Is opening the oven door while baking a good idea? Well, a lot of bakers ask this question, so let’s explore if you can open the oven when baking bread at any point? And how to check on your bread if it’s not.
Opening the oven door before the crust has set will make the bread collapse. You may open the door for the first 2 minutes to add steam with a water mister. After this, the oven should be kept closed for the next 15 minutes or until the bread has finished rising.
There are exceptions, which I’ll cover in a moment. First, let’s understand why opening the oven door can impact the bread.
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What happens if you open the oven while baking?
As the oven warms the pressure of the air inside increases. As the air temperature increases as does the pressure. If you open the oven door, the pressure is released as is moisture and warmth. Warmth is also lost which can be offset somewhat by using a baking stone, or even a pair of stones, one above and the other below the bread.
What happens when bread is baked in the oven
As bread bakes, aside from moisture loss and the crust setting, two things can be measured:
1- Crust set point
This is the point where moisture in the oven evaporates to no longer insulate the outer perimeter of the bread from the heat. At this point, the crust begins to harden and the outer structure of the bread forms.
2- Yeast kill point
As the bread warms in the oven, the active yeast that remains in the dough becomes more lively. This causes the bread to rapidly rise and is called, oven spring. The yeast kill point is where the yeast becomes so too hot that it dies, meaning the bread cannot rise further. The yeast kill point occurs when the core temperature of the dough exceeds 140 degrees F (68C). This tends to occur at around the 12 to 15-minute mark of baking.
For maximum oven rise, bread should reach its yeast kill point just before the crust begins to set.
Why should you not open the oven door when baking
If the pressure in the oven is released when the outer perimeter of the dough is still tender, the sudden change in pressure leads to the dough collapsing. So we should only open the door of the oven once the crust is formed. Opening the door also causes heat loss which means the bread will take longer to bake.
Longer baking times are a major cause of dry bread, rock-hard crusts and bread that’s quick to turn stale.
Is it ok to open the oven to add steam?
If you want to open the door during the first 3 minutes of baking to add steam for a crispy crust you can do so. At this point, the baking chamber has just started warming up. And as the door was recently opened to load the bread, air pressure is still low. Opening the door in the first 3 minutes, before the crust structure has formed is ok. This method is used to add water in the “3 sprays method recommended by Peter Reinhart in his classic book The Bread Bakers Apprentice”.
When you should open the oven door for baking bread
The addition of steam in the oven at the start of baking delays the crust set point so the bread can rise further. It is also the key to making bread crusty. But there are two questions this gives; “Can I open the door after the crust has set?” and, “If making soft bread does it matter if you open the door?” And well, as you’ll learn, letting some of the steam escape is pretty handy!
How a damper works in a bread oven
In a professional bread oven, there is a damper lever that opens a hole in the rear of the oven. When open, it allows steam to escape thus, reducing air pressure. With steam removed, the crust hardens at a quicker rate. If left open when baking soft rolls it will harden the crust quickly and retains more moisture in the crumb. When making crusty bread, the crust set point will be midway through the bake. At this point, releasing the damper helps the crust to harden and crispen up.
How to recreate a damper in a home oven
Recreating a damper on a domestic oven is not an exact science. It is a relatively small hole in comparison to the size of a bread oven. Without drilling a hole yourself, the best trick is to open the door slightly every 2-3 minutes.
You only need to open it a little though, but it can work wonders on the quality of the bread. Opening the door at this time allows the steam to release and helps create a golden, crisp crust. So it can be a good thing to do if you want to bake professional quality bread at home.
Many of you will already be taking advantage somewhat of this method when baking with a Dutch Oven. Removing the lid halfway through the bake is standard practice. But why not open the door periodically as well to further help the crust to harden?
So the message here is to not open the oven door – unless it’s the right time! If you want to see how I set up my oven to make bread, try my best bread oven setup for sourdough baking post. I also have another article that may be of interest where you can learn more about the optimum temperature for baking bread. I hope you’ve found this helpful, if you have any questions, drop a comment below!
Frequently asked questions about baking bread
How to check on my bread as it bakes?
The best way to check how well your bread is baking is to look through the glass. But if your oven doesn’t have a glass door or you bake in a Dutch oven, wait 15-20 minutes before opening the door. Not doing this will lead to the pressure escaping and the bread ruining.
Where should the rack be in the oven when baking bread?
Ovens conduct heat in varying ways. It’s best to start placing the rack in the middle of the oven to start with. If you notice the base of your loaf is underdone or the top is burning, lower the rack. If the opposite occurs, lift the rack up.
Can you bake with the oven light on?
If you don’t need the light on to check your bread, turning it off can save energy and lower costs. Aside from this, it doesn’t affect the quality of the bread.
How fast does oven lose heat with door open?
Opening the oven door will allow heat to escape. Depending on how powerful the heat elements are at recovering the heat, cooking times can increase by 2 to 5 minutes after the door is open for 20 seconds.