|Sure, there are three
steps, but the first step is
easy and the last two
steps don't require any
work at all!
June 11, 2012
Keep Your House Cooler This Summer, Bake on
I've been quoted as saying that a grill with a lid is just like an oven.
Well, kind of..... I'll try to discuss some of the similarities and
differences here so that you can do some experimenting on your own
while avoiding some of the mistakes I have made. It seems that grill
manufacturers actually design their grills for grilling, not baking, so you'll
need to keep a few tricks in mind.
First, your grill opens from the top, not the side, like an oven, so it
looses a lot more heat when you open it up. Because of this, minimizing
the amount of time that you have the grill open will keep things nice and
toasty inside. Avoid the temptation to gawk needlessly at your baking
loaf and make insertion of your loaf extra snappy.
Second, with all the burners on, heat is maximal right at the grates, and
falls off rapidly the farther one gets from the grates. Because of this, try
to use indirect heat to do your baking. Place the center of the baking
stone above a burner that's turned off and use the burners not directly
over your stone to do the heating. In the photo above, you can see that
the middle burner (over which my baking stone is located) is off, and
the front and back burners are set to about 25%.
Third, use an oven thermometer on the baking stone if at all possible. If
you have a built-in thermometer in the lid of the grill, it will give you an
idea of the temperature at the lid, but the temperature on the stone is
going to be lots higher and will vary from grill to grill. As with an oven,
I try to have the temperature just above the stone at around 400 F and
with a dial thermometer on the stone and some burner adjustments, this
is easy to achieve. Also, the outdoor temperature seems to affect things
a bit more when you bake compared to when you grill with a grill, and
the thermometer helps you adjust for this.
The Bread Grilling Setup
I typically don't use a steam pan in the grill as pouring in water would
leave the lid open a lot longer and grills are so much leakier of air than
ovens that I don't think the steam would stick around long enough
Since the baking stone has to warm through, preheat the grill for at least
30 minutes prior to sliding a loaf onto it.
Your loaves will have a slight smoky flavor, but usually this is a plus and
adds to the rustic nature of your artisan loaf. One other issue is that the
bottom crust is often a bit tougher than with an oven baked loaf. This is
seems to be more pronounced the higher the sugar level of the dough.
Finally, my loaves often don't brown quite as much on the grill as in the
oven. If a deep brown crust color is important to you, brush the loaf
with an egg beaten with 2 Tbsp of water or milk just prior to baking (or
should I say grilling).
Examples to Follow (and Not Follow!)
Last summer I decided to make naan on the grill. When I make naan
on my electric griddle inside, I give each side 2-3 minutes. When I did
that with the first batch on the grill, I ended up with blackened bricks
that the chickens wouldn't even eat.
With the next batch I tried 1 minute/side and things went lots better.
Another experimental loaf I made was some rye sourdough with
walnuts, leeks, and thyme. The thermometer on the lid of the grill read
450 F, but the temp with the dial thermometer on the stone was only
300 F. I ended up baking it for an hour, and the crumb was fine but the
crust never got brown at all.
Next is an Alps Rye Sourdough (with some raisins thrown in for good
measure). It baked at around 425 F just above the stone but the crust
still didn't get quite as brown as one would see in the oven.
Alps Rye at the Start of Baking
Alps Rye at the End of Baking
Finally, here is a great loaf, seeduction bread (with some black walnuts
thrown in). I had the front and back burners on about 1/4 of the way
on my 3 burner Weber and the middle burner off; this yielded a
temperature of about 400 just above the surface of the stone.
Anyway, I hope this helps get you started with baking on the grill, your
own outdoor oven!