The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Small Ovens for Bread

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chris319's picture
chris319

Small Ovens for Bread

Does anyone have experience using a countertop pizza oven to bake something the size of, say, a boule?

My big oven is, well, big. It has a huge volume of unused space inside which gets heated up -- way too much space for a loaf of bread or some biscuits. It draws 2,400 watts.

I've tried a toaster oven but direct exposure to the heating elements tends to burn things (especially the bottoms) unless you take elaborate measures to diffuse the heat. I'm looking for something smaller and more energy efficient and which will not burn the bottom or any other part of a loaf.

The first problem I see is that a pizza is flat and a loaf of bread is 2 to 4 inches high, so any oven would have to accomodate the height of a loaf.

Any success stories with pizza ovens? I'm also considering electric skillets and roaster ovens.

Even my big oven had a tendency to burn the bottoms of baked goods due to the direct exposure to the heating elements.

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Chris,  I have owned a number of used countertop pizza ovens,  mostly Bakers Pride versions.   The small ones - like the px14, and 16 have a wire rack ( not a stone deck)  and there is extremely little head room so I doubt it would be much good for baking bread.  They do make an 18 inch  model - the one designed for pizza has two stone decks, and the height between them is  3 1/4 inch.  http://www.bakerspride.com/specs/Hearthbake/HB_P18S.pdf     They also make a similar model designed for bread -  it is the same overall shape but instead of two decks, it has one, with a height of 7  1/2 inches http://www.bakerspride.com/specs/Hearthbake/Hearthbake_BK18_P24S.pdf      I had the pizza version of the 18 inch model 120 volts - for fresh pizza dough it wasn't all that good because it took a very long time to heat to pizza temps, and I doubt it would be much good for baking boules, since you would be pretty close to the top element and would likely see some burning or dark lines.  A small wall oven might be a better idea, if you can find one.    

chris319's picture
chris319

Thanks for the lead on Bakers Pride products. They look nice but they ain't cheap!

I presently use a Waring toaster oven. I took the extra step of removing the upper heating element and it helped a lot. It works well for smallish loaves but is vertically challenged. I'm looking around for something with the height to accommodate larger loaves without bumping up against the top of the oven cavity. The Waring does require a "heat shield" between the exposed lower element and the loaf, so the loaf has to be one level above the "heat shield", further limiting the amount of vertical space available.

Not everyone is adventurous/handy enough to remove or disable the upper heating element so it's not a solution for everyone. I did find that Oster oven with the "warm" mode where the upper element does not come on. The Oster also has a convection mode. I suspect they simply add a fan to blow the air around and call it convection and that the heat still comes from the regular heating elements. If that is the case you'd still need a heat shield between the exposed element and the food. To my thinking a true convection oven would blow air past a heating element which would not be exposed, much like the way a hair dryer works. The heated air would do the baking. I've never used one but I suspect that is not how cheaper convection ovens work.

There are dome-shaped pizza ovens and roaster-ovens and electric skillets designed to hold a roast or a turkey, and the heating elements are not directly exposed to the food. The max temperature of these units tends to be 400 degrees.

chris319's picture
chris319

Thanks for the suggestion, Nick.

I'm trying to get away from anything where the heating elements are in the same space as the food, such as toaster and other countertop ovens.

A common theme I'm seeing in amazon.com reviews of roaster-ovens is that the chinese (I'm assuming, and probably safely so, that these items are all manufactured in China nowadays) don't seem to have mastered the science of applying an enamel finish to metal. There are many complaints about enamel chipping off.

The electric skillet idea isn't panning out because they tend not to go above 400 degrees F.

There are electric hearth ovens priced in the multi-thousands of dollars.

Thinking out loud, maybe a ceramic dutch oven?