The Fresh Loaf

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affordable Dutch ovens for sourdough

Lila's picture

affordable Dutch ovens for sourdough

I am thinking of selling some of my sourdough bread at the local farmers market, and need to buy a couple of Dutch ovens. So far I've been baking in an old cracked lacloche and a heavy lodge cast iron pan which is shaped kinda like lacloche - shallow pan and tall lid. I prefer how bread comes out in lacloche, and the lodge pan is too heavy for me with a single long handle on the side. I also prefer this design - shallow pan, tall lid because it's easier for me to load bread into it. But I'm starting to think about switching to Dutch ovens.

Lacloche are about $75 on Amazon and purchasing 2-4 at once is a bit pricy. So far I've bought 3 on ebay or similar websites for $40-$50 and EVERY SINGLE ONE has arrived broken.

Could anyone recommend a reasonably priced about 10-11 inches diameter Dutch oven that has worked really well for them for sourdough bread? I don't know anything about Dutch ovens... There is le creuset of course, but that's unaffordable.

Thank you so much!!


Precaud's picture

but out of stock everywhere...

OldWoodenSpoon's picture

This 5 Qt Lodge Dutch Oven has performed perfectly for me for all of my sourdough bakes.  I can't say this is "reasonably priced" because, well, "Lodge"!  But as of this writing they are available at $59.95 (Just say $60, won't they!), with a $10 off coupon available for orders over $50, if you are willing to subscribe to their newsletter.  Not a lot, but every little bit helps, eh?

Lodge 5 Qt Dutch Oven

I baked for years in a La Cloche, but finally tired of replacing them.  They seemed to suffer from heat-work fatigue after a couple of years of frequent use.  I bought two of these excellent Lodge ovens.  This size allows me to bake two loaves at a time in my home oven, which cuts my total bake time down significantly when I bake 4 loaves, which is typical for me.  The down-side is that it is only really a good fit for boules and ovals.  Long loaves require other kinds of baking creativity, for me at least.

Hope your Farmer's Market venture works out for you!

pmccool's picture
suminandi's picture

I use these. They are cheap, light weight, and durable. If your oven holds a steady temperature, it’s not at all necessary to have heavy covered cookers. You just need something to hold moisture for the first part of the bake. Good luck with your project.

Precaud's picture

I wondered about the necessity for the cast iron thermal mass. Does it depend on how "steady" the temp is held? I'm curious, have you quantified your oven's swing?

suminandi's picture

My oven is an electric oven from the 1940s. If i heat up a pizza stone prior to baking, it doesn’t cycle while I’m baking at all. However, I often don’t use a stone, and I haven’t noticed some temperature fluctuations making a difference. Gas ovens are continuously vented, so perhaps a pan with more thermal mass makes a difference. Also, I load the loaves cold and it’s safer that way. 

clew's picture

I kind of split the difference - I have a stone in my not very powerful electric oven, and use a big steel bowl to cover loaves tipped onto the hot stone. Advantage: I never have to move anything that’s both heavy and hot. 


SueVT's picture

I have two Camp Chef cast iron dutch ovens - the advantage is cost, and that some models have a lid with raised edge, which allows you to bake in the lid, with the base inverted over the loaf.

I have the Golden Spike Oval Dutch Oven, and a 12 Qt seasoned Dutch Oven. These are both very large models, but they make smaller ones you would like.

Quality seems excellent, and I have had no problems with them. I preheat, load loaf into the inverted lid, slash, and put the base over the lid.



I bake my breads all time in Lodge...I have a 4.5 qt unlined and a 5 qt lined cast iron. I bought the larger one at costco for about $40 and the other at Bed, Bath and Beyond with a coupon for maybe $35.  I use one or the other every other day depending on which house I am in. While I might prefer Staub or even LeCrueset, you can't beat the Lodge prices.... and I have to say my breads work really well in these.  I do use parchment between the cast iron and the bread dough.

squattercity's picture

I don't think the brand matters much as long as they are heavy. If you might use them on the stovetop as well as in the oven, an enameled surface might be the way to go (less retained flavor, perhaps, though it will discolor.) Another thing to look at is the handle. My brother had a Le Creuset with a black handle and, baking a high rye, I discovered that the plastic starts to liquify at 232C/450F. Le C has since come out with a metal handle -- a big improvement.

I found my first Dutch Oven because someone in my building had thrown it out. It's one of those anonymous brands. I later bought a massive oval Lodge. They're both enameled. The Lodge is probably a little better because it's weightier. Now I can't imagine baking without them.


fredleibl's picture

I also use granitware roasters for sourdough and they work great.  I line them with parchment.  I am thinking of putting a baking steel in and putting the roaster on top to get more immediate heat transfer more similar to baking directly on a stone.  I am a bit concerned about burning the bottom   Does anyone have any experience with this.