How To Bake Sourdough Without A Dutch Oven: Easy Ways

Baking sourdough bread has gained immense popularity among home bakers owing to its delicious taste and incredible texture. Here’s the scoop on how to bake sourdough without a dutch oven!

close up of a slice of sourdough bread

This homemade bread is the type of bread that’s perfect for those looking for golden brown crusty bread that can be made in a variety of ways with great results, even if you’re trying out a recipe for the first time. 

A Dutch oven is a favorite tool for many bakers when making sourdough, as it helps to create a perfectly crisp crust and tender interior. 

However, not everyone has access to a Dutch oven, which raises the question: can you bake sourdough without it?

Fortunately, a Dutch oven is not the only way to make amazing sourdough bread, even if it seems like the most common way. 

You can certainly create a delicious, crusty loaf of bread even without a Dutch oven by employing alternative techniques. 

We’ve got the scoop on various methods to help you achieve excellent results when baking your Dutch oven sourdough bread without a Dutch oven

By understanding these simple steps, you’ll be able to enjoy your homemade sourdough bread recipe even if you don’t own this specialty cookware.

Understanding Sourdough Baking

hands holding sourdough bread

Sourdough baking is an art that requires a good understanding of certain techniques and tools. 

The best way to prepare your bread dough is to first understand some of the tools and temperatures you need to employ. 

However, you also need to be aware of the steps for creating the dough as you preheat. 

You might typically use a banneton basket or proofing basket to mix your flour and your active sourdough starter. 

To create the dough, mix the grams of starter with either rice flour, purpose flour, or whole wheat flour with a wooden spoon, then wait for the active starter to take effect. 

You can also use a large mixing bowl for this part of the process. 

While the dough is rising, start focusing on preparing the tools you will use to bake. 

In this section, we will explore the role of the Dutch oven, oven spring, and steam in sourdough baking so that you can have consistent results no matter what tools you use in the future. 

Dutch Oven

A Dutch oven is a popular tool for baking sourdough bread, mainly because it provides excellent heat retention and consistent temperature during baking, letting your bread rise correctly. 

It’s thick walls and heavy lid create a steamy environment that aids in the development of the crust and oven spring. 

This work surface also allows the dough mixture to rise without overly high temperatures. 

Despite its popularity, there are various alternatives that can be used to achieve similar results.

Oven Spring

sourdough bread cut into slices

One of the key aspects of sourdough baking is achieving a good oven spring enhanced by surface tension as you let the dough rise. 

This refers to the rapid rise of the dough during the first few minutes of baking due to the extra heat, which causes the dough to expand and increase in volume. 

After you let the dough rest at room temperature, the sourdough retains its oven spring. 

Factors contributing to an oven spring include:

  • Proper dough fermentation: Fermenting the dough for an appropriate amount of time ensures that it has enough gases and air pockets to allow for proper expansion. This is often why cooks use a razor blade or a sharp knife on the top of the loaf before letting the dough go through a second rise. 
  • Oven temperature: A preheated Dutch oven at the correct temperature is a great way to create a quick initial rise.
  • Steam: A steamy environment helps create better results that keep the outer crust soft and elastic during the first stage of baking, which allows for greater oven spring.


Steam plays a crucial role in baking sourdough bread, as it is the easiest way to develop a crispy crust while also promoting oven spring. 

In traditional sourdough baking, a closed environment like a Dutch oven traps the moisture released by the dough, creating steam. 

Some alternative methods for generating steam are:

  • Using a baking stone and a pot of boiling water: Placing a large bowl of boiling water in the oven alongside your dough on a preheated baking stone creates a steamy environment.
  • Utilizing two loaf pans: Invert a second bread loaf pan over the top of the pan holding your dough, effectively trapping steam during the baking process and creating a lot of heat for the dough to rise. 
  • Spraying water: Directly spraying warm water on the dough and inside the oven walls during the initial stage of baking can help generate steam. 

However, when using steam, be careful to avoid steam burns. 

Keep your hands covered with a kitchen towel or a tea towel, or use oven mitts when handling the dough in the oven after using steam, as the heat warms the steam, potentially causing burns. 

Using these techniques and understanding the essential elements of sourdough baking will enable you to achieve impressive results even without a Dutch oven.

Preparing for the Bake

slices of sourdough bread

Preheat the Home Oven

Before you begin baking your sourdough bread without a Dutch oven, it’s essential to preheat your home oven to create the ideal baking environment. 

A hot oven with high heat is crucial for achieving the best results. In general, preheat your oven to 450°F.

It is recommended to preheat the oven at least 20-30 minutes before you place your dough inside to ensure even and consistent heat throughout the baking process.

Using a Baking Stone

A baking stone is an excellent alternative to a Dutch oven when baking sourdough bread. 

Baking stones, also known as pizza stones, are capable of retaining and distributing heat evenly, ensuring the perfect crust and crumb. 

Here is a simple guide on how to use a baking stone for sourdough bread:

  1. Place the baking stone on the middle rack in your oven during the preheating process. This ensures the stone gets adequately hot before placing your dough on it.
  2. While your baking stone is in the oven, prepare your sourdough dough as usual.
  3. Once the oven is ready, carefully transfer the dough onto the baking stone using a floured dough peel, a flat cookie sheet, or a piece of parchment paper.
  4. If you want to recreate the steamy environment of a Dutch oven, place a shallow, oven-safe pan filled with hot water on the bottom rack of the oven during the baking process.

If any sourdough gets stuck on your stone, use a bench scraper after the stone has cooled to get rid of the residue. 

Using baking steel can also be a great alternative if you don’t have a baking stone. 

The process remains the same as using a baking stone, but the baking steel can heat up faster and provide a more even baking surface due to its thicker and more conductive material.

Dutch Oven Alternatives

fresh sourdough bread sliced up on a cutting board

When baking sourdough bread, a Dutch oven is commonly used. 

However, there are other options available if you don’t have a Dutch oven. In this section, we will explore some alternatives such as cast iron skillets, stainless steel pots, and stock pots.

Cast Iron Skillet

A cast iron skillet can be a great substitute for a Dutch oven when baking sourdough. 

Preheat the skillet in the oven before adding the dough to ensure even baking. 

To create steam, which helps sourdough develop its characteristic crust, place a heatproof dish, such as a casserole dish or other alternative, filled with water on the lower rack of the oven while the bread bakes.

Stainless Steel Pot

Using a stainless steel pot can also work as a Dutch oven alternative. 

Make sure the pot is large enough to accommodate the dough as it rises and has a lid to trap steam. 

Preheat the pot in the oven before placing your dough inside, and add a separate container of water on a lower rack to create steam.

Stock Pot

A large stock pot with a tight-fitting lid can be used as a Dutch oven substitute for sourdough baking. 

Important factors to consider are the size of the pot and its ability to withstand high heat and still maintain good results. 

As with other alternatives, preheat the pot before placing the dough inside, and use a separate container of water to generate steam during baking.

Using any of these Dutch oven substitutes will still yield delicious sourdough bread with a crusty exterior and a soft, chewy interior.

Steaming Techniques

fresh bread being held in hands with a dish towel

Steaming techniques are essential for baking sourdough without a Dutch oven. 

They help create a moist environment that allows the bread to rise and form a crispy crust. 

Ice Cubes

Using ice cubes to create steam is an easy and effective technique. Follow these steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to the desired baking temperature.
  2. Place a heat-resistant tray or pan on the lowest oven rack.
  3. Once the oven has reached the desired temperature, load your sourdough onto the middle oven rack.
  4. Quickly add a handful of ice cubes to the preheated pan and close the oven door.
  5. The ice cubes will melt and create steam, helping your sourdough develop a crispy crust.

Lava Rocks

Lava rocks enable you to create a persistently steamy environment for baking. To use this method:

  1. Preheat your oven to the desired baking temperature.
  2. Place a heat-resistant tray or pan filled with lava rocks on the lowest oven rack.
  3. Once the oven is preheated, carefully pour some boiling water over the lava rocks, then load your sourdough onto the middle oven rack.
  4. The water will evaporate quickly from the lava rocks, creating a constant source of steam.

Remember to be cautious when handling lava rocks as they can retain heat for a long time.

Boiling Water

Boiling water is another method for generating steam while baking sourdough. Follow these steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to the desired baking temperature.
  2. Fill a heat-resistant baking tray or sheet pan with boiling water, then place it on the lowest oven rack.
  3. Load your sourdough onto the middle rack in the oven.
  4. The boiling water will create steam, providing a moist environment for the bread to rise and form a crispy crust.

Make sure to refill the pan with boiling water as needed to maintain steam throughout the baking process.

Mastering the Crust

mixing ingredients to make bread

Controlling Heat

Controlling heat is essential for achieving the perfect crust on your sourdough bread. 

Preheating your oven along with a baking stone can help distribute heat evenly, ensuring a well-baked loaf. 

Place the baking stone in the oven and preheat it to the temperature specified in your recipe. 

If you don’t have a baking stone, a steel pot combined with a baking sheet can also work well.

Managing Moisture

One of the secrets to a crispy crust is managing moisture within the baking environment. 

A Dutch oven creates a steamy environment that aids in forming a crusty exterior. 

To replicate this without a Dutch oven, you can use two bread loaf pans, inverting one over the other to create a mini steamy chamber. 

This technique, known as using two bread loaf pans, can be effective in producing a crust similar to that achieved in a Dutch oven.

Another option to manage moisture is to use a cast iron skillet and ice cubes. 

Place the skillet in the bottom of the oven and add ice cubes right before baking your loaf.

The ice will quickly melt and create steam, mimicking the moist environment of a Dutch oven.

Perfecting Outer Crust

Perfecting the outer crust of your sourdough bread involves careful attention to both heat and moisture. 

In addition to the techniques mentioned above, scoring the surface of your shaped loaf with a razor blade or sharp knife can improve crust formation. 

This involves making shallow cuts on the surface of the dough, allowing it to expand during baking and create a more appealing crust when you present it the next day. 

Furthermore, it’s essential to monitor your loaf’s baking progress. 

Keep an eye on the crust’s color, and adjust the oven temperature or baking time as needed. 

A pizza stone or baking stone can also be used to create a crispy crust while baking in a conventional oven.

By controlling heat, managing moisture, and perfecting the outer crust, you can achieve an excellent sourdough loaf without the need for a Dutch oven. 

Practice these techniques and experiment with different methods to find the perfect combination for your homemade sourdough bread.

Dealing with Multiple Loaves

fresh baked sourdough bread

When baking multiple loaves of sourdough bread without a Dutch oven, it’s necessary to adopt strategies that maintain the consistent heat and achieve the desired artisan bread result.

Consistent Baking Approach

To ensure a consistent baking environment, you can use the two identical bread pan method, where one bread pan acts as a cover for the other, trapping steam inside. 

This approach can easily accommodate multiple loaves, as long as you have a sufficient number of bread pans and oven space.

  • Position pairs of bread pans with prepared sourdough loaves in the oven, evenly spaced apart.
  • Seal each pair of loaf pans with the second bread pan as a lid, using metal clips if necessary.

Remember to safely remove the top pans using oven mitts when it’s time to uncover the loaves.

Open Bake Options

An alternative method for baking multiple loaves at once is an open bake. 

In this approach, you can use a baking stone, a baking sheet, or a wire rack to place the loaves directly in the oven. 

Before using this method, preheat the oven to create a steamy environment.

To bake more than one loaf at a time:

  1. Preheat the oven, using a roasting pan filled with water or a pan of lava rocks to generate steam
  2. Place the prepared loaves on the preheated baking stone or baking sheet
  3. Bake according to your sourdough recipe, keeping an eye on the loaves to ensure even baking

While using the open bake method, ensure loaves are evenly spaced for uniform heat distribution.

Extra Tips and Tricks

sourdough bread on a white towel on a wooden cutting board

When baking sourdough without a Dutch oven or other bread machine, there are several extra tips and tricks that can be helpful for getting that perfect loaf:

  • Using a slow cooker: A slow cooker can be used to bake sourdough bread. Simply place the dough in the slow cooker and cook on high for 2-3 hours or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190-200°F. This method helps create a moist environment, preventing the bread from drying out during baking.
  • Preventing the dough from drying out: If you’re not using a slow cooker, you can still ensure your sourdough doesn’t dry out. Place a pan with boiling water at the bottom of the oven to create steam, or use the two-loaf pan method with one inverted on top of the other.
  • Monitor fermentation: Keep an eye on the fermentation process while preparing your sourdough. Too much or too little fermentation can impact the final product. Keep the dough covered with a damp cloth or plastic wrap during fermentation to maintain moisture.
  • Steaming techniques: Achieve a crispy crust by utilizing various steaming methods like ice cubes on a preheated baking sheet or a spray bottle to mist water on the oven’s walls during the first 5-10 minutes of baking.
  • Learn from professionals: Observe and learn from professional bakers through online forums, videos, or even by visiting a local bakery. Taking tips from professionals can help you refine your technique and achieve the desired sourdough without a Dutch oven.

Remember, practice makes perfect. 

Keep experimenting with different methods, and you’ll soon master the art of baking sourdough without a Dutch oven.

Final Thoughts

close up of a slice of sourdough bread

Baking sourdough without a Dutch oven can still yield excellent results by using alternative methods and equipment such as an enamel roaster.

While a Dutch oven provides optimal heat retention and moisture control, an enamel roaster can serve as a suitable substitute.

To create a similar baking environment, cover the dough with a preheated enamel roaster lid, ensuring a tight seal.

To compensate for the lack of steam injectors, preheat a baking stone or an inverted baking sheet in the oven, then carefully transfer the dough onto the hot surface.

Adding a pan of hot water to the oven during the initial baking phase can help create steam and enhance crust development.

By improvising with the enamel roaster, a Dutch oven lid, and steam-generating techniques, bakers can still achieve desirable results when baking sourdough without a traditional Dutch oven.

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