The debate between whether electric or gas ovens are better for baking bread has been going on for a while now.
Some people take a scientific approach to which oven produces a better environment for baking by weighing out the pros and cons whilst other people have experience with both ovens and have their own preference.
It might be time for you to get a new oven, so it’s important that you do plenty of research and decide on the right one for your baking needs.
Both electric and gas ovens can bake bread, but they both have pros and cons. Gas creates humidity for a good oven rise but also heats unevenly. Electric heat is very dry, so it creates a crust more quickly but has even heat distribution. Steam can be added to electric ovens to counteract the dry heat.
Although there are good and bad aspects of both ovens, these ‘bad’ aspects don’t always need to be seen as anything problematic if you know how to use the ovens correctly
This is the reason why some people can have such a strong preference over a certain type of oven. Since they have learned how to use their oven in the right way and have a good understanding of how it works, they’re able to understand the best way to bake bread in that specific type of oven.
What Traits An Oven Needs For Good Bread
Every oven needs to have a few basic traits to be able to effectively bake bread.
These traits are essential for making sure that you can have consistent results and bake all kinds of different bread types.
Without these, your bread wouldn’t bake as well as it should.
When you put your risen dough into the oven, you want it to be able to come out beautifully risen with a nice even crust.
This is where humidity comes into play. It’s the reason why so many bakeries inject steam into their ovens.
Steam in an oven will gelatinize the surface of the dough and allow it to expand more during the bake. This expansion is known as ‘oven spring’.
Without enough steam in the oven, the crust bakes too quickly and firms up. Since it’s turned into an actual crust at this point, the bread can no longer expand properly and will either stop expanding completely or it will burst out from a weak part of the bread’s exterior and leave you with an ugly loaf.
Without enough humidity, bread is more likely to rise less than expected, burn, or burst easier.
Accurately controlling the temperature of your oven is essential for getting the result you desire.
You want an oven that maintains a consistent temperature and stays at the temperature you set it to.
Some ovens can fluctuate quite heavily in temperature and throw off the baking time of your bread.
Being able to control the temperature of your oven allows you to have more control over your bake. If your bread browns too quickly or slowly then you can adjust the temperature accordingly.
Having an oven that properly distributes heat will ensure that your bread bakes evenly and isn’t left with any doughy or soggy parts.
Without even heat distribution, your bread might burn on one side of the oven whilst being underbaked on the other side. This can get very annoying since you’ll have to rotate the bread around once or twice during baking.
You want your bread to be surrounded by a heat that’s all the same temperature. This means that you don’t have to keep an eye out for uneven browning or worrying whether part of it will be underbaked.
A good oven will ideally have heat coming from multiple directions to ensure even heat, but some ovens only have one heat source and require long preheating times in order to get to a point where the heat is somewhat even.
Pros And Cons Of Electric Ovens
Heat Is Distributed Evenly
These ovens generally have at least one heating element on the bottom of the oven but many have one on the top for broiling too.
These heating elements heat the entirety of the bottom and top of the oven so the heat is able to be distributed very evenly onto the bread.
This can however mean that the bottom or top of the oven may get very hot. You should test different shelf heights whilst baking to figure out what works best for you.
It Just Needs To Be Plugged In
Unlike gas ovens, electric ovens only require some form of electrical wiring or outlet to be able to function. Fortunately, a lot of basic electric ovens just need to be plugged into a standard electrical outlet.
This installation is often significantly easier and faster than installing a gas oven and many people do it themselves. Although most competent DIYers can install it themselves, it’s recommended that you get a professional to do it.
It’s Very Safe
Since electric ovens just need to be plugged in, they are considered to be safer than gas ovens.
As you can probably guess, since gas ovens use gas, they’re at risk of developing a gas leak if not installed properly or if there is any problem with the tubing or connection.
The Temperature Is Consistent
You won’t get many large temperature fluctuations when you’re using an electric oven since they use heating elements.
In most cases, the temperature of these ovens are going to be very reliable and remain consistent. The temperature may be thrown off if there’s ever a problem with the oven’s thermostat
It’s More Expensive To Use
Although electric ovens are often cheaper on the initial purchase, the running costs are generally more expensive than what it costs to use a gas oven.
Of course, this depends on where you live, but gas ovens are cheaper to use in most places.
It Takes Longer To Heat Up And Cool Down
Unfortunately, these ovens can take a little longer to get to temperature.
Since they’re electric, the heating elements can take some time to heat up and emit that heat to the whole oven.
Once these heating elements are heated, they do maintain their heat well, but this can be both a good and a bad thing since the temperature control won’t be great.
Trying to cool down an oven that’s too hot will take a while as the thick metal heating element will hold onto the heat.
It’s A Dry Environment
Whilst a dry environment can be good for things like roasting meat, you don’t often want a dry heat around your bread.
This dry heat will cause the crust to form more quickly and likely overbrown.
Fortunately, you can easily counteract this problem by adding steam to your oven.
Baking Tips For An Electric Oven
- Add Plenty Of Steam
Since electric ovens produce such a dry heat, it’s extremely important that you add steam to it during baking.
This steam creates a much kinder environment to the dough and allows it to bake much better.
Steam can be added simply by pouring boiling water (or ice) into a hot, heavy-bottomed metal baking tray at the bottom of the oven when putting the dough in.
- Find The Right Shelf
All ovens have different heating elements and hot areas, so it’s a good idea that you find the best shelf to put the bread for the most effective bake.
Depending on the location and strength of the heating element, this could be anywhere in the oven, but it’s a good idea to just try the center shelf first and see how that goes.
Pros And Cons Of Gas Ovens
You Get More Humidity
When gas burns, you get a few byproducts. One of these byproducts is water vapor, which creates a more humid environment to bake bread.
This humid environment is great for preventing early browning and burning, but it’s not always great if you plan on cooking anything crispy in the oven.
Faster Heating Times
Since gas heat is instant, it can quickly heat the air around it and therefore heat the entire oven faster than an electric oven can.
This faster heating time can be somewhat handy, but it’s not essential as it’s best to wait 30-60 minutes for even preheating before baking bread anyway.
You Have More Control Over The Temperature
Since the gas flame can be turned on and off instantly, you don’t have to worry about too much heat retention since the oven can gain and lose heat quickly.
This is useful for when you need to quickly drop the temperature to prevent an overbrowned or burnt crust.
They’re Cheaper To Run
Using gas to heat your oven is actually more cost-effective than using electricity.
If you’re going to be using your oven a lot, you might want to opt for using gas purely because you’ll save a good amount of money in the long run.
In gas ovens, you will often get hot and cold spots as well as temperature fluctuations.
These hot and cold spots can be a big problem when baking, so it’s important to preheat the oven for long enough to minimize them.
The gas flame will cycle on/off whenever the oven thermostat reaches and drops in temperature, so it can fluctuate slightly.
They’re More Expensive To Buy
The initial purchase of a gas oven will be more expensive since an expert needs to come in and install the gas line properly, so you’ll likely lose a large chunk of money at first.
If you don’t already have a gas line, you’ll be looking at an even larger cost to get one installed.
As I’ve already mentioned, you will most likely end up saving money in the long-run since gas ovens generally cost less to run.
Gas Leaks Are Possible
Since you’ll need to have your oven installed to the gas line, it’s more dangerous to use it. Don’t let that scare you away though.
Although it’s technically more dangerous, it’s still unlikely to leak gas and it isn’t going to explode (assuming that it’s been built and installed correctly).
If you’ve had a gas oven installed by a professional, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. It’s a good idea to get it serviced regularly though.
Baking Tips For A Gas Oven
- Get A Baking Stone
Using a thick baking stone in your oven can do great things for maintaining a more even heat.
With enough preheating, the baking stone will get to a high temperature whilst retaining and slowly radiating the heat to the area around it.
The heat emitted from the stone will help towards minimizing any cold spots and lead to a better bake.
- Use An Oven Thermometer
Since gas ovens can fluctuate in heat, it’s a good idea to put a thermometer in it so you can get an accurate reading of what the temperature actually is.
This will help you to know when the oven is actually at temperature rather than just relying on your oven’s way of telling you.
- Preheat It For Longer
Although gas ovens do get to heat relatively quickly, you should preheat them for longer as a way to help create a more even temperature.
Longer preheating times will allow hot and cold spots to even out and become less of a problem.
It’s also important to preheat the oven for 30-60 minutes if it contains a baking stone as these stones can take a while to get to temperature,
How Understanding Your Oven Can Help You Make Better Bread
Whether you choose gas or electric, you’re going to need to get a good understanding of how everything about the oven works before you can be successful with your bread baking attempts.
Getting a new oven is pretty difficult since it’ll most likely be completely different from what you’ve had in the past, so it’s a big adjustment that comes with lots of learning.
Getting to know your oven will help you find out any hot or cold spots, heat fluctuations, and how humid it gets. Understanding these are absolutely key to figuring out how to bake bread in your new oven.
Which Oven Is Best For Baking Bread?
Although I’d like to tell you which oven is better, I’d probably get lots of people disagreeing with me no matter which one I choose.
That’s not a problem though, the oven that’s best for baking bread in is the oven you understand the most.
Electric and gas ovens are both great in their own way. It cannot be said which one is best as it’s down to personal preference and experience. Electric ovens are my preference since I’ve used them the most, but gas ovens can work just as well if you use them properly.
Go to some professional bakeries and you will most likely find that different bakeries use different types of ovens. Some bakeries even use both.
Neither type of oven are perfect, but it’s down to you to understand your oven and make it work best for your personal needs.
To make it easier for you to decide, here’s a quick breakdown of the key aspects of each oven:
Even Baking Is Easy
Lack Of Temperature Control
Takes Longer To Heat And Cool
Can Be Left Undisturbed
Maintains Its Temperature Well
Easy To Use
Uneven Heat (Hot And Cold Spots)
More Likely To Burn/Underbake
Good Temperature Control
Heats And Cools Quickly
May Need Rotating During Baking
Temperature Changes Are Common
Takes More Skill To Use Properly