryer (i.e. deep skillet) filled with lava rocks.  I learned first hand why you wear an oven mitt.  Spraying takes too long, sacrificing too much heat. Thanks, David, for the tip about left vs right.  I'll try it.


sewcial's picture

Hi David, I like the lava rocks idea. I was using a cast iron skillet, but, with baking every day for a couple weeks, that pan lost all its seasoning, then got so rusty that it seemed ruined. Since I need that pan for cooking, it took quite an effort to restore it. Now I am using an old broiler pan, heavy, enameled, not quite as thick as cast iron, but it seems to work. It's large and shallow so it's easy to throw the ice into it and close the door quickly. The lava rocks would really make great steam so I'll see if I can get a few.

I haven't checked to see just how long it takes for my ice to evaporate, but I will take your suggestion and do that next time I have the oven at high heat. I began using 1 to 2 cups of ice until I discovered it was taking too long to evaporate. Now I'm putting in about 3/4 cup, but that's a rough measure.

I, too, thought the spraying would keep the door open too long, but my main worry was hitting the stone. I'm glad to hear that it isn't necesssary. I think adding ice a couple times is better. For my baguettes a couple days ago, I put in ice as soon as I put the bread in, then added about 1/4 cup more twice at 30 second intervals. the crust is so wonderful that I'll use that method for most of my breads.

For soft crust breads, is it preferable not to steam? 


dmsnyder's picture

I don't make many soft crust breads. Those I make are almost all pan loaves, where steaming generally isn't done. You don't use steam for any bread that has an egg wash - challah, for example. Otherwise, for hearth loaves, I think you would always use steam.

Maybe others have more pertinent experience.


sewcial's picture

My old standby has always been a home ground whole wheat pan loaf. I guess most of the people here call that sandwich bread, but it has always been toast bread, sandwiches and everything here. I was just wondering if I should try steam with it, though I've never done it before.

..on a different note...

It's funny, but I had been using a sort of mash without knowing that was what it was called. Back in the mid 1970s, we had leftover oatmeal one morning on baking day. Well, anyone knows cold oatmeal isn't much good to warm over so I mushed it around to soften it and added it to the bread dough. We all loved the texture so much that I've been adding cooked oatmeal to my bread most of the time ever since. Everyone loves it and it stays fresh for about a week. I guess steam wouldn't add anything to that.

Now I wonder what would happen if I added a pate fermente into the mix. I'm always afraid to ferment whole wheat too long for fear the dough will fall before going into the oven. I am just starting to study the formulas in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads to see how it should be done. It might be worth a try one of these days.


bassopotamus's picture

Pesonally, I don't think spritzing the oven does squat.


I started with a plant sprayer, and at best, you can get maybe 1/2 oz of water into the oven, it takes a long time, and you lose a bunch of heat (although I guess if you have a stone, that is less of an issue).


The best luck I have had is with cast iron and hot water. I used to use a 12 inch skillet on the bottom rack, but you can't back on 2 racks at once. What I do now is use a smallish lodge cast iron serving piece. I can't make the link work, but if you go to their web site, they call it an oval mini server.

 which has enough mass to pretty much vaporize 4 oz on contact. I got a little watering can, and can do it fast enough that I'm not losing all my heat.

JIP's picture

Personally I spritz 4-5 times in the first 5 minutes of baking.  I spray everywhere, on the door, the bottom of the oven, the stone wherever I can point my nozzle to make steam.  I have no problem with heat loss but I do pre-heat my stone for a long time.  I have never cracked my stone although I have cracked a Corning ware pan because I was stupid enough to think this would be a good pan to add water to to make steam as it would not rust after I used it suffice it to say it took a long time to remove all of the shards of glass from my oven.  I use both a pan and a spray bottle I do like to use hot water for spritzing my theory being it wikll steam up faster but I am sure this is wrong.  Bottom line my stone has never cracked and I have spritzed water directly on it many times but that is not to say that yours willnot crack either but I would not worry about it. 

rick.c's picture

I steam with a le crueset 12" cast iron skillet, no rust.  I think adding lava rocks is a good idea as well.  I usually preheat to 550 for 10 min after the oven says it is heated, then add ~ 1 cup of water and close door, blocking oven vent for first 10 mins of baking and lowering temp to something more reasonable for baking.

I think you would have your steam pan on the top rack because after you add water, making steam is going to suck heat out of the air, increasing density, causing air to sink to the bottom of the oven, pushing hot air up to make more steam.  It probably gets a better heat distribution than steam from the bottom.  But, there is so much expansion from the water becoming a gas, that the difference is probably negligable.


phxdog's picture


I also began with a cast iron skillet for steam and after a while the pan looked like it had been burried for 5 years. I scoured it and reaseasoned it (2x). It has since been returned to service as a pan rather than steamer.

I have cracked a pizza stone and the glass door of one of my ovens (twice, $ ouch!). I now use refractory (probably spelled wrong!) brick which I bought at a local brick yard. This is the same brick used to build brick ovens and really holds the heat. They are thick, heavy, & take a LONG time to come to temperature. Once they do, the bricks hold the heat for a long time; If I bake late at night, those bricks are still very warm in the morning. 

The bricks cover the lowest shelf in the oven. I toss 2/3rds cup or so of water onto the bricks every 3 minutes for the first 9 minutes when baking required steam.

sphealey's picture

=== I also began with a cast iron skillet for steam and after a while the pan looked like it had been burried for 5 years. I scoured it and reaseasoned it (2x). It has since been returned to service as a pan rather than steamer. ===

The cast iron skillet I use for steaming cost 50 cents at a garage sale.  I was prepared to pay $2 at the previous sale, but my spouse laughed and said that was way too high.  Sure enough, 3 blocks away was another sale with essentially the same skillet for half a buck.  Since that time I have spotted about 2873 similar skillets at prices from 10 cents to 2 dollars at garage sales.  Pouring water into it at 525 deg.F does _wonders_ for the surface, but I don't worry much ;-)


friar120's picture

After the frustration of losing 2 pizza stones to cracking in half from spritzing, I got a slab of marble, polished on one side, from the stone store and use it as a pizza stone.  It was small enough that they were going to throw it away and it fits well in my oven.  It is about 1/2 inch thick and works great.  No cracking when I throw water into the oven or use a spray.