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The Best Cast-Iron Bread Ovens

Curious about the Challenger Bread Pan, the Le Creuset Bread Oven, or the Lodge Combo Cooker? We’ll tell you which bread oven is best.


Published Feb. 22, 2023.

More on Bread Baking

Looking for more on homemade bread baking? Check out our new cookbook Everyday Bread for convenient failproof recipes.

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What You Need To Know

If you bake bread regularly, you might want to invest in a dedicated bread oven. Our favorite, the Challenger Bread Pan, allows you to bake gorgeous large round and oval loaves and is fairly easy to use. The Le Creuset Bread Oven is our Best Lightweight Option. It’s nearly as pricey as our favorite and isn’t quite as versatile—it can make large round loaves but can only do smaller oval ones. But at just under 10 pounds, it’s the easiest bread oven to lift and maneuver. Finally, the Lodge 3.2 Quart Cast Iron Combo Cooker is our Best Buy. Like the Le Creuset, it can make large round loaves or smaller oval ones. But we think many bakers will appreciate its more compact size, relatively light weight, and significantly lower price. 

What You Need to Know

We love baking bread in a Dutch oven. Because it’s made of cast iron, a Dutch oven retains and radiates heat beautifully, and its tight-fitting lid helps keep in steam so that the bread rises properly and develops a beautiful, crackly crust. Better still, it’s a piece of cookware that many home cooks already own.

But there are a few drawbacks to using our favorite Dutch ovens. First, they limit the shapes of loaves you can make: Although they’re spacious, they’re round, so you can’t bake large batards (oval-shaped loaves) in them, only boules (round loaves). Second, it’s easy to burn your knuckles or forearms on the tall sides of a hot Dutch oven while you’re lowering in dough or lifting bread out. And finally, if you use your Dutch oven for cooking other foods—stews, braises, soups—any traces of oil or fat leftover from cooking can polymerize and form sticky patches when exposed to the high heat used to bake bread. While these sticky patches don’t affect the pot’s performance, they are unappealing to look at and difficult to get rid of.

If you bake bread often, you might want to invest in a dedicated bread oven. While this piece of bakeware can be made from different materials, we focused on models made from cast iron, as they have all of the advantages that Dutch ovens have—and then some. Whether made from traditional or enameled cast iron, these ovens typically have dark interiors—a big plus, since dark cast iron radiates more heat than the light-colored interiors of our favorite Dutch ovens. As a result, all the models we tested are capable of making bread with crusts that were even more appealingly blistered and deeply caramelized than those made in a Dutch oven. 

In addition, bread ovens are less likely to stain, and in some ways, are a lot easier to use. Most are constructed similarly, with two basic parts: a shallow base and a domed top. You preheat both parts in...

Everything We Tested

Good : 3 stars out of 3.Fair : 2 stars out of 3.Poor : 1 stars out of 3.
*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.
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Reviews you can trust

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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.

Miye Bromberg

Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.