No knead bread baking question - Food52

No knead bread baking question

Jane Bucks
Mar 6, 8:25 AM EST

Hi FOOD52 and friends,
Please help! The internet is full of contradictory “advice” on a dilemma I have when baking no knead breads. Recipes frequently say to bake the bread at 450 degrees (or more) and often include instructions to preheat the empty Dutch oven type pan as the oven is being heated. Cast iron - no problem. But what about enamel cast iron? Or what about a beautiful new, blue BK steel enamel dutch oven? Many bread bakers say they’ve done high temp, empty, preheating of enamel cast iron with no problems and no damage to the enamel. But there are also stories of ruined pans. Manufacturers (Staub, Le Cruset, Milo, BK and even Lodge) do not provide consistent answers. And their customer service folks are not prepared to help with this question, either. A spokesperson for Sur la Table said that the enameled dutch ovens they sell can all withstand being preheated while empty. Yet Staub and La Creuset customer question resources have widely varying answers about their own product lines. BK wasn’t totally sure, either. Milo hasn’t yet answered my email question.

Have people successfully preheated enamel Dutch ovens by adding some water to the pan as it heats? Or is it better to avoid any kind of high heating without actual food products inside the pan? Or is it best to just use only non-enamel Dutch ovens for high temperature, empty preheating?

Thoughts, appreciated!

Thank you.
Jane B.

  • Posted by: Jane
  • March 6, 2020


Lori T. March 8, 2020
Enamel coated cast iron pans really should not be heated empty, in the oven or on the stove. What you are looking at is actually a glass type product called vitreous enamel, which was fused onto the cast iron as a fine glass powder. It stretches to allow for the expansion of the cast iron beneath it - but only if heated slowly and at moderate temperatures. High heat can cause the cast iron to expand faster than the enamel can stretch though, and that's there it gets damaged. The enamel will begin to break down and crack. You may not see the minute cracks to start with, until it really begins to chip and flake away. And unfortunately, once the enamel is damaged, it can't be repaired. It will only continue to break down over time. For this reason, it's probably best to make your no-knead bread- which calls for heating the empty pot. Save your gorgeous new dutch oven for a beautiful braise or stew, instead.
lauradash December 12, 2020
Thank you for the question and answer- I am coming across the exact same problem and seems crazy to me that there isn’t clear advice in baking an enamel dutch oven. Watching the sourdough video with sarah, she used a matte staub dutch oven and even said if you have an enamel coated dutch oven ‘lucky you!’. Please Food52, can you do a video around this question and confusion- especially when you have that product on your website. I feel like I don’t have any clear answer and am worried that my new enamel dutch oven might be damaged if I continue to use it :(
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