The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking on outdoor grill

jspector's picture

Baking on outdoor grill

I bake the basic bread and/or ciabatta at least a couple of times a week using Lahey's NKB formula. I've got a fairly new gas oven in my kitchen. I use a cast iron dutch oven for the basic bread. I use a pizza stone and a Romertopf pan for the ciabatta, as per Lahey. It turns out just as promised.

But I want to make it outdoors on my gas grill. When I make it outdoors, the crumb turns out just fine. I'm happy with that. I'm not happy with the crust--it's too soft. I bought a Fibrament stone for use on the grill. I've tried baking as directed by Lahey. Then I tried removing the lid off the dutch oven after 10 minutes. Didn't work out. On the ciabatta, I used the Romertopf clay pan for as little as 3 minutes; coverless the rest of the time until the crumb reaches 205F. Still not the crunchy crust I hoped for.

I think the problem is that the grill with the lid down doesn't heat up to and stay at 475F. The thermometer on the grill indicates more than 500F, but a thermometer inside gives a much lower reading.

Can I get a crustier crust baking on my gas grill?

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

A remote thermometer (polder, etc) will allow you to monitor grate temps without raising the lid.

I've been planning to do the same, but with charcoal.  When the lid comes off, is there wood smoke or any atmosphere that the grill brings to the bread that the oven can't?


jspector's picture

Frequent Flyer, I live in St. Louis. Half the year I do almost all of my cooking outdoors. It's the heat. I don't like firing up my kitchen stove and heating up the house. And I prefer being outside than inside. Earlier, I decided that baking bread would end during the spring and not resume until November or December, depending on Al Gore's mood this year. Then someone suggested baking the bread on the grill...and that's where I'm at.

Today, the temperature outdoors will reach 56F. I don't mind firing up the kitchen oven. So I have the choice--outdoor baking and good bread, or indoor baking and better crust. But soon, I'll be outdoors from sun up to sun down. I'd like to solve this problem by then...if it's possible.

BTW...I doubled the amount of lava rocks in the grill hoping that would hold the temperature better. I suspect nothing less than building a clay oven will do the trick. Ugh!

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

Now...that's funny.  It may get us in hot water, but it is funny.

cgmeyer2's picture

please let me know how your bread comes out on the gas grill. i live in phoenix, az & our temps will be in the 90+ range in a couple of months; or sooner!  i baked this way years ago but our new gas grill doesn't seem to bake the same.

take care, claudia

Broc's picture

This is tough.  The problem you're having is

  • the temp inside your grill isn't hot enough -- metal-topped grills just don't hold the heat.  Or
  • the vessel you're using to bake in, isn't pre-heating to 425F or hotter, or
  • both

Many of us use a charcoal [lump] fired ceramic cooker.  There are numerous brands, but the one I have is Big Green Egg.  Works like a charm.  Here's why --

  • You can rely on the temp control of the "dome temperature," which is the actual air temp within the baking area of the unit. 
  • The entire unit is hi-tech ceramic.  They used to be made of clay... but modern ceramics solve many of the issues with millenia-old clay techniques.  Ceramics require no break-in period -- just use 'em.
  • When the heat of the unit is established [a ceramic cook of any brand will remain at plus or minus 5F, a much less variation than with an indoor electric oven, which cycles], it stays there!  I preheat the unit and the pizza stone to 400F and leave it at that temp for at least 1/2 hour, then bring the boule to the stone, using parchment paper.
  • Try this -- With your gas or charcoal metal grill heated to temp, hold the palm of your hand on the top of the metal for two seconds.  Ermmmm... Noooo!  Don't try it.  You see, the heat is escaping from the thing as quickly as the heat is produced.
  • Try the palm-of-your-hand experiment for two seconds with a Big Green Egg, or any other ceramic cooker... You can do it!  This is because the ceramics holds the heat inside the cooker...
  • ...and the food within the ceramic cooker heats from all directions at once.

No!  I don't sell these things, and No!  I don't get a kickback!  [Wish I did!]

The first time I baked bread in my Egg, I hit a home run!  T'was wonderful.  Haven't had a flop anytime these past three years.  And, yes!  I bake in all seasons, often during hellacious winter storms, just to prove to friends and neighbors that it can be done.

The bread will have an ever-so-slight "char" taste... not burn't.  Hard to notice with whole wheat and rye varieties.  And, I do this on a pizza stone, or in a cast iron dutch oven with top [remove lid after 12 minutes]...

Go to an Egg dealer.  Make an appointment with him to bake in his demo -- He's to bake off grease from meats, then establish the "dome temp" to 400F.  You bring the boule[s].  Any recipe you like.  Yes -- you'll need to rotate the loaf during the bake, if you're on a pizza stone.  Not required to turn when using a cast iron D.O.  Tell you dealer [if he's not a baker] to set up the Egg with "legs down" and to use three "feet" to suspend the pizza stone about the "plate setter."  This keeps the bottom of the pizza stone from being blasted from direct heat off the charcoal.

And, yes!  I use my Le Creuset.

No!  Don't oil it, butter it, flour it, ...nothing it!  The dough won't burn if you completely pre-heat the D.O. or the pizza stone.

I have had friends who have attempted to bake in a gas or charcoal grill.  Mixed results, mostly bad.

REALLY important for those wanting to use any charcoal-fired outdoor grill or oven... whatever.  Don't use starter fluid!  Lordy-Lordy!  Talk about inedible bread!  Just start your charcoal with twisted-up napkins doused with a little cooking oil [make wicks].  It's not much slower than starter fluid, but all of the oil burns off and doesn't poison your food.

Also -- Don't use briquettes of any kind.  They are often made of 40% fillers, which taint "gentle" foods like breads.  Use pure "lump," which is pure charcoal.

Let us know how things turn out!

~ Broc

jspector's picture

I don't want to buy an Egg. I think you're right about the heat escaping. I'm going to think about how to limit the heat loss. I live on a clay hill...I could cover the grill with clay. Maybe not.

jspector's picture

The bread from my gas grill is fine. I bake it until the crumb is done and it tastes fine. I just like thicker crunchier crusts. But of course, that's just my preference. I have friends who prefer thin soft crusts, and they prefer the loaves from the grill.

The comment below I think is correct about the heat escaping from the metal lid on the grill. I actually had a thought. I wonder if the summer sun beating down on the grill won't give me the heat and the crust I'm looking for? Living in Arizona, you could probably bake bread on the front seat of your car, let alone a gas grill. I wonder if you could experiment--bake a bread at night and another when the sun is directly onto your grill.

Bottom line. Go for it. I wouldn't let a little lack of crustiness deter you. It was only in the 40s when I baked this morning so I baked inside. Won't be long before all my bread will be baked outside.

qflex1115's picture

If your grill isn't getting hot enough try getting a grill that has stainless steel grates. They get hotter and stay hot without losing heat. I my self am using a Weber Summit S-650. I have cooked everything on this grill from bread to pizza to fish and everything inbetween.

I also never have a problem getting the tempreture up to 700 degrees if it needed to be but I never needed it that hot, Just my son turned up the heat one day and when I checked the grill it was nearly 700 degrees!

Anyways I hope this helps, buy the way the grill I had before had cast iron grates and they didn't even compare to this. You can read about my grill and other summit grills here if your interested, but I must worn you they are a bit pricey!