Skip to Content

How to Get an Ear on Sourdough?

There is nothing better in all the world than the smell of freshly baked homemade bread, especially sourdough bread. Tearing into that crusty, but crunchy fold on top — absolutely glorious. But how do we get that crusty, crunchy, glorious flap, or ear as it’s called? 

There are six key factors in getting a great ear on sourdough bread. They are. . .

  • Build tension on top of the bread when shaping the dough.
  • Proofing.
  • Scoring the dough with something sharp.
  • The slashing technique you use when scoring.
  • When placing your dough into the oven, place it onto something hot.
  • Steam gives the dough time to open up.

With practice and a few good tips, you can master it easily and quickly. Impress friends, colleagues, or clients with a loaf of beautifully eared sourdough bread.

Why does my sourdough loaf have no ear?

A few factors could contribute to the fact that your sourdough loaf has no ear. The main factor is often the lack of moisture in the oven itself. When this happens the outside of the bread cooks faster. As the bread expands, the air is sealed in and the bread doesn’t get the spring it needs.

Make sure you always spray the sourdough before you put it into the oven. 

Spray the oven inside with water as your sourdough goes in.

You can try putting a metal tray filled with water on the shelf below the hot stone. Leave it in the oven for about ten minutes before you put the dough in. Then twenty minutes after you put the dough in, remove it.

Another factor that contributes towards your sourdough loaf having no ear is your ‘scoring’ of the sourdough, or lack of it. Cut a slash into the surface of the sourdough before baking. This is called scoring the dough.

What can I use to score sourdough bread?

When scoring sourdough bread the use of a very sharp knife is paramount. Use a small, sharp knife, a razor blade or Stanley knife, or if you’re lucky enough to have one, a bread lame to slash your proofed and shaped bread. Instead of your bread bursting at its seams, the bread will now expand where you’ve scored it. But note, once you score your bread place it straight into the hot oven.

When you score sourdough bread with a straight blade, make sure you do so at a ninety-degree angle to the dough. You’ll need to score slightly deeper than if you were using a curved blade.

Once done you’ll notice the dough relax and open outward.

How deep should you score your sourdough to get a great ear? 

Ideally, when scoring, your cut needs to be somewhere between ¼” and ½” deep. The cut must be deep enough so that the dough doesn’t fuse back together. Whether you use a sharp knife, blade, or bread lame you don’t have to press hard into the dough; relax your hand when making your cut, or cuts.

Scoring a sourdough boule ear

Scoring a sourdough boule ear is no different from scoring any other type of sourdough loaf. But remember to use the sharpest knife or razor when scoring to get the best results.

How do you score a sourdough ear?

If your dough is still a little wet and sticky the cut you make should be slightly shallower than one you’d make in a dryer dough. The angle you make your cut will determine how the loaf will open up.

Note: If you need more tips on how to score your bread, check out my article “How to Score Bread Dough: Full Guide

What happens if you don’t score sourdough? 

Not scoring your dough will have your sourdough bread loaf cracking in strange places. This is because the gasses in the bread are trying to get out. They get out, and not always where you’d like them to. Just one good slash will prevent this from happening.

Why do you want an ear on sourdough?

There are two main reasons for wanting an ear on your sourdough loaf.

Aesthetics: There is a saying within the baking fraternity, ‘we feast with our eyes first’ how true this is. And of course, there is nothing more scrumptious than tucking into a freshly baked sourdough loaf with a great ear.

Maximum Rise: By scoring your sourdough bread you give it the first crack towards the most rise possible, which in turn, forms the ear itself. The way you score your dough will determine this. 

How to make sure you always get a sourdough ear?

For a perfect ear on your sourdough bread loaf score your bread correctly

Four, very simple reminders to do and remember 

  • Create surface tension on your dough through the kneading and shaping process.
  • Score correctly to form a sourdough ear
  • Make sure your dough still has spring by checking it while kneading and shaping
  • Steam your dough, and the oven in which you place it

My sourdough ear is not lifting, why?

This can sometimes be attributed to the weather. If you’re baking in the winter months, and your dough is cold, use a little warm water during the mixing phase; this will boost the rising process. Otherwise, tepid water should always be used for great results.

My sourdough ear is too big

I love a big sourdough ear; however, if you want to tone it down, check your scoring techniques, and the dough’s hydration levels. Sometimes changing one, or both will help. 

Try upping your hydration level by ten percent and the ear won’t be as large as before.

Tips on getting great sourdough ears

  • Make sure that the blade you use is very sharp and thin. If you can, invest in a good bread lame. A quality tomato knife works just as well, especially if your sourdough’s inside a Dutch oven.
  • Use a spray bottle filled with water to spray your sourdough and the inside of your oven. This will create the moisture needed to produce a great sourdough ear.
  • If you continue to struggle it may be because your dough is warm. Dough that’s at room temperature is a lot harder to score than cold dough. Cold dough is a lot stiffer and is easier to cut.
  • If you find it difficult to get a good angle to score your dough, it could be because your dough is too stretchy and sticky. Re-shape and pop it in the fridge for a while then try again.

 After all of this, and still no ears

If you’re still struggling to get a good ear on your sourdough loaf, try considering these two areas.

The Rise: you need to make sure that your sourdough is not over, or under-proofed. Check that you followed the recipe. Check that you’re proofing with the right temperature, and most importantly, the correct dough mixture.

Note: To make sure your sourdough is perfectly proofed, read my article “4 Signs Your Sourdough has Finished Proofing

Make sure that your oven is piping hot. That initial burst of heat will make that ear curl up off the dough.

Moisture: With everything written about the sourdough ear, surface moisture is probably the most important factor in the bake. We cannot overstate this fact. It helps the crust remain pliable longer during the bake, which in turn allows the ear to fully develop.


In mastering the sourdough ear — practice . . .

  • The art of building tension while shaping your dough
  • Check your proofing
  • Learn different scoring techniques
  • Make sure your oven is piping hot


  • Check that your sourdough is moist, and your oven is well steamed.

Hi, I’m Aysha

I love spending time making the most helpful content I can so you can become a better sourdough baker.

If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve learned, consider saying “Thanks!” by leaving me a tip here. I appreciate your kindness and support 🙂