A baking stone is an excellent tool when baking bread or pizza at home. Baking on a stone surface will generate high heat spread evenly for a perfect bake. The stone surface reduces the number of times you need to move the bread around. As it happens, most ovens, especially home ovens are not evenly heated. They have cold and hot spots that affect food cooking or baking inside.
But, If you do not have a baking stone at home for all sorts of reasons, be it a budget or you just started out and didn’t think of getting a baking stone yet, fear not! I have gathered here the best alternatives for a baking stone that will bring the same desired result. Some of the alternatives can be found in every home, some are more of a DIY kind of solutions. Either way, each of these options will do your bread a world of good.
There is no right or wrong way to bake bread. The question what type of bread you are baking and which results are you looking for? To be honest, a baking stone will usually be your go-to baking surface but there are many alternatives and some can actually yield better results.
The alternatives are divided into two groups:
- One is basically baking in a vessel. Different kinds of pots that what they have in common are their ability to either help shape the bread thanks to the sides of the pan or seals the steam to help with the rise and crust. In this category, you can find the Dutch stove, Pyrex, La Cloche, and a baking pan.
- The second category belongs to flat surfaces that each in its own way helps to heat the bread and give it some other value. In this category, you can find a steel baking surface, cookie sheet, fire bricks, and so on.
Baking On A Slab Of Steel
Probably the best or one of the best methods to bake bread is on a steel baking surface. The steel is just perfect for baking as it holds the heat very nicely and can withstand high temperatures. The high heat really helps the bread in its initial baking stage and is the reason for a good rise.
The steel also heats up more quickly than a baking stone. As for cleaning, it is pretty simple. We have a more in-depth article comparing the Steel Vs Stone surfaces. You will find all the pros and cons of the two right here.
Definitely highly recommended, and even if you don’t have one today you should get one in the future. You will thank me later. A bit on the pricy side but it will last forever. You can always hint it to your friends just around birthday time or holiday season 😉
To read about our recommended baking steel surface click here
Anyone who baked bread in a dutch oven, even the novice bakers among us, would certainly testify to the relative ease of baking bread in this method. It is the optimal way to reach a professional like result: Your loaves will bake evenly with a nice thick crispy crust, which at the end of the day is what we strive for.
In many ways baking in a Dutch oven exceeds baking with a baking stone in terms of the heat distribution that the bread receives and the amount of steam. I will explain:
The pot functions like an incubator: The iron from which the dutch oven is made of is heated in the oven and then evenly heat the bread from all sides (unlike using a baking stone that radiates heat only from the bottom which if you’re not careful can make the bread has a thinner crust, or even get a bit burned at the bottom, but the crust above depends on the heating elements of your oven.
Of course, it is very important to preheat the oven and the Dutch oven itself for about 45 minutes before putting the bread inside. Recommended temperature is about 210 ° C or 410 ° F for sourdough bread.
You do not always associate this product with baking bread, but a Pyrex ( the one I’m referring to is a glass pot with a lid ) can work well when baking bread at home.
Of course, it is necessary to preheat the oven in advance (as with most of the products listed here), but according to the manufacturer it can be used for baking in a preheated conventional oven at any temperature that a recipe requires.
The Pirex will definitely do well for your bank account since it is pretty cheap and therefore you can purchase more of it in different sizes.
It is transparent and allows you to keep a close eye on the bread and know when it is time to remove it from the oven. However, you should be careful not to place the hot glass pot and a very cold surface as it might crack or even break it.
There are a couple of types of Bread Cloches out there. The ones I will recommend here are the ones made of clay.
A Bread Cloche consists of two parts, the base, and the dome. Due to the fact that you will be baking bread in a vessel with a lid helps to capture the steam inside much like the dutch oven and the Pirex and will result in a bread that comes out with a crispy crust on the outside and soft and slightly chewy crumb on the inside.
The biggest advantage of a Bread Cloche over a Dutch oven is the actual baking surface. You see, the Cloche uses a thin base and a deep lid, the exact opposite of a dutch oven where the pot is deep and the lid is thin.
The Thin base makes it safer to load the bread and to score it. Scoring bread in a dutch oven can be tricky as you will find it is hard to get the correct angle on your blade to score the bread. Also loading bread into a dutch oven is a bit tricky when the iron pot is blazing hot and most novice bakers freak out and drop their bread in, causing it to deflate. As mentioned the thin surface of the Cloche solves both issues.
Just like the Dutch oven, you preheat the clay surface and the dome. Once it is at the desired temperature load, score and put it in the oven. About halfway to two-thirds of the way of baking remove the lid and continue baking until you get the desired color.
Baking Pan / Bread mold
Bread baking is the ideal method to bake bread for sandwiches. The square shape allows for even slices as opposed to baking round loaves which are more suitable for meals where the bread is part of the meal rather than sandwiches.
What distinguishes the pattern of a bread mold from a cake mold is the shape of the pan and the angularity of the sides of the mold.
For bread: The walls are positioned at a right angle to the base, for cakes: the sides tend to angle slightly outward.
There are quite a few types of bread baking molds in the market, made of various materials: aluminum, ceramic or cast iron. I personally prefer the ceramic or cast iron that maintain the heat of the oven while hugging the loaf. Also, the heavy weight of the iron just feels like it would do a better job, I don’t know if it’s just me but it just feels right and it also feels and looks more rustic.
The major difference between all three materials is heat retention (how long they hold the heat in the material) and heat distribution ( how well the heat is spread out over the baking surface). As mentioned earlier from my experience iron is the way to go.
Cookie Sheet or a flat baking pan
Baking on a cookie sheet is a good option for certain types of bread such as dinner rolls, Challa bread or other soft crust bread. Of course, you can bake all kinds of bread on it but bread that needs higher temperatures I suggest you go with something else like a cast iron pot.
There are lots of types of cookie sheets to choose from, I would recommend a commercial-like heavy aluminum cookie sheet. The advantage is that they heat up fairly quickly and evenly and therefore are an alternative to using a baking stone.
Terracotta Tiles: What To Look For When Bread Baking
The terracotta stones or as they are called Quarry Tiles are an excellent option to heat your home oven on your way to make the perfect loaf of bread or an excellent crispy pizza.
A few things to remember before buying the tiles:
The tiles must be unglazed. A glaze on the tile might contain lead. Buy the tiles in a familiar store and make sure that the tiles contain only clay (terracotta).
It is important to note that in the burning heat of the oven materials such as lead, concrete or cement that may be present in the tiles and are not safe for cooking. These materials can break down and come in contact with the bread you are preparing or disintegrate into the air. You don’t want that! Be aware of the type of tiles you buy.
As for size:
3/4 “to 1” brick is sufficiently thick for home-oven baking in terms of its size and thickness of tiles. Try to buy 18 ‘x18 if you can find them, there are easier to handle than the smaller ones and the gaps between them.
After you finally bought the tiles comes the fun part: the baking.
Preheat the tiles inside the oven between half an hour and forty-five minutes.
Before using them, just wash the dust off – don’t seal them or season them with anything and you’re good to go.
Very Simple and an excellent alternative.
An original solution and not very expensive. You can find Fire Bricks in hardware stores like Ace, Home Depot or Lowes.
The dense bricks. made out of clay, are built especially for high heat resistance and can absorb the intense level of heat as they are originally designed for places like fireplaces, wood-fired ovens, etc.
There are stones that come half the height of the original stone so they will occupy less vertical space in your oven that it is plus.
In order to get the maximum effect, arrange the bricks next to each other with minimal gap between the stones.
The stones are almost completely non-porous and therefore constitute a safe surface for working with bread. The stones produce an excellent steam effect, but it is important to note that as they are resistant to heat they do not react in the same way to water, so make sure not to pour or spray water on the stones at high temperatures because they might just crack.
As you can see there are many substitutes for the good old baking stone. Some traditional and some more creative.
All the alternatives are good in my book. All you have to do is choose what is comfortable for you.
Do you have any more ideas? add yours on the comment section below, I’m always happy to learn and get to know new ideas.