Baking bread in a wood burning oven: at what temperature and for how long?

Preparing bread to be baked in a home oven is a great experience: kneading, waiting patiently for the dough to rise and, finally, breathing in that unmistakable scent of freshly baked fragrant loaves.

Bread is typical food that is found in practically every household and there’s nothing like the flavor of wood baked with fire.

Anyone can try their hand at preparing bread; all that’s needed is flour, water, yeast, a couple of arms ready to knead and a reliable oven capable of consistently guaranteeing impeccable results.

Managing gas ovens is quite simple and intuitive; since lighting and temperature control take place simply by turning a knob. With wood burning ovens things get a little more complicated.

In fact, more manual skills and experience are needed to manage the fire and heat according to the recipes you want to make.

But, once you get to know your oven and manage the baking temperature, the taste of bread will be unparalleled.

And the wood you use will be the secret ingredient that will give a fragrance and an unmistakable aroma to the loaves.

But at what temperature should the bread be baked in a wood burning oven and for how long? You’ll find out in this article, where we will see in detail:

  • How to bake bread in a wood burning oven

  • – When to put a small pot of water in the oven
  • At what temperature is bread baked at in a wood burning oven?
  • How to tell when a wood burning oven is ready for baking bread
  • What internal temperature should the bread have in order to be baked?
  • How to manage the baking temperature of bread with Alfa wood burning ovens


Let’s get started!

How to bake bread in a wood burning oven

A wood burning oven is a tool that can offer much satisfaction once you get to know it and learn how to manage it.

There are numerous dishes that can be prepared: from the classic Neapolitan pizza to pan pizza, from roasts to desserts, but each recipe requires a specific type of cooking.

In addition to experience, the wood and the shape and materials used to make the oven are also essential in achieving excellent results.

This is because the elements listed above allow the heat to develop properly and enable the wood burning oven to reach high temperatures while keeping the temperatures constant.

For example, in order to consistently ensure optimal cooking of the various dishes, Alfa ovens are equipped with Forninox™ Technology, which associates the refractory hob with the stainless steel structure, thus combining the advantages of both materials.

In order to make perfectly cooked loaves, therefore, it is useful to take into consideration four variables:

  1. Oven temperature: it must be lower than that of the pizza so as to cook the heart of the bread with a soft and light crumb.
  2. Moisture in the cooking chamber: steam in the air slows the formation of the crust in the loaves allowing for better internal cooking.
  3. Size of the loaves and consistency of the dough: based on these two variables, the bread cooking time will also change.
  4. Oven quality: without a well-made oven, made with quality materials and high thermal capacity, it is unthinkable to bake bread, pizza or focaccia flat bread cooked to perfection as they are baked goods that require a constant temperature inside the cooking chamber.


When to put a small pot of water in the oven

As we have seen, humidity is a determining factor because it helps slow down the formation of the crust, allowing the loaf to develop and penetrate the heat deeper, so as to promote the release of the steam found inside the bread.

That’s why a small pot of water is usually placed inside the cooking chamber before baking bread, which will then be removed after the initial 15 minutes of cooking. This takes place in gas ovens, whereas wood emits moisture and therefore there is no need to recreate it through a small pot.

Depending on the size of the bread, the amount of moisture found in the cooking chamber of a wood burning oven will also need to be managed.

For example, if you decided to bake loaves weighing 2 or more pounds, you would need more moisture since the bread will have to stay longer in the oven and the heat will reach the heart of the loaf later.

On the other hand, if the loaves were smaller, the heat would reach the inside first and consequently it would not be necessary to have too much humidity in the air inside the cooking chamber which would affect the crunchiness of the crust.

We have seen how to manage humidity, but how do we find the right temperature for baking bread?

At what temperature is bread baked at in a wood burning oven?

Temperature is a determining factor in baking bread in a wood burning oven.

Unlike Neapolitan pizza, which can be baked at around 450°C (approximately 850ᵒF) on the oven’s baking surface and cooks in about 60-90 seconds, bread requires less heat, but more time to bake because of its thickness.

So, at what temperature is bread baked at in a wood burning oven? In general we can say that the ideal baking temperature must be around 250°C (approximately 480ᵒF). In this way the loaves will cook perfectly, including the central part. 250°C because once the bread is placed in the oven the temperature will drop by about 30°C(around 85 degrees), thus reaching 220°C which are optimal for baking bread.

However, depending on the size of the loaves, the heat inside the cooking chamber can be varied by a few degrees. That said, the maximum recommended baking temperature is always 250°C, otherwise whatever the size of the loaf, the bread will suffer a thermal shock to the point that subsequently the crust could break.

With regard to large loaves, you can therefore opt for a temperature that is around 210°C, while extending the cooking time and perhaps rubbing a damp cloth on the bottom of the oven a few minutes before baking.

Loaves of bread smaller than half a kilo in weight, instead, can be baked with a slightly higher oven temperature that is around 230°C, decreasing the cooking time.

If you wish, you can use the oven door to help you adjust the temperature, keeping it unclosed when baking the bread and closing it once the oven has reached the desired cooking degrees.

How to tell when a wood burning oven is ready for baking bread

Once the wood-burning oven is lit, with small pieces of dry wood placed in the center of the oven, simply let the wood burn until it reaches a high temperature of around 400°C (750ᵒF).

As soon as the wood is well lit, and a part of which has turned into hot coals, you can move the fire to the side, letting the temperature drop while the flame decreases and embers are formed.

Simply move the embers to one side, brush the bottom of the oven and let it reach the desired temperature of 200-220°C according to the size of the loaves and the type of dough you are using.

In order to achieve maximum temperature stability, therefore, it is sufficient to increase the temperature of the wood burning oven to its maximum and then lower it slowly, beginning to bake when it has reached the heat needed to cook the bread.

You could also think of cooking pizzas when the oven reaches 400-450°C, letting the wood burn away and when the temperature drops insert the bread so as to optimize baking.

In order to know when the wood-burning oven has reached the right temperature to bake bread or pizza, simply check:

  • The pyrometer found on the side of the oven, which is used to measure the heat of the air inside the cooking chamber
  • The laser thermometer display, which detects the temperature of the hob.

Thanks to these two tools, understanding when the wood burning oven is ready to bake bread becomes quite simple.

Furthermore, the dark soot on the walls of the oven’s cooking chamber should have burned by this point, leaving it with a much lighter colour, an unequivocal sign that the oven is very hot.

What internal temperature should the bread have in order to be baked?

Answering this question is not at all simple: bread is not like a steak where we can easily see if it is ready by using a kitchen thermometer to measure its temperature.

In order to bake bread properly, as we have seen, we need to know how to manage many variables. As a guide, however, it may be useful to know for those who are starting out that a loaf is ready to be removed when the temperature is about 95°C(200ᵒF) after inserting the temperature probe inside the bread.

If the bread is already well browned externally, but internally the temperature is still too low, you can cover it with foil so that it can continue with cooking.

But, if you don’t have a thermometer, how do you know if the bread is baked inside?

Just follow an old and effective trick: gently tap the surface of the bread. If it sounds empty then it means that the bread is ready to be removed.

Once removed from the oven, it is important to place the still bubbly loaf on a rack. In this way, it can cool down slowly even at the base without retaining any steam.

In fact, if this step is not carried out correctly, the moisture found inside the loaf would not be able to evaporate making the crumb gummy and the bread flaccid.

How to manage the baking temperature of bread with Alfa wood burning ovens

We have seen how being able to count on stable and correct temperature for baking bread is essential to make loaves with a soft inside and a crunchy crust.

Knowing how to keep the different variables that affect the success of the bread in balance such as the cooking time, the perfect temperature, the oven’s humidity and the size of the loaves is the secret to obtaining fragrant bread like the bakers.

No doubt, with practice and experience, you will learn more and more about your oven so that you can get the desired result based on the type of dough and its size.

On this journey, however, a good oven is essential: Alfa wood burning ovens are versatile and reliable tools, suitable for baking both bread and pizza, which also allow those starting out to achieve impeccable results by optimising both cooking times and wood consumption.

Each model, whether indoor or outdoor, is designed to meet everyone’s needs: for example, Nano offers uniform cooking to those who have little space and do not need to cook many loaves at the same time.

Instead, Allegro is designed to bake bread and pizza for those who have many friends or a large family.

With a quality oven, therefore, even those who have little baking experience, or who have never tried, can get a great result right from the first time they bake and gradually try out new recipes.

Cooking bread, pizzas, roasts and sweets in a wood burning oven will always be perfect!