How To Tell If Bread Is Done

Do you need a thermometer to know when a loaf of bread is ready to come out of the oven?

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We sometimes advise checking the internal temperature of a loaf of bread before making the decision to pull it from the oven. A properly baked loaf typically registers a temperature between 195 and 210 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, depending upon the type of bread. But is internal temperature by itself proof that bread is fully baked? And how can you tell it’s done if you don’t have a thermometer handy?

The most reliable guide to doneness is simply how the bread looks. If it appears pale and underdone, it is. 

TESTING APPEARANCE VERSUS TEMPERATURE

To verify the value of appearance versus thermometer measurements, we placed temperature probes in the center of two loaves ofrustic Italian bread and monitored them as they baked. Halfway into the baking time, the internal temperature of the loaves had already passed 200 degrees, and they reached 210 degrees a full 15 minutes before the end of the recommended baking time. 

We pulled one loaf from the oven as soon as it neared 210 degrees and left the other in the oven for the recommended baking time. (The temperature of the longer-baked loaf never rose above 210, because the moisture it contains, even when fully baked, prevents it from going past the boiling point of water, or 212 degrees.) 

The differences between the two loaves were dramatic: The loaf removed early had a pale, soft crust and a gummy interior, while the loaf that baked the full hour had a nicely browned, crisp crust and a perfectly baked crumb.

THE TAKEAWAY

Internal temperature is less useful than appearance as a sign of a well-baked loaf.

We found that bread can reach the optimal temperature for doneness—210 degrees for the rustic Italian bread above—well before the loaf is actually baked through. You can take the temperature of your bread, but stick to the recommended baking time and make sure the crust has achieved the appropriate color before removing the loaf from the oven.

210 DEGREES BUT HALF BAKED

210 DEGREES BUT FULLY BAKED

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