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Constructing a hotel pan cover and baking experience with it

dolfs's picture

Constructing a hotel pan cover and baking experience with it

I'm back with a post after a long hiatus, both in my baking and posting. In the past, I never quite had satisfactory results steaming my oven with "traditional" techniques involving hot pans, lava rocks, ice cubes, etc. I attributed that, at first, to having a gas oven that "vented" too much for this to work. Later I had an electric oven, supposedly without this issue. It worked better, but still not to my satisfaction.

So I reached for the Dutch oven. That worked just fine, but I found it heavy, and limiting in shape and size of what I could bake in it (unless one has an array of circular and oval Dutch ovens). I read about the Challenger Bread Pan, but was not ready to give up $300. I found what I thought was an interesting alternative in the Brod & Taylor baking cover, which I found for sale at $79 with King Arthur.

That worked great, but... it was smaller than I anticipated, but improved on the weight factor vs. Dutch Oven, but this one only allowed batards, and small ones at that. I also had a less-optimal dough once (proofing, and/or shaping and/or dough development issue). It "spread out" on dumping it from the banneton, never had good oven spring, and spread out some more. It "baked" onto the side of the cover, causing damage upon removal. I subsequently "fixed" that risk somewhat by greasing the inside of the cover, but the limitations remained.

I then determined, after some reading and research the forum, a hotel pan might work. I did read comments that due to it being black it would not heat the inside properly, and it been thicker stainless vs. aluminum, it would have similar problems. I invested less than $40 in the experiment and report here it worked just fine. Below is the information of how I put it together, and pictures, as well as a loaf picture backed under it.


How to "create" a hotel pan cover.

I bought two 2/3 size Winco brand 6" deep hotel pan (Amazon $30 each). I bought a package of four Dutch Oven replacement knobs (stainless, $7 on Amazon), so two handles on each.

Tools used (1st picture): step-drill bit, drill, hammer, pin punch (or a nail), tape measure, screwdriver (not shown), the knobs and hotel pan.

The hotel pan is just over 11" in one direction and almost 13" in the other (next two pictures). I choose to put the handles on the "short" sides. BTW this also gives you a good idea that you can accommodate a 10-11" boule, or two 12" batards side by side.

Put the hotel pan upside down and place a mark, near the edge at the halfway point (next photo). Do this same thing on the other side. Then at that mark, measure 4" up from the bottom and mark (next photo). This is where you will drill a hole for the knob.

The prevent the drill bit from slipping away, use the hammer and pun punch the "love-tap" to make a small dent on the mark (next two photos).

Use the step-drill bit to make a sufficient size hole for the screw (next photo). What you need to do here depends on the screw for the knobs you decide to buy and the specifics of your drill bit. Be sure to de-burr the drill holes.

No prepare the silicon gasket on the knob (next photo). This may be different for you depending on the knobs bought. Then place the "washer" over the screw and assemble (next photos). Tighten the screw well.

I have now baked several loaves, quite successfully, on the baking steel, hotel pan pre-heated for 10 minutes, 3 ice cubes added (which may not be necessary, have to try that next), and covered with this pan. The pan not being black seems to not be a problem. Ditto for stainless steel vs. aluminum. While covered, with the oven at 500F, I have never seen the temperature under the cover exceed 400F, so when the cover is removed, the loaf is still quite pale, but that gets "fixed" during the uncovered portion of the bake.

Based on these results I have ditched the DO as this gives me more freedom to choose loaf shape (batard and boule), and size. I also decided against purchasing the Challenger Bread pan for the same reason(s), and to save a lot of $$$. I also do not have to spritz the loaf or the oven and a pan with lava rocks and/or wet towels is not needed (to avoid risk of breaking the oven glass, which I did manage to do once in the past).

Hope this helps some of you assemble your own. Once you have parts and tools this takes a very moderate level of competence and about 20-30 minutes (measure twice, drill once!).

jo_en's picture

Your bread looks so well baked!!


These instructions are just what I needed !

My application is to put "handles" on my Winco pan that just fits inside my Zojirushi bread machine. The pan is easy to put in (there is just enough clearance from the walls of the baking chamber for heat to rise) but harder to take out when a loaf is finished baking and the pan is hot.

I am glad to see the Winco pans have another baking use!


GaryBishop's picture

And great instructions. I love hacks like this.

suave's picture

I've been using a half-size cover for more than a decade and have never thought it needs handles.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I've been thinking of doing the same ever since visiting a restaurant supply store in town. They have these pans in many sizes, and one will surely be a close fit for my baking stone. I was thinking of using a metal drawer pull on what would be the top of the pan, or the ends, but I like the dutch oven replacement knobs you used as they are meant for the oven. And I was planning to spray the outside black with BBQ grill paint available at a nearby Menards.

dolfs's picture

Of course, this can be used without handles and one could put a handle on top as well (make sure you have enough clearance in your baking setup).

I thought about painting, but I am leary of the paint option due to the potential for off-gassing unknown, possibly not food-safe, compounds at temperatures as high as used in baking. I am not saying there may not be a suitable paint around, I have not researched that enough.

barryvabeach's picture

Debra,  If you just want to get the outside of the pan darker, I would suggest you try seasoning it like you would a cast iron or carbon steel pan.  While BBQ paints are safe for the exterior of a grill, there is tons of air moving around a grill, I am not so sure it would be safe inside an oven.  

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

That might work :)

Precaud's picture

and there is noticeable offgassing on the first burn but not afterwards. I'm totally comfortable using the painted pans.

Floydm's picture

Welcome back, dolfs! And thanks for sharing this. 😀

Rock's picture

Thanks for the detailed instructions. Well done!


Marty's picture

I think it's a great idea. Love the handles. Need all the help I can get.