If you’re like many home bakers and have a love-hate relationship with the oven. One minute your bread is perfect, the next, it’s black or underdone. So why is your bread burning on the bottom? Well, the short answer is coming and once you’ve followed the tips below, you’ll have the problem fixed forever!
Bread burns on the bottom when an oven does not evenly distribute heat. It is often fixed by adjusting the height of the oven shelf. The upper area of the oven could be too cool which encourages a longer bake. It could also be too close to the lower element which accelerates the transfer of heat into the base of the bread.
You might be surprised to know that the way you use your oven can change the taste, texture and crust of bread. Adjusting where the heat comes from or even when it’s released can have a major impact on the bread that comes out at the end.
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The baking method affects the characteristics of flavour and texture, and also how well it keeps and mould growth. These are pretty important! But for now, let’s look at the deep-lying causes of a burnt bottom.
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How to fix bread burning on the bottom
The best way to stop sourdough or any type of bread burning on the bottom is to master your oven. Learning how an oven behaves in different situations makes you able to make changes to fix any baking problems you may encounter. A baking stone is a popular solution to fix burnt bread. It should be placed in the cold oven and thoroughly preheated for at least an hour.
A baking stone goes a long way to remove hot and cold heat spots appearing in the oven to help bread bake evenly.
But it’s not always as simple as this. Let’s go into each cause of burnt bread and how we can prevent it in detail.
Get to know your oven
Every oven is different so, despite my efforts and other baking authors, there isn’t a perfect solution to setting up your oven. What works for me might not work for you. But I can explain how to review the way your bread behaves during the bake and make improvements to prevent a burnt bottom.
Use A Baking Stone
A preheated baking stone helps distribute the heat through the bottom of the bread. A correctly placed stone will assist the oven spring and prevent a burnt bottom on the loaf. Pizza stones, baking steels and even a heavy-duty baking sheet will work in much the same way.
Either bake your bread directly on the stone or place a tray or dutch oven on it.
Where to put a baking stone in the oven
Aim to put a baking stone on the lowest shelf level available. You can always raise it if you find the base of your loaf is overdone. A gap is needed between the lower element and the stone otherwise the bottom will burn. If you find that your bread is underdone on the base, lower the stone in the oven or check if the oven is fully preheated.
How to preheat an oven for baking bread
The oven has to be preheated with the stone inside. The baking stone must be hot throughout before it is used to bake bread. When the bread goes in, the oven will lose a lot of heat. Depending on how powerful the oven is it is often a good idea to preheat 20 degrees higher than you intend to bake. Less powered ovens will take longer to recover from heat loss after the bread is placed inside. A thoroughly heated oven and baking stone will prevent heat loss to ensure a better oven spring and an even bake.
The first bake of the day even with a professional bakers oven on three-phase power is usually sub-par. To check the temperature of the baking stone you can use an infrared thermometer, but an oven thermometer will offer some guidance. Always give the oven an extra 10 minutes to preheat if you are not sure.
My oven takes 20-30 minutes to recover between bakes if it’s not properly preheated. A properly heated oven will take less time for the bread to turn a golden brown. With this, you can avoid having rock hard or burnt bottoms on your loaf!
Do I use the top and bottom heat settings for bread?
The majority of ovens allow you to switch between element combinations. Generally, it’s best to preheat with just the bottom heat setting. This allows you to thoroughly heat the stone. If you use the top and bottom settings when preheating you can have problems. Once the air at the top of the oven reaches its desired temperature, the thermostat will cut the heat off. The stone doesn’t receive as much heat and it doesn’t get very warm.
When it comes to putting the bread in, it’s really down to your oven. In my old oven, I’d leave it set at bottom heat only and the bread would come out great. With my current one, I’ve found the crust takes ages to colour.
If your crust takes over 40 minutes to bake whilst the base of your bread is ready, use the top and bottom elements. Preheat with bottom heat only to get the baking stone nice and hot. Then 5 minutes before the bread goes in you just need to switch the oven setting to top and bottom heat.
Check the temperature of the oven
Without complicating matters too much further, you should make your own check on the temperature of your oven. The thermometers fitted in ovens are commonly inaccurate, with some being out by as much as 20 degrees! So check that your oven is baking at the right temperature before making any further changes.
Using an infrared thermometer allows you to inspect the temperature of your oven, and the baking stone with accuracy. I recommend one so you can bake with confidence as your oven is set up correctly forevermore.
Lower the temperature of the oven
Your oven could just be too hot. This is especially apparent with doughs that are high in sugars and fat. Try lowering the temperature and see if your results improve.
Don’t move the bread in the oven
It can be tempting to move your bread around the oven. Maybe you know that the back of the oven is hotter than the front or you’re just a bit casual when checking if it’s done. Much as it is tempting, try not to move your bread around the baking stone during baking. It can also cause the bread to collapse in the oven if the crust isn’t set!
Unused areas of a baking stone will be hotter than where the bread is. If nearly done bread is moved in contact with the hot bare rock it will absorb a lot more heat through the base. This leads to the base drying out, or in the worst cases, burn.
Other ways to prevent burnt bread bottoms
Use lightly coloured baking tins and trays
Dark coloured bakeware is better at absorbing heat than lightly coloured ones. If you use dark coloured tins or trays you should turn down the heat of the oven 10-20 degrees.
Stainless steel or non-stick, what is best for baking?
Thick heavy-duty pans are slower to conduct heat but transfer the heat more evenly. Stainless steel is not a great conductor of heat, but a thin stainless steel pan is a good solution for home baking.
Commercial bakers tins are made from aluminised steel as it has better conductivity and can be made into thin bread pans easily. If you are having issues with the baking quality of your bread you might want to consider switching your pans or trays.
Create a barrier between the base of the bread and the heat
This is especially useful if you bake with a dutch oven. If you place a barrier between the bread and the heat source you’ll reduce the level of heat conducted. This can be a simple solution to burnt bottoms on your bread.
Here are a few ideas that you can use:
- A sprinkling of cornmeal or coarse semolina
- A silicone mat
- Parchment paper
You might also want to try placing a secondary baking stone (or tray) underneath the main one.
Remove It From The Bakeware Once The Crust Has Formed
Take the bread out of the dutch oven or bread tin after 25-30 minutes of baking. Raise the shelf in the oven and continue to bake. Leave the baking stone at the bottom of the oven if you are using one. You might want to place a sheet of aluminium foil or a baking sheet underneath the bread to reduce conductivity further.
Why is the bottom of my pizza burning?
It’s a fine balance to achieve the perfect temperature at the top and the bottom of the oven to cook pizza evenly. If the base of your pizzas burns, try moving it closer to the top element in the oven. This will bake the surface of the pizza faster so you can reduce the baking time and prevent your base from burning.
Is burnt bread good for you?
No. Recent studies have shown that burnt food contains acrylamide which has strong links to cancer and nerve damage in animals. This causes concern for many, several people have switched to lightly cooking food to enjoy the long term health benefits.
Why is the top of my loaf not baking?
Home ovens have more height than the deck ovens that artisan bakers use. This means the loaf can take too long to brown while the base if the bread ends up burning. Try using a second baking stone above the bread to conduct heat more ferociously into the top of the bread. You can also raise the height of the baking shelf in the oven.