The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Steam Time

Bred Maverick's picture
Bred Maverick

Steam Time

How long should dough be steamed in the oven?  In his book, BREAD, Jeffrey Hammelman states, "From 4-6 seconds of steam is ample." (p. 100) in 460 degree oven.  In stark contrast, in BREAD BAKING, Daniel DiMuzio states, "The quality of the crust in hearth loaves in enhanced by exposing the loaves to steam for the first 5 - 10 minutes of baking." (p. 130)

That's a huge difference.  Any reasons for this disparity?


sephiepoo's picture

Hi Diane,

Hamelman gives a very good explanation of steam on pgs 26-27, with a description of steaming for the home oven at the end of the section.  The 4-6 seconds of steam that he's talking about is for (I believe) a commercial steam-injected oven. That's probably not something any of us own at home :) Dan's numbers are a nice range probably because baking time for loaves will vary, and each type of bread is different.  But as Hamelman also says, (pg 27 first column) "The benefits of steam occur only during the first third or so of the baking cycle".

So, actually, they're both correct :) It's just the particular situation and environment you're in will determine what may be "best"

Bred Maverick's picture
Bred Maverick

Thanks for both replies.  Yes, it makes sense.  I've tried many methods to add steam to my oven (throwing ice/etc.) , but now I have an idea cooking (no pun intended) that includes a small barbecue smoker box with a solid bottom, multi-hole top with handle and ceramic briquettes.


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Diane.

I believe that the time for steaming Hamelman specifies are for how long the baker injects steam. In a commercial oven, this is done by holding down a button, I think. The oven continues to be humidified until vents are opened to release the steam.

Home ovens don't provide either steam injection nor venting, generally, but we can humidify them using a variety of methods, and you can limit the steaming time by either measuring how much water you introduce or by removing the water source at the appropriate time.

Although some home bakers do steam for longer - even for more than half the baking time - I subscribe to Dan's guideline. I get best results from steaming for about 1/3 of the total bake time for a mostly white flour bread. In general, rye breads are steamed for shorter times.

It also helps dry the crust to leave the loaf in the oven with the oven off and the door ajar for 5-10 minutes, after the loaf is "done."

I hope this helps.