The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How long to preheat?

janij's picture

How long to preheat?

I have not been baking much recently.  We have spent the last 4 months renovating a farmhouse, putting in a garden, etc.  So not much baking.  But I have a couple times.  I have a new propane range.  Nothing fancy.  Just a plain old stove.  When you set the oven for a temp the oven goes into preheat for a certain amount of time.  But not long enough to actually get the oven to the correct temp.  I have an oven thermometer and have been watching it.  But I was wondering how long most people let their oven preheat when you are baking hearth breads at say 450?  The range I bought was very inexpensive.  So I am wondering if it doesn't retain heat well.  It just doesn't bake as well as my gas range at my other house.  Any ideas?

flournwater's picture

This is pure heresy but I admit that I sometimes just bring the oven to temperature, wait about five minutes and load the loaves.  Although it does take a bit longer to bake the bread, I truly don't find much difference in the final result and waiting up to an hour (as some do) for the oven temperature to equalize just isn't always possible. 

With NKB I load the oven as soon as the preheated cast iron dutch oven reaches temperature, which is about as long as it take the oven to cycle through one sequence.

manicbovine's picture

I have a terrible and frequently unpredictable oven. It has the heat retention qualities of cotton and the thermostat appears to randomly change over time. I guess that people have been baking bread in even worse conditions for quite some time.

I place an iron skillet and hearth stone in the oven while it preheats. This helps just a little bit with heat retention -- mainly with retaining heat if I open the oven in order to rotate loaves. The addition of an iron skillet means I have to start preheating the oven at least 50 minutes (ideally 60 for high temperatures) before I bake in order bring everything up to the proper temperature. 

I preheat to roughly 30-50 degrees above the desired baking temperature in order to accommodate for heat lost when opening the oven for steaming and putting in the loaves. I must use the higher value when baking at higher temperatures. I settled on these values through trial and error with my oven. I use an oven thermometer to monitor temperature.

When adjusting to a lower temperature (most breads seem to require at least two baking temperatures), I monitor the oven thermometer and fiddle with the dial to get a proper temperature. This is probably "labor intensive", but I find it to be relaxing to zone out in front of the oven. ("Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.") Moreover, it really only takes about three minutes to find the appropriate dial setting.

I find that these small steps make the difference between awful bread and excellent bread. They do so by preventing terrible bread. For my oven, the most important thing is preheating to a slightly higher temperature.

janij's picture

I will start preheating to 500 for about 40 min and see how that works.  Getting a different oven changes everything!