The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Terra Cotta Baker or Dutch Oven??

Howie73's picture

Terra Cotta Baker or Dutch Oven??

Hello to all and thanks for reading. As a home baker of many years I am finally ready to expand my baking techniques and am seeking opinions on the use of either a terra cotta baking pan, or a Dutch oven.

I have neither, and don't know which to purchase.

Would anyone care to share their experience? I am clearly seeking that perfect crunchy crust that I am seeing on this website and want to replace my envy with personal satisfaction.

I have been a home bread baker since the very earliest days of Laurel's Kitchen so I am not unfamiliar with making a very good loaf, but now have a need to join some of the fabulous bakers I am becoming aware of since joining this forum just days ago.

dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Howie.

Terra Cotta bakers run about $50. Enameled cast iron Dutch ovens can run into the hundreds. A large stainless steel bowl that will cover a 1.5-3 lb boule easily should be less than $10.

For a fraction of the cost, you get essentially all the benefits (unless you have a super-gloppy dough) plus greater ease of use and ease of clean-up.

On the other hand, a Le Creuset 7 qt Dutch oven or equivalent in other brands also is perfect for long, slow braising. Think daube de boeuf, coq au vin, chicken and dumplings.

OMG! I just had lunch and I've made myself hungry again!


davec's picture

I have the Le Creuset 7-qt enamelled cast iron Dutch oven, but I would never risk it at 450-500 degrees F.  My Lodge plain cast iron Dutch oven works great for bread, and costs a lot less.  But what I use most often now is a homemade terra cotta baker--a 10-inch flower pot inverted on a 14-inch flower pot tray.  I got both for $6.50 at an off-season sale at a local feed store.  An eye bolt, 2 washers, and 2 nuts, installed through the flowerpot drain hole made a great handle. This setup produces a great crust with no misting or pans of water, and it accommodates a larger loaf than my Lodge dutch oven.


Vey's picture

Same recipe for all experiments. I didn't like the results. Much lighter (in color) crust, but not a better one.

I like the crust I get by keeping the oven well steamed with a pan of water boiling for an hour, then rubbing the loaf with wet hands before scoring and putting it in a 500 degree oven, turned down to 460 to finish.

(With apologies to the equipment nuts) I've really tried stones and pots and La Clouches (or whatever) and found that technique is more important than equipment. Kind of like photography, where excellent pictures can be taken with a snapshot camera in skilled hands.

LindyD's picture

Last year I opted for a Lodge preseasoned cast iron five-quart Dutch Oven from  Cost all of $36, is virtually unbreakable, and can be used for so much more than baking bread.  It also easily tolerates temps of 550F and more. 

I decided against terra cotta because it can break (I can be very klutzy in my kitchen.)

It turned out to be a wise choice because I've learned how to make great bread with a lovely crumb and singing crust via TFL and some very good artisan bread books by Hamelman, Reinhart, Leader, Lepard, and others.    My Dutch Oven still gets used, but never for bread.

Do you have a good oven stone?



Robin Goodfellow's picture
Robin Goodfellow

Go to one of those kinda fancy lawn and patio type stores, you know the one with the statues, and chimnea's and the like, and ask for the largest unsealed tera-cotta 

tiles they have or can get and you have a ready made baking stone

I found one that is around 16" x 16" for next to nothing