I received my brand new hand seasoned Challenger bread pan the other day. If you know me, you’ll know I regularly bake sourdough bread and I’ve been waiting for this pan for what feels like forever! I don’t like buying something unless I know it’s going to be worth the money, so admittedly I was somewhat nervous.
In my opinion, the Challenger bread pan is great value and definitely delivers in terms of bread results. You have the extra advantage of versatility in the types of breads you can make, along with space for ice cubes on the side for extra steam if needed.
I’m sure many of you are curious (like I was) about if it’s worth investing in this pan or not. The biggest question being….does it make better bread than a regular Dutch oven, and is it worth the investment? I decided to put it to the test…
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How I Tested the Challenger Bread Pan
I decided to make a fair comparison on how the Challenger bread pan does against my regular trusted Lodge 5qt which I bought from Amazon a while back (here’s a link to the one I bought).
The Lodge 5qt is an excellent choice for anyone on a budget who is looking for great bread results. Although it has served me well, I’ve now outgrown it and was on the lookout for something bigger and better. Enter the Challenger Bread pan…
I made one single dough using my beginner friendly sourdough recipe here, and split it in to two equal parts (weighed out of course so that its a fair and accurate test), and then baked one in my regular Dutch oven, and one in the Challenger bread pan to see if the results were any different.
It was shaped and put into equal sized proofing baskets, and I didn’t add any extra steam when baking in order to keep it fair. I baked each one with the lid on for 20 minutes, and then the lid off for 20 minutes.
Results of the Challenger Breadware Pan vs Lodge 5qt Dutch Oven
Here’s a photo of both breads when they came out of the oven…
As you can see from the pictures above, the results are very similar, but you can see that the the Challenger bread pan produced a slightly taller, more open crumb loaf. I suspect this was due to the shape of the pan over the loaf being able to retain more heat in the right places to produce the taller shape.
So, if you’re wondering if paying extra for this specific bread pan is going to give you better bread results, the answer is yes! The Challenger bread pan was able to retain steam for longer than the Lodge, making the bread grow for a little longer in the oven, hence giving a better results.
What’s more, is that due to the extra space you have, there is also an option to add some ice cubes into the pan when you place it in the oven (which I didn’t do in order to make the experiment fair), but this would give you an even better result.
But let’s take a look at some of the other features that both vessels offer ti get a better comparison…
Usability of Each Product
The Challenger bread pan weighs less than the Lodge, and has very strategically placed handles that make its usability far easier than the Lodge when it comes to bread baking.
It’s easier to place your dough into, and it’s also easier to take the lid off halfway through baking. And because it was easier to handle, it actually felt safer to use too.
Versatility of Each Product
The Challenger Bread pan is extremely versatile compared to the Lodge when it comes to the types of breads you are able to bake. On the other hand, it can’t cook anything BUT bread because it has a shallow base!
A regular Dutch oven can be used for many different meals, so this is something to consider before purchasing.
If you want something to use for bread ONLY, then the bread pan is a better choice. But if you want something you can use for other meals too, then maybe consider a regular Dutch oven.
I originally bought my Lodge Dutch oven exclusively for bread anyway, and I was on the lookout for something that was going to give me more choice in the type of bread I bake in it, and how many I can bake in one go.
I wanted to have the option of baking challah, batards, 2 smaller boules together, buns, all in one vessel, instead of having to find a different dish for each thing, or use steam and a baking stone, which isn’t as effective as my Dutch oven.
Note: If you’d like to learn how to make bread effectively without using the Dutch oven, check out my article here, where I show you 3 different methods to get a good oven spring without one.
So really, it depends what kind of versatility you are looking for. Do you need your Dutch oven for things other than breads, such as casseroles and stews? Or do you need it to make many different kinds of breads but NOT have the capacity to make other things?
This can help you decide on which is the better one for you.
Durability of Each Product
Although the Lodge feels more heavy duty than the challenger bread pan, both vessels are highly durable solid cast iron pans that will last longer than a lifetime. And they both also come pre-seasoned.
How the Challenger Bread Pan Performed Vs the Lodge 5qt
Here’s a table showing a summary of all the aspects of the two vessels compared to each other:
|Challenger Bread Pan||Lodge 5qt|
|Heat/Steam retention||Better than the Lodge 5qt||Excellent|
|Versatility||Can make different kinds of breads||Limited for bread but can be used for stews, casseroles, etc.|
|Performance||More open crumb, taller bread than the Lodge||Great bread but not as tall/open crumb as the Challenger Bread Pan|
Is the Challenger Bread Pan Worth the Money?
All things considered, the Challenger Bread Pan is worth buying if you are you are after the best results and you bake bread regularly.
You have the advantage of having space on the side to add ice cubes, which can give you a better oven spring. It makes better bread for the same amount of effort simply due to it’s well designed shape, and it’s also easier to use than the Lodge Dutch oven.
All in all, when you consider the superior bread results, the number of different styles of breads you can make in one vessel, and how much easier it is to handle when hot, (making it safer), then the Challenger Bread Pan is an excellent choice for the seasoned home bread baker.
However, if you want a Dutch oven that you are going to be using for other things, or you need something that is going to do a great job baking your bread for far less money, then the Lodge is a great choice. It just means you are limited to making boules or breads that are smaller in size and limited in shape.
In summary, the Lodge is a great value option for someone just starting their bread baking journey. The Challenger Bread Pan is a great ‘next step up’ once you know you’re into baking bread regularly.
Where can I get Hold of a Challenger Bread Pan?
The Challenger Bread Pan is available directly from the inventor, Jim Challengers website, here. The product is made in the US, hand seasoned and shipped for free within the US.
If you are outside of the US, they have special rates for shipping fees, which are very reasonable. I wholeheartedly recommend the Challenger Bread Pan if you want something that’s really going to give you better bread results.
Where Can I Get Hold of the Lodge 5qt?
For someone just starting out, or on a tight budget, you can’t beat the Lodge 5qt for making great boules. You can purchase it from Amazon here.