9 Best Proofing Basket Alternatives

Many home bakers who are interested in making sourdough bread don’t have a proofing basket, aka a banneton or brotform basket. So, what are the suitable best proofing basket alternatives?

These unique baskets are used by professional bakers and serious home bakers alike but they aren’t necessary if you want to get started baking tasty homemade bread. You can make excellent sourdough without a proofing basket. I do it all the time.

Proofing baskets are also called bannetons, or brotforms in German. They are normally round, with a flat base and slanted sides.

Sizes range from mini size to extra-large. They can be made of plastic, cane, or cloth to allow you to choose the one that suits your needs and preference.

If you look at the bottom of your loaf of bread and see the imprint of a web, the bread was baked inside a proofing basket.

You don’t need a proofing basket to make delicious sourdough bread. Many alternative methods will give you just as good of results as using a proofing basket.

These include;

  • Bowl
  • Colander
  • A cloth
  • Plastic container
  • Wok
  • Baking tray
  • Wicker basket
  • Ricotta basket
  • Terracotta pot

What Is Proofing?

Proofing refers to the step of allowing the dough to rest and rise before baking and for leavening to happen. When proofing, the yeast starts to ferment and in return produces gases that force the bread to rise and give your final product an airy quality.

Why Proof My Dough?

Proofing dough ensures that you get the perfect outcome of bread when baking, therefore, if you neglect this step, you might end up with low-quality bread.

Lack of proofing will make your bread to be flatter, denser, and less flavorful since the yeast in the dough didn’t release carbon dioxide thus resulting in no air pockets.

You should note that over-proofing your dough will make the bread collapse due to the air bubbles popping thus resulting in heavier bread.

9 Best Proofing Basket Alternatives

1. A Bowl

You can use a bowl instead of a proofing basket, but the crust will be very different. Without a basket, your sourdough bread will have the sort of crust you see on a la cloche-style bread, with a more irregular shape and a thicker crust.

If that’s what you are looking for, then by all means go for it. But if you want the classic sourdough ridge, then you need to use a proofing basket.

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Choose a bowl that’s wide enough to accommodate your dough and deep enough to cover it.

You can either use plastic, ceramic, or wooden and bamboo bowls to proof bread. Avoid using metal bowls since their coldness can interfere with the fermentation process.

To use a bowl in place of the proofing basket, clean the bowl with hot water and mild detergent and rinse thoroughly before using it. When the dough is ready to rise (or proof), place it in the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and put it in a warm place for about two hours.

When the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl, knead it briefly on a floured surface, form a loaf, and bake as indicated in your recipe.

You can use this technique for any type of bread including sourdough, but if you’re baking sourdough frequently, consider investing in a proofing basket to get that artisan-like look and feel.

2. Colander

Another possible alternative for proofing the basket is a colander due to its holes. The holes ensure perfect airflow for drying the outer layer of the dough to give your bread a perfectly crispy crust.

A colander is much cheaper than a proofing basket and is also versatile thus making it a perfect substitute for a proofing basket. You can use a metal or a plastic colander.

To prevent your dough from sticking to your colander, line it with a floured cloth and you are good to go.

3. A Cloth

If you don’t have a proofing basket, use a heavy cloth instead if you are not baking a round-shaped bread since a cloth won’t give your dough a round shape but the results will be amazing.

In this case, use whatever thick cloth you have or if you have the thick cloth known as a baker’s couch, you can still use it to rise the dough.

When using a cloth, first flour it before placing your dough to prevent your dough from sticking.

For perfect proofing and shaping of your dough using a heavy cloth, make waves or folds and place the dough in between them. This will allow the cloth to maintain its shape while the dough rises.

What I love most about using a cloth as a proofing basket alternative is that it absorbs the excess moisture from the bread to give it a nice crust.

4. Plastic Container

Although most people don’t like the idea of using plastic containers in place of proofing baskets because they won’t give you a perfectly round shape, it’s still a great alternative if you don’t mind the shape.

Most people have plastic containers in their kitchens of different shapes and sizes thus making it a readily available alternative.

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When using plastic containers instead of the yeast basket, be sure to choose the perfect size for your dough. Don’t go for a container that is too big or too small for your dough.

To prevent your dough from sticking, oil your container or use a floured towel or cloth to line your container.

5. Baking Tray

A baking tray can also make a great substitute for a proofing basket but it should have enough height on both sides to allow your dough to rise perfectly.

Baking trays can be challenging to use as a proofing basket alternative but they will be great if used the right way. For instance, if your baking tray is bigger than needed, use kitchen towels to solve this problem.

In this case, fold the towels and place them in the baking tray to create your desired space and shape for your dough.

To prevent sticking flour the towel and then place your dough and cover the tray and the folded towels with a kitchen towel.

6. Wok

Using a wok in place of a proofing basket may sound crazy but trust me it will work perfectly well when used to proof dough and will also give your dough the desired shape.

To use a wok in place of a proofing basket, make sure that your wok has tall sides and it’s not too big for the size of your dough and there you have your desired results.

However, the dough and the metal of your wok may react causing unwanted results therefore you should line your work with a towel before placing your dough into it.

7. Wicker Basket

Another perfect alternative for proofing a basket is a wicker basket due to its availability. Most people will have an older or a new wicker basket in their kitchen and it will perfectly work in place of a proof basket.

If you have an old wicker basket, clean it and line it with a towel when proofing your dough. On the other hand, if you have a brand new wicker basket and you intend to use it without a towel, make sure its material is food-safe.

8. Ricotta basket

A ricotta basket can make a great proofing basket alternative if you don’t have a proofing basket at hand.

Ricotta baskets are commonly found in two different sizes which are 500g and 1kg. For perfect results, use the 500gone since the 1kg one tends to cause the dough spread out too much.

When using a ricotta basket in place of a proofing basket use a thin cloth to line it and flour it to prevent the dough from sticking.

9. Terracotta Pot

Although this idea may seem crazy to many people, you can use a terracotta pot in place of a proofing basket but you’ll have to be careful since some terracotta pots contain chemicals that may be not favorable for bread dough.

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To prevent these chemicals from coming into contact with your dough, ensure to line your Terracotta pot with a cloth or a kitchen towel.

NOTE: Don’t use a terracotta pot to bake your bread as chemicals from the pot can be transferred to your bread.


Do you need a proofing basket?

No, you don’t need a yeast basket to make good homemade sourdough bread. But they do make life easier and bread look prettier. Plus it’s fun to collect different sizes and shapes of baskets so your bread never looks the same twice.

You only need a proofing basket if you want your bread to have that classic sourdough ridge. There are several interesting baskets available, though they may be difficult to find in stores.

The two most popular among bakers are bannetons and brotforms (aka brotformen). Bannetons come in handy when baking round loaves, while brotforms are ideal for long loaves.

Is It Ok To Use Parchment Paper To Line My Proofing Basket Or Bowl?

Parchment paper is not recommended for lining proofing baskets or bowls and you should try to avoid it if possible.

When you use parchment paper to line your proofing basket or bowl, it tends to soak up water from the dough and will not let your dough breathe thus giving you undesired results.

Can I Use Oil Instead Of Cloth?

Yes, you can. Oil can be used instead of cloth since it will also prevent your dough from sticking to your bowl or proofing basket just like cloth does. One limitation of using oil is that it does not allow moisture to be wicked away from the dough and can also cause problems when flipping the dough out of your shaping container.

What’s The Best Flour To Use To Prevent Sticking?

The best flour to use to prevent your dough from sticking to your proofing basket or other alternatives is rice flour since it’s gluten-free. This means that it will not adhere to the gluten in your dough.

You can use other flour such as cornmeal or semolina.


A proofing basket is a key item when it comes to bread baking but if you don’t have it at hand you can try the above alternatives and you’ll never go wrong.

The above alternatives work differently when used in place of a proofing basket therefore you should be keen when using any of the above alternatives to get the desired results.

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