The Cast-Iron Combination Cooker - Modernist Cuisine

The Cast-Iron Combination Cooker

MB, MBAHJune 25, 2024

When it comes to making crusty loaves of bread, one of the biggest challenges home bakers have to contend with is home ovens. If you simply bake a loaf of bread in your oven, as water evaporates from the surface of the dough, it will begin to dry out and thicken. Even if all the water in the dough evaporates, it won’t result in the shatteringly crisp crust. To create that, you need steam.

When steam is injected into the cooking environment while bread is baking, it condenses on the dough, which instantaneously and significantly raises the dough’s surface temperature. When this happens, the starch on the surface gelatinizes into a thin skin called a pellicle. It is this thin skin that will dry into a super-crisp crust. This gelatinized coating also gives the final crust an attractive shine.

Many professional bakers have ovens that inject steam at the touch of a button. Baking the dough in a cast-iron combination cooker, one of our favorite tools, creates the same kind of steamy environment in a home oven, with excellent results. This versatile kitchen tool is a game changer for making hand-shaped, perfectly crusty loaves of bread at home—all at an incredibly wallet-friendly price of less than $40. This tool is perfect for almost any crisp-crust breads.


EXCEPTIONAL HEAT RETENTION: Composed of a skillet and a deep pot that lock together, the cast-iron combination cooker creates a miniature oven within your kitchen oven by absorbing and retaining heat. This makes it perfect for trapping steam and achieving that coveted crisp crust.

STEAMY BREAD-BAKING ENVIRONMENT: By preheating the lid of the cooker, you’ll create a steamy environment that mimics professional steam-injected ovens. This technique ensures your bread develops a crisp crust and an attractive shine, just like those from your favorite bakery.

AFFORDABILITY AND MULTIPURPOSE FUNCTIONALITY: We love how this economical option doubles as a skillet and a Dutch oven, making it a versatile addition to any kitchen. Whether you’re baking bread, braising meats, or searing steaks, the cast-iron combination cooker has got you covered.

PERFECT FOR HOME BAKERS: With a capacity ideal for loaves weighing 800 g to 1 kg, this cooker is tailor-made for home bakers. Its compact size fits seamlessly into most home ovens, ensuring consistent and reliable results.

How to Use the Cast-Iron Combination Cooker

There are several options for preheating and baking with the combination cooker. Which method you pick depends on your level of experience. Today, we’ll cover the beginner method, but keep in mind that there is a more advanced and better method that produces more steam.

In this method, the lid of the combination cooker is preheated.

  1. The skillet will function as the bottom of the pot; the deeper pot is the “lid.” Put the lid in the oven as you preheat it as directed by your recipe.
  2. When the oven is preheated, gently transfer the proofed dough to the base (skillet) of the cooker, which you have not preheated, and score if necessary.
  3. With heavy-duty oven mitts, remove the hot cast-iron pot from the oven. Use caution: it’s heavy and very hot.
  4. Set the hot lid over the skillet, and lock the two pots together. Put the entire combination cooker in the oven, and bake as directed. The radiant heat coming off the preheated pot will interact with the surface moisture on the dough to create steam.

Once you’ve done this several times, we recommend exploring the advanced method, which will generate more steam and get the best results. You can find this on page 131 of Modernist Bread at Home.

Which Recipes are best for the cast-iron combination cooker?

  • Breads with thin, crispy crusts, especially in the shape of boules and bâtards
  • Most of our lean bread recipes from Modernist Bread at Home (see pages 161–231), including French lean bread, sourdough, country-style bread, wheat breads, and more. However, we don’t recommend this technique for focaccia and ciabatta.

Our recipes in Modernist Bread at Home also include temperature adjustments when using the cast-iron combination cooker.

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