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