Can I put an empty Dutch oven in the oven?

Can I put an empty Dutch oven in the oven?

Readers questions: I just bought an enameled cast iron Dutch oven by Henckels. I’ve read that one should never heat up an enameled Dutch oven when it’s empty, as the enamel (which essentially is glass) can crack. Yet your recipe calls for us to heat the Dutch oven while it’s empty. Can you please comment?

Shelley (USA)

Hi Shelley, many thanks for your question and a good question it is too. You left a comment on my article on ‘Best Dutch Oven for Baking Bread‘ article where it includes a recipe for no-knead bread. It is important so i choose to address this in more detail.

You are correct is saying that the enamel is glass, that is exactly what it is. This is why you need to take extra care with it…this applies to the heat and the utensils you use.

In almost all cases, manufacturers of Dutch ovens will tell you that you should not heat an empty vessel. The reason for this is that the porcelain enamel can crack on the inside. This is a real risk.

Examples of when this does happen, a cold dutch oven has been placed into a preheated oven. This thermal shock causes the enamel to crack. Therefore, you should never do this.

This also applies to placing a Dutch oven immediately onto a high heat. Dutch ovens need to be heated slowly until they are at the right temperature. Don’t ever think that you can shorten this process.

The no knead recipe I gave you does require you to place an empty Dutch oven in the oven to preheat…which obviously goes against the manufacturer’s recommendations.

I have been baking no knead bread in a Dutch oven for many years and this is the process I always use. You need the Dutch oven to be at the correct temperature for this to happen.

Place the Dutch oven and lid in a cold oven and heat it…. always. This reduces the risk of thermal shock as the temperature is slowly increasing.

Has there ever been a problem with doing this? Not in my experience. I am patient and always follow the heating process.

I can understand why manufacturers place this in their guidelines. However, if you are careful, there should be no issues. There are many people all over the world following this process without issue.

Obviously, it is your Dutch oven that you paid for. You therefore have the choice of whether to bake no knead bread in a Dutch oven…or not. You do so at your risk as you are aware of the consequences should it go wrong.

If you are concerned about damaging your enameled Dutch oven, I would recommend that you pick up a cheap cast iron Dutch oven. These have no enamel to worry about and therefore should ease your mind.

I hope this clears up this issue for you but it does leave you with a decision to make. It’s all very well me saying that I am comfortable risking my Dutch oven but you need to do what you are comfortable with.

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Is it safe to preheat an empty Dutch oven

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  1. That is good to know, thank you for clearing it up. I also googled this question and the general opinion is the same as yours. I guess its a little nerve wracking the first time but you soon forget.

    I would also add that you need to check whether your oven is suitable for high temps that you need for baking bread. If not, the handle on the lid could melt.

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