Dear Test Kitchen

See How to Make a Sourdough Starter

We invited the ultimate expert to the test kitchen.

February 21, 2019

How do I start a sourdough? Then how do I not kill it? Do I need to use a certain kind of flour? Should I keep it at room temperature or in the fridge? Should I name it? And what if I have to go out of town? These were just a few of the questions that our team threw at Sarah Owens, who guest stars on this week’s Dear Test Kitchen. Sarah is a baker and author who won a James Beard Foundation Award for her cookbook Sourdough in 2015. Which is to say: She has all the answers and then some.

Watch the video above for how to, ahem, start your own starter—then tune in next week for how to put it to good use. P.S. If you don’t have a friend who has some starter to spare, swing by a nearby bakery and ask, pretty-pretty please, if you can snag some of theirs.

Sweet on Sourdough

Do you keep a sourdough starter? Does it have a name? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • michelle
  • Noah Thomas
    Noah Thomas
  • Thomas Flinn
    Thomas Flinn
  • Wen
  • Dave Wygonowski
    Dave Wygonowski
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


michelle April 27, 2020
Great information! thanks! I have a sourdough starter that looks really active, but is seemingly more liquid than what is shown on the video and it does not float. Any suggestions of what to do? I am reluctant to add water,because as I said it is loose and more flowing not gluey and thick. I have had it for a month now and keep trying to make bread, not real successful yet. thanks!
Noah T. April 1, 2020
Hi, how do you make the levain from the starter?
Thomas F. April 6, 2019
Hi how about giving a recipe to make the starter without someone giving you starter.
Emma L. April 9, 2019
Hi Thomas! Here's another starter recipe from Sarah (that starts with flour and water):
Wen February 22, 2019
I have a wild caught starter that I made with Pinot noir wine and gf flour. Her name is Babs and she is really stable on the kitchen counter, fed about every other day.
Pia M. February 24, 2019
Any recipes for gf bread?
Schenbeck July 23, 2019
Please share the starter recipe.
Wen April 1, 2020
Hi Pia, check out Aran Goyoaga’s book Cannelle et Vanilla she has a wonderful recipe for both starter and bread and waffles. It is easily the best gf cookbook I have bought.
Wen April 1, 2020
I used the one here but replaced the water for wine and Bob’s 1-1 flour. I believe the wine made it easier for the yeast and gave me a much stronger yeast community.
Dave W. February 21, 2019
The title of this is "See How to Make a Sourdough Starter". Key work is make, which to me is from the beginning. I did not think that sharing a starter is actually making one.

Mike March 20, 2019
OK, I thought I was missing something. This should have been called "Hear how to name a sourdough starter."
Sue S. February 21, 2019
I had a starter that I started with a dried starter that I bought on vacation in San Francisco. During a move it got dropped and I had to beg a friend to buy the powder for me again while she was on vacation in CA. I have had that starter for 18 years now. It has gotten better and better with age.
Niknud February 21, 2019
I have a starter - which I love. I had tried in the past to start my own (and succeeded) but the flavor was never what I wanted it to be. Then, after visiting an amazing bakery out of town and tasting the best sourdough I've ever had, I begged a bit of starter from the owner who graciously obliged the slightly crazed lady holding up his line.