Optimizing Your Home Oven For Bread

You’ve mixed your dough, let it ferment and rise, divided and shaped it, proofed it, and scored or otherwise finished it. It’s ready for the oven, where it will transform into bread.

To end up with a great loaf of bread, you will need to (1) safely and gently transfer the proofed dough into a very hot oven; (2) provide it with sufficient steam (if the bread requires a thin and crispy crust) and a constant, steady heat source; and, (3) last but not least, know how to determine when it is time to take the bread out of the oven. There are ways to evaluate the doneness of bread by the color of the crust, which we devote an entire lesson to in our Modernist Bread School. You can find this lesson in Course 2: Navigating Bread Making from Start to Finish.

The oven that you use to bake your bread will have a big impact on the result. In fact, the main difference between baking at home and baking in a professional bakery is the type of oven used. Professional bakers typically have deck ovens specifically designed for baking bread that get and stay hotter and include features like steam injection, the key to achieving a crust so thin and crisp it shatters when you break off a piece. We use such ovens in our research kitchen, but we also extensively tested all our recipes and techniques using our well-worn home oven, which produced fantastic-tasting loaves. We’ve developed simple tricks and techniques to improve your home oven.


Not every bread is meant to be baked in any kind of oven, and there is no universal oven that works well for every type of bread. It’s best to manage your baking expectations or learn ways to work around the oven you have.

The two most common home ovens are the convection oven and the conventional oven. A convection oven utilizes a fan to circulate hot air evenly throughout the oven, leading to faster and more uniform cooking. This efficient heat distribution reduces hot spots and ensures consistent browning and texture, although it can also make it slightly harder for breads to rise while baking. In contrast, a conventional home oven relies on radiant heat from top and bottom elements, resulting in potential hot and cold spots and longer cooking times.

Home ovens offer one big plus for baking bread: a convenient location. Pretty much every other feature of the ovens makes them an obstacle to greatness. For the most part, home ovens don’t get as hot as professional ovens, they don’t bake as evenly, their low thermal mass means they don’t absorb or radiate heat as efficiently, and they can’t produce steam.

That being said, you can bake quality bread in your home oven.

There are two main hurdles to baking excellent bread at home:

  1. Maintaining consistent temperature (home ovens are notorious for losing significant heat every time you open the door)
  2. Producing steam for the bread


In order to supercharge the oven with heat energy and to eliminate as many temperature differentials (hot and cold spots) within the oven as possible, we recommend preheating your oven for at least an hour before loading it.

For an even bigger effect, put a baking stone or baking steel in the bottom third of the oven as you are preheating it. Doing so will increase the thermal mass of your oven. Both of them store heat well; a baking stone will release the heat more slowly than a baking steel and is a great choice to use in tandem with pan loaves like sandwich bread or focaccia. A baking steel will release its heat quickly; larger breads that require longer bake times may scorch if baked directly on it. If using a steel with a pan loaf, set the pan on the rack above the steel; don’t rest it on the steel.

We’ve got another blog post that covers this subject, which you can read here.

A final method for overcoming the big temperature dip that occurs when you load your loaves into the oven is to preheat the oven at a higher temperature than you will bake at. You’ll see this in the recipes for certain types of lean and enriched breads in this book, where what we call the “loading temperature” is typically 10% higher than the baking temperature. Preheat the oven at the loading temperature, and lower it to the baking temperature for the bake time.


Generating steam in a home oven is difficult to do adequately, consistently, and safely. The biggest challenges are keeping the steam inside the oven and making enough of it to produce a shiny, crusty, and crispy loaf. Consider how the oven’s door makes up a significant part of the oven’s entire footprint. Opening the door makes a huge space from which steam can escape, just as it lets heat out in other baking endeavors.

While it’s possible to generate and maintain steam in a home oven, we highly recommend baking in covered pots, specifically cast-iron combination cookers, instead. They do not require the addition of steam to bake a beautiful loaf of bread since the enclosed area makes it possible for the dough to produce its own steam.

Steam is critical to the creation of the thin skin on the surface of the dough that is necessary for the formation of a crispy crust. But at a certain point, the surface needs to be allowed to dry, which means removing as much moisture as possible from the baking environment; that is achieved through venting. Whether you are using a combination cooker, a Dutch oven, or a pot fitted over a baking stone, about two-thirds of the way through the expected bake time, remove the lid or pot that is covering the bread. Once the bread is fully baked, crack open the oven door just a little (you can use a wine cork to prop it open), and let the oven vent for 3–5 minutes before evaluating the bread for doneness.

Our favorite way to create steam in a home oven happens to be the simplest: baking the dough in a cast-iron combination cooker. The results are amazing. You can learn more about this technique in Course 1: Getting Started with Bread Baking.


  • Pumpernickel
  • 100% rye
  • Pizza
  • Flatbread
  • Country-style
  • Sourdough
  • Free-form rye
  • Ancient grain
  • Whole-grain

Pan breads also work particularly well in the conventional home oven. In general, pan loaves are simpler to bake than free-form breads (any bread that’s baked without a pan) because once they’re shaped and placed in pans, the loaves don’t require any further turning, touching, or otherwise manipulating by hand. You can bake almost any bread in a pan, with the caveat that the crumb might be tighter because the dough can expand in only one direction: up. In addition to using loaf pans for enriched doughs such as brioche and sandwich bread, we’re big fans of using them to bake our master sourdough and the whole-grain breads.


A convection oven can produce very good oven spring in enriched doughs because of the way its powerful fan circulates hot air throughout the oven’s cavity. It’s actually our favorite oven for baking enriched doughs.

  • Bagels
  • Bialys
  • Pretzels
  • Knäckebröd
  • Gluten-free
  • All enriched doughs
  • Brioche
  • Panettone
  • Challah
  • Sandwich bread


For the recipes below, we recommend preheating the oven with a baking stone for 45 minutes at a temperature that is 30–35° / 55–65° hotter than the recommended baking temperature.

Keep the fan speed as low as possible or off, or bake the dough in cast-iron cookers.

  • French lean
  • Sourdoughs
  • Country-style
  • Free-form rye
  • Ancient grain
  • 100% whole wheat


The temperature in a convection oven drops significantly when the door is opened, and it falls even further when steam is applied after the door is closed.

The powerful fan makes these ovens less than ideal for many lean doughs because the fan, even at its lowest speed, accelerates crust formation and thus can reduce the volume of the loaf because it is hard for the dough to expand when constrained by a hard crust.

To work around this, preheat the oven 30–35° / 55–65° hotter than for a typical bake, with the baking stone inside (we recommend baking steels only for pizzas and flatbreads because breads will scorch unless they are being baked in a combi oven). Set the fan to the highest speed so that the oven gets hot quickly. Shut the oven door after loading the dough, press the Steam button (assuming you have a model that produces steam), and turn the fan down to the lowest speed. Watch the temperature closely, and make sure to adjust it back to the recommended baking temperature as the oven recovers from the original drop. After 2 minutes, apply steam again. The steam helps prevent a hard crust from forming too quickly.


Are you interested in learning more about baking bread? Explore our free Modernist Bread School courses delivered directly to your inbox!

Learn the essentials of baking bread, discover tips for baking with a busy schedule, understand pantry stocking, and more. Whether you’re a beginner or looking to enhance your skills, our courses cover a range of topics to elevate your bread-making experience. Sign up now for a delicious journey into the world of bread baking!