I Use Le Creuset’s Bread Oven Every Week — And It’s One of Oprah’s Favorite Things This Year
Cast iron Dutch ovens are as indispensable to home bread bakers as they are to home cooks making braises and stews. The thick enamel pots are great at retaining heat to promote good “oven spring” in the bread, and the tight-fitting lids trap moisture and contribute to a wonderfully crackly crust.
But traditional Dutch ovens have some flaws when making bread. Namely, the high sides, which get in the way of the bake. The popular Lodge Double Dutch solves this issue with a knob-less lid that pulls double-duty for bread baking. The oblong Challenger Bread Pan offers a similar format but adds strategically placed handles on the lid and the ability to accommodate loaves of bread in a variety of shapes and sizes.
What is the Le Creuset Bread Oven?
Then. Then! Last March, Le Creuset introduced its new Bread Oven. It’s made of the same sturdy cast iron as the brand’s iconic Dutch ovens and has a flat base and large domed lid (just like the upside-down Double Dutch and the Challenger Pan). The bread oven is dishwasher-safe, compatible with all cooktops, and oven-safe up to 500°F. As to be expected with all things Le Creuset, it’s available in more than 15 (!!) pretty colors, including its signature Flame.
What Makes Le Creuset’s Bread Oven So Great
I’m not surprised that the Bread Oven has made its way onto Oprah’s annual Favorite Things list this year, because after using it regularly for months, I can tell you that the pretty enamel doesn’t affect the actual baking performance one bit. However, I am a firm believer in the power of the pleasure that comes from using good-looking cookware. Sometimes just looking at my favorite kitchen gear is enough to jump-start a craving and inspire me to spend an afternoon cooking or baking. But if Le Creuset’s pot was all form and no function, there’d be no point in using it. Thankfully, that’s not the case here.
The first thing I noticed about the oven is that it’s actually quite small. The base measures 9 inches in diameter, whereas most 6-quart Dutch ovens are about 10 inches wide. But the domed lid creates about 6 inches of interior height, while most Dutch ovens are only about 5 inches deep.
I was concerned the narrow-yet-tall shape would be limiting, but after baking more than six loaves of bread, I found it didn’t negatively impact my usual loaves at all. In fact, the narrow profile was a serious asset, keeping the heat and steam close to the loaves while offering enough room for plenty of lift.
I baked my usual sourdough boule with the lid on for the first part of the bake as usual, and the large knob on top made it super easy to lift the lid off with one hand — I love that! I made a few more sourdough loaves and they were all exceptional — moist and chewy inside and super crispy-crackly outside, with a tad more loft than usual.
I appreciated that the low-profile base didn’t get in the way when transferring the shaped dough to the preheated pot. Giving the interior of the pot a coat of black matte enamel was a stroke of genius. It does a great job of promoting even browning, is nonstick, and doesn’t get stained like white enamel. This base can also be used as a grill pan for burgers, tofu, veggies, and more, so the pan isn’t as single-use as its name would lead you to believe.
The inside of the base also features a raised concentric circle design and “Le Creuset” spelled out backwards, so that your loaf gets a fun little branding as it’s baking.
Is the Le Creuset Bread Oven Worth Buying?
Yes! There are only two drawbacks that I could find with the bread oven: It’s ideal for round loaves and it’s an investment when not on sale. It’s definitely a splurge — you’ll definitely have to spend a little dough (sorry, had to!). However, it’s a gorgeous and versatile piece that helps deliver high-quality bread and will likely inspire you to keep your sourdough starter alive for years to come.
Buy: Le Creuset Bread Oven, $299.95
What do you use to bake bread? Tell us in the comments below.