April 19, 2015 - 10:59pm
What's the difference between a brick oven and steam injection deck oven?
Do brick WFOs produce the same kinds of artisan bread crusts as steam injection ovens? What is the main appeal of WFOs? Do they trap in more steam from the breads due to their superior insulation?
Yes. And the brick oven retains heat better and has more even heat distribution.
While both ovens can produce the finest quality breads they have major differences.
A WFO obviously requires firing by means of wood and it is up to the operator to create enough heat to soak into the mass for continued baking. There is a real art to this. First the oven is fired way above baking temps so the deep parts of the mass can soak in the heat. Finally the fire is removed from the oven and the oven is left to regulate or even out the heat it has attained. The more heat in the mass the more heat will come back to the baking chamber/hearth after each bake. There are so many variables from one oven to another but that's the basic just. They do not produce steam as well as the steam injected deck ovens unless something is built on to do so.. Steam can be added in a few ways but the aim is to load the oven full and tight and let the bread produce it's own steam. there are also "White Ovens" which have an external firebox allowing continued heating while baking. This is ideal for a production bakery so they don't have to refire the oven and seize production.
Steam injected deck ovens are just that. A set of stacked deck ovens in a huge variety of sizes. The thermostat is electric/gas and turns on/off as needed to maintain the temperature chosen. There are buttons that you can push which will initiate the steam function which will heavily fill each chamber with steam. Some are manual buttons while others are done via setttings in a control panel. These ovens don't reach the high heats of a WFO and I think produce a much more even heat distribution and in most cases far superior steam.
I have baked in both and both produce the finest quality breads
My experience is both methods create an “artisan” crust, but they are different. At SFBI we baked the same batch of bread in both the steam injection ovens and their WFO. Both bread were very good, but crust was “different”, mostly in appearance.
If I nail a batch in the WFO, I can get a blistered, shiny, thin crunchy crust, but it never looks as “perfect” as the loaves I pull out of a dutch oven. One might argue this makes a WFO oven loaf more “artisan.”
I’m only a weekend baker, my guess is with lots of practice, you could get darn close to a steam injection result, but you would really have to know your WFO and how it responds to achieve that goal….
According to Chad Robertson, ther isn't any difference (but what would he know, right?). I guess he means that both types of oven are capable of producing the same conditions, but the handling and experience are probably very different. But I recommend the book "The Bread Builders", it discusses the characteristics of WFOs and why, according to the authors, they do produce better bread.