A $40 cast-iron pot for baking perfect bread

Bread-baking took off during the pandemic, a trend in which I participated. When COVID-19 first hit, I wondered if there might be short-term runs on various foods, so—feeling faintly like some neophyte denizen of a phpbb prepper board—I bought a bag of flour and some yeast.

Turned out to be a good idea! In my neck of Brooklyn, panic-shopping emptied out the supplies of bread, and those shelves remained bare for a week or more. So I started baking bread for the first time, and like many who did so, enjoying the heck out of it—to the point where I keep it up today, despite bread being in regular supply at the local stores.

My bread is… okay? It's fine. Not superb or anything. The sheer freshness of the loaves seems to compensate for any lack of art in their crafting. (Though as Gabe Meister quipped to me on Twitter when we discussed my Loaf, "BREAD: Even When It Sucks, It's Great!")

Anyway, my experiences made me extra attentive to this piece by Joe Ray in Wired: a thumbs-up review for an inexpensive cast-iron pot, which Joe heard about from Francisco Migoya, the head chef Modernist Cuisine.

Recently, I called Francisco Migoya, and it turns out that he loves the combo cooker as much as ever. He brings up a classic bread-making approach where you can use a baking stone or steel to make bread in a home oven, but encasing it in the Lodge is a "vast improvement," particularly when it comes to heat transfer.

"It's dense and black, which means it can absorb and radiate heat better than lighter colors," he says, favorably comparing it to the beige interior of many (often much pricier) Dutch ovens. He also likes the particularities of its form when cooking a one-kilo loaf.

"The round, tapered bottom cradles it," he says, explaining how it helps perfect the finished loaf's shape, as opposed to the more squared-off bottoms of other pots. He also loves how using the skillet side as the bottom makes getting the dough in and the loaf out much easier than with a high-sided Dutch oven.

I'm ordering one now!