A refractory material is a non-metallic material that doesn't lose strength when exposed to heat. Most refractories are ceramics and are manufactured as bricks or tiles, and are widely used in furnaces and kilns. For thousands of years before iron and steel came to be used in oven manufacture, bread ovens were made from refractory bricks that could withstand the high temperatures necessary for baking. Some enthusiasts still build and use masonry bread ovens, and a few commercial bakeries also employ them, including the famous Poilâne bakery in Paris.

Want to find out more? Look at the chapter on baking in the book flour and water.

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