The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Venting a Home Oven

WatertownNewbie's picture

Venting a Home Oven

There are a bunch of posts that include tips on creating steam.  My question has to do with venting (i.e., focused on the second phase of the bake).  Several books indicate that home ovens are designed to get rid of moisture and do not need vents such as are found in commercial ovens.  On the other hand, in Hamelman's Bread book, he writes "In a home oven, you may open the oven door very slightly with a metal spoon." (Page 91.)

Does anyone prop the door in this manner?  It occurs to me that a crispier crust might be possible, but I would be interested in hearing of any experiences with this technique.  (I also recall a post by David Snyder where he discussed removing the steam source, such as the pan of water or wet towels or lava rocks, after the oven spring and initial coloring had occurred.)

Thanks for any thoughts, ideas, and stories.

IceDemeter's picture

the bake (another of those frightfully wasteful suggestions in my opinion), but have left the loaf in the cooling oven with the door propped open for 5 or 10 minutes after the "bake" is over and the oven is turned off.  This does seem to do a nice job of crisping the crust a bit more.

Honestly, whether I'm generating steam with water over something in a separate pan, or using a lidded container to hold in the steam from the loaf, I am still opening the oven door wide at the point of the bake where I want the steam to end.  If I'm using a pan with boiling water, then I'm opening the door to pull it out, or I'm opening the door to pull the lid off of the dutch oven / combo-cooker / roaster.  The mass of steam comes out of the door at that time, and the normal venting is enough to take away the steam from the rest of the bake.  I also turn the oven down after that door-opening, so that it is not having to use more energy to replace the heat lost by opening the door.  I have found no need for any further venting.

Just an observation: I have to stand back from the open oven door for a few seconds when I open it during the bake so that my glasses don't totally fog up --- but don't need to stand back nearly as long at the end of the bake since there is little to no steam that comes out then.

jimbtv's picture

I think each oven manufacturer handles venting differently so it might be hard to get an overall consensus. On my home oven steam vents quickly out of louvers, so once the source of the steam has totally evaporated the oven dries out in a few seconds.

Since home ovens take a fairly long time to heat, and since they cool down fairly rapidly, my focus would be calculating the amount of water to place in the oven so that it is fully evaporated at the end of the steam period. Additionally, my experience tells me that a minute here and a minute there really isn't going to make or break a successful bake.



the hadster's picture
the hadster

I don't use a dutch oven.  I'll try to describe, but I guess I should post pictures at some point.  Anyway:

I have a metal bowl in which I drilled two small holes.  I turned the thing upside down and drilled a hole in the center of the bottom.  I used a small eye ring and a bolt, and this is my handle.  I like that its so small because it doesn't make the bowl much higher (I got the widest and deepest stainless steel bowl I could find).  On the side of the bowl, I drilled a hole that is the same diameter as the nozzle of my steam cleaning machine - the type you use to clean your stove etc.  I'd say the whole is about 1/4 inch in diameter, its pretty small.

I preheat my oven with a baking stone.  When my bread is ready, I use an upside down sheet pan as my peel, and the bread is on parchment - I also use flour.  I pull out the tray a bit and slide the bread onto it, and then put the inverted bowl over the bread.  Then I push the whole thing back into the oven and use my steamer to inject steam.  Usually I count to 3 one thousand for the blast of steam.  Then I close the oven door and proceed with what ever instructions, usually lowering the temperature a bit.

For me, with my bread in my own, I wait about 15 minutes.  Then I open the door all the way, pull out the tray a bit and remove the bowl, and then back into the oven it goes.  This effectively vents most of the steam.

For French bread, the bread does not get covered - my bowl isn't big enough.  I pre-steam the oven in the same manner that I steam directly after putting the bread in. Once the bread is in the oven, I close the oven door until there is just enough room for me to put the steam nozzle in the top corner, and then I give it a 5 one thousand blast of steam.  About 10 minutes later, I open the door to vent.

It is amazing how much steam is in the oven.

Hope this helps.

jimbtv's picture

Great description and very cool.

AlanG's picture

I have a KitchenAid wall oven with optional convection heat,  There is a fan at the back of the oven that comes on when convection is selected.  It is difficult to steam your bread when this feature is working.  For sourdough I bake the first 15 minutes at 460F using the towel in a baking pan method for steam generation using the normal bake setting.  At the end of this first period, the steam apparatus is removed from the oven, heat turned down to 420F WITH convection for 15 minutes.  The is no need to open the oven door if you have this type of oven as the moisture is vented very quickly.

This approach is as close to foolproof as one can get.

WatertownNewbie's picture

Thanks for this idea.

Doc.Dough's picture
WatertownNewbie's picture

Thanks for the reference.  I copied the post into a Word document and saved it for future reference (when I might have a better understanding of some of the technical portions).  Good to know that lava rocks are reasonably efficient.

MichaelH's picture

I first ran across Hamelman's door opening suggestion to vent steam years ago and have found that it works well for me. I get crisper crusts this way as opposed to letting the steam dissipate on its own over time. I seem to remember Dave Snyder experimenting with this method years ago, but don't recall his conclusions. Won't hurt to give it a try.