The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

preheat high bake low

akeimou's picture

preheat high bake low

pardon my ignorance but what exactly does it mean to preheat high but bake at lower temp, e.g., preheat to 500F but bake at 450F?  does it mean...

1. set oven thermostat to 500F, wait for thermometer inside the oven to reach 500F, place bread in oven, close oven door, set thermostat to 450F

2. set oven thermostat to 500F, wait for thermometer inside the oven to reach 500F, place bread in oven, keep oven door open while waiting for thermometer to go to 450F then close oven door, set oven thermostat to 450F

3. set oven thermostat to 500F, when oven beeps and preheat light goes off (thermometer inside the oven not yet at 500F) place bread in oven, close oven door, set thermostat to 450F

4. other?

sometimes a recipe says preheat to 500F, bake for 10 minutes, lower temperature to 450F, same question for that.  my confusion is whether i should actually lower the ambient temperature in the oven or does "lower temperature" simply mean turn down the oven thermostat setting and leave it alone. 

i'm guessing this might be what's causing my baking mishaps with rye and whole grain breads.  i have no trouble (usually) with white crusty breads which are baked on steady temps such as 450F.



tpassin's picture

Just because the oven sensor claims the oven is at the set temperature (like 450 deg F) doesn't mean that everything in the oven has gotten there, It only means that at the sensor's location, the temperature has momentarily met the requested setting. For the most even and constant heat, which is what you want for baking bread, all the material of the oven should be soaked in the heat at the desired temperature.  So you need to keep heating the oven for some time after the oven claims it's there. 

This is even more so if you are using a baking stone or baking steel.  The oven can think it's heated to the set point but the bulk of the stone/steel can be much cooler.

Typical home ovens do not have enough thermal mass to keep the temperature up when you insert a mass of cold dough, pour in steaming water, etc.  Preheating to a higher temperature partially compensates for this.  How much you should preheat is guesswork.  It depends on your oven, your baking equipment, the kind and amount of bread you are going to put in, the way you like the crust to come out for a particular kind of bread, and so on.  You will never be able to really know the best preheat temperature or even if your particular oven has achieved it evenly except by observing how the bake went and making an adjustment next time if you aren't satisfied.

So when you read an instruction like "Preheat to 500 deg F", it's only guidance that seems to work all right for the writer.  Fortunately, the details of the preheat are hardly ever critical.

The way I do it, I preheat say to 500 deg F, let the oven sit at that temperature for a good long time (an hour when I'm using the baking steel), put in the loaves, make the steam, and then turn the temperature down to the target temperature (often 425 deg F for me).

phaz's picture

It would be best to follow the instructions - whatever they happen to be. Enjoy!

mariana's picture

Hi Meg,

I do #3. I set oven thermostat to 500F, when oven beeps and preheat light goes off (I do not check the oven thermometer at all, my oven is calibrated and good) I set thermostat to 450F, place bread in oven, close oven door.

And when asked to bake at 500F for 10 min then finish baking at 450F, I preheat the oven until preheat light goes off, place bread in the oven, bake for ten min, then set my oven thermostat to 450F and complete the bake.

If that does not result in a great bread, I adjust the settings and timing accordingly, because every oven is unique and every load is unique, i.e. sometimes there is a lot of bread in a smaller oven, and sometimes there is a tiny loaf in a large oven, so those settings would be inappropriate.

akeimou's picture

thank you all, i understand better, i think :-]

two lessons i learned

- the temperature inside the oven is difficult to nail down when there are so many factors involved such as the size and accuracy of the oven, size and type of bread, baking equipment and method, and so on

- when the instruction says lower the temperature it means lower the thermostat (can't mean the actual temperature inside the oven considering the previous point)

i actually have 2 thermometers inside the oven and have been doing method #2 in my original question.  will be interesting to try #3, so much simpler!  but first i shall have to ensure that the oven's well calibrated.

semolina_man's picture

Heat dumps out of the oven when the door is opened to load the loaf.   This is a primary reason I preheat high and reduce heat to target for the bake.  

The Roadside Pie King's picture
The Roadside Pi...

Hi, Meg.

In order to achieve the best oven spring, my end game procedure is as follows. 

First regarding steam. 

Back in New York, I was using a gas oven. I went to length to insure a steamy environment during the first minutes of the bake. Nowadays, I am baking in an electric oven. My, anecdotal observation is that going to extreme such as Silvia's towel is unnecessary for electric oven baking. Just 1/4 cup boiling water as soon as the bread is loaded is sufficient. The bonus is, no need to remove hot pans of water to vent the oven.

I preheat the oven to max 550°F. My understanding is that steam coupled with high temperature is the most favorable environment for good oven spring.

Once the loaf/loaves are loaded and the boiling water is added to the piping hot broiler pan, the temperature is lowered to 450°F or what ever is recommended by the formula.

Lastly, at the 1/2 way mark of the bake I opened the oven door for s quick 15 seconds. By now the 1/4 cup of water has evaporated. This process works for me. Let us know what you decide is best for yourself.

Kind regards,

Will F.

therearenotenoughnoodlesintheworld's picture

Seriously, reading your would absolutely love a Rofco. It sounds like it would just mesh with your baking style.

I didn't realise how much of a game changer these were in a home setting.  Most talk about them from a micro bakery setup. However, I suspect they are even more revolutionary for the other foods home cooks do.  Biscuits, cakes, pies, pastries, veg,...  

akeimou's picture

opening the oven door halfway through the bake, haven't heard that one before.  same with turning off the oven after putting in the dough.  all new to me and very interesting to try!  

now what i'd like is an oven that can record the temperature throughout the baking period.  then i'll be able to consult the records for the behaviour of the temperature after every adjustment made on the oven.  that would be nice to have for these experiments :-]