Baking requires a lot of heat and moisture. If your house isn’t well-insulated or the temperature is on the cool side, you run the risk of over- or under-baking your baked goods. Most home kitchens don’t have a dedicated space for baking; instead, they’re usually situated in another room that’s used for other activities, like laundry or TV watching.
Even worse, some people just don’t have access to a kitchen with a working oven and abounding storage space for storage containers. If you find yourself in any of these situations, you might want to consider investing in an outdoor kitchen with a built-in oven.
Of course, if there’s no available outdoor space and you don’t live in an apartment, it might be harder to justify the expense. Luckily, many brands have made it easy to create your own indoor oven at a fraction of the cost by using alternative cooking equipment like cast iron pans instead of pricier baking stones and baking bags instead of specialty parchment paper sheets.
What is an oven stone?
A baking stone is a stone that’s specially designed for baking. Oven stones are usually made from natural minerals, such as quartz or clay, and are much more porous than other cookware materials like porcelain or enameled cast iron.
Natural minerals give them a porous, absorbent quality that helps increase the heat transfer from the bottom of the pan to the top, reaching a maximum of 450°F. This results in evenly browned bread and pastries, as well as crisps that are crunchy on both sides and don’t burn before they’re done.
Natural minerals also help make baking healthier, as they absorb impurities in the flour and help make your baked goods lighter and fluffier.
Baking bag and parchment paper
For bread, pizza, and rolls, baking bags and parchment paper are often used as a substitute for a baking stone and baking sheet. Instead of placing the bag or paper on a rack inside the oven, which is what you’d normally do with a stone, you simply place the food on a sheet pan and bake it at the same time.
Baking parchment is made from a paper composition, so it doesn’t conduct heat nearly as well as natural stone. It can help get your baked goods out of the oven more quickly and get them to a cooler rack for cooling. Both parchment paper and baking bags can be reused and can be washed in the dishwasher, which makes them a good choice for frequent use.
What is a baking pan?
A baking pan is a rectangular or round cookware that’s designed for baking. Some pans are made from aluminum, which is a cheap and lightweight material. If you’re just starting out and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a specific pan, it might be a good option to start with.
Other pans are made from steel or cast iron, which are more durable but also more expensive. If you want to use your pan over and over again, you should consider buying a well-built one that will last. Cast iron pans require very little oil when used, so they don’t leave a greasy mess behind. If you’re a bread lover, you’ll love using cast iron because it produces dark and crispy bread.
Baking steel and heavy duty aluminum foil
A baking steel is a sheet pan that’s made with a thin sheet of metal between two pieces of steel. The sheet conducts heat extremely well and evenly, which is why it’s used for many high-end restaurant-quality steaks and baked goods. Some brands of aluminum foil are also made from high-conductivity aluminum, which makes it a great alternative to a baking steel.
A baking stone is a heavy ceramic slab that absorbs and distributes heat evenly. It’s made from materials like clay, stone, or concrete and is used in bread baking. Baking stones are very expensive but they last a lifetime if you take care of them properly.
Using the convection toaster oven
A convection toaster oven has a fan that’s designed to circulate hot air inside the unit, keeping the interior cool and allowing you to keep the door closed to keep it warm. In this way, it’s similar to an outdoor kitchen’s built-in oven, except that it’s smaller and has less capacity. It can still be a useful appliance, though, especially if you’re short on countertop space.
You can use it to bake bread, reheat pizza, and make cookies and other baked goods. To use a convection toaster oven to bake, make sure to preheat it, place the baking pan on the rack inside the unit, and set the temperature at 350°F.
If you’re looking for an even better alternative to the convection toaster oven, consider investing in a set of quality bakeware, including a baking sheet and two large or three small oven mitts. These two-piece pans conduct heat and steam evenly and are made of heavy-duty, conductive material. They can also be used on top of the stove or in a toaster oven.
If you’re not sure about the quality of your current bakeware, place an egg on a baking sheet and place it in a preheated 450°F oven. If the egg is hard-cooked within five minutes, the pan is good. If it takes longer than that, try to find another option. (See Chapter 6 for more information on how to test bakeware.)
Baking with a pressure cooker
If you don’t own an outdoor kitchen but do have access to a pressure cooker, you can now bake with it. A pressure cooker is a small-sized, electric stovetop that can reach high temperatures much faster than a regular pot. It’s usually made from a combination of steel and aluminum.
You can use a pressure cooker to make sauces, soups, and stews. However, you can also use it to make bread. Many brands sell pressure cooker inserts specifically designed for baking, like the Presto 11-in-1 Chef Pan and Cookbook.
Pressure cookers are great for baking because they can reach temperatures of up to 250°F, which is higher than most ovens. Most ovens reach a maximum temperature of about 350°F. The high heat causes the dough to expand and rise quickly and also helps bread brown evenly.
Some of the disadvantages of using a pressure cooker are that you need to watch it closely, especially when you’re first getting used to it. Also, if the lid isn’t sealed tightly, you risk losing your steam and having your bread fall flat.
Baking requires a lot of heat and moisture, so a well-insulated kitchen is important. If yours isn’t well-insulated or the temperature is on the cool side, you risk over- or under-baking your baked goods.
You can also use a cast iron pan in your oven instead of a baking stone or baking bag. You can also try using a toaster oven or pressure cooker, which can also be used as an oven. You can also make healthier baked goods by using baking parchment or baking steel and oven mitts or by using baking pans that are made from natural stone like cast iron and natural stone like natural stone