If you let (bread) dough rise, the recipe always asks to cover it. Years ago, I read to cover it with a wet towel. Nowadays, I see more and more recipes that ask for plastic wrap (aka saran or cling wrap).

The towel lets air through, the wrap does not. What is the difference between the two in the end result? What is best to use and why?

I'm talking about the first as well as the second (proofing) rise. If there is a difference between the phases, please inform me.


9 Answers 9


The goal is to keep the surface of the bread from drying out.

A wet towel works fine but plastic wrap is cheaper and easier than constantly cleaning wet towels.

I have used both methods and haven't noticed a difference in the bread produced. In very dry climates, when I made bread with multiple rises I sometimes had to redampen the towel which was an added inconvenience.

Lately I have been proofing large batches of bread in a large stock pot and just use the lid of the pot as the only cover.

  • 3
    I'd like to add my opinion on using towels - multiple times I've had a problem using towels when fermenting / rising using sourdough - since it takes about 4 hours at its fastest, and as much as 8+ hours when fermenting at cold temps. The towel dries and after that the dough dries, creating an unpleasant skin. Using lightly misted plastic wrap instead is IMO much better. :)
    – Max
    Feb 21, 2012 at 19:23
  • 1
    Ah yes, I also let dough rise in a pot once but the recipe asked for plastic wrap, not the lid (but that was waffle dough, not bread dough).
    – Mien
    Feb 21, 2012 at 19:24

Put a serving plate over the bowl. Normal way up so it doesn't slide off and doesn't need washing. Easy!

A small amount of surface drying is not going to ruin a bread dough. Think of the millions of bread making machines out there, no plastic wrap required with them, just a reasonably fitting lid that stops air drafts, hence why the towel method worked fine

  • 3
    +1 it really has to dry out pretty significantly to do much harm.
    – rfusca
    Feb 22, 2012 at 3:48

A good alternative to either a towel (which you have to wash and is prone to sticking) or plastic wrap (which ain't cheap or good for the environment) is a clear plastic shower cap. It does the same job as plastic wrap, but is reusable. The elasticated edge stretches around even big bowls, providing a snug fit.


I work with quite wet doughs and bake in a moist environment, but

first rise - in a large Tupperware container, lid on but ajar at a corner to let gases escape.

second rise - simply dusted with flour.

No noticeable skinning at all or loss of oven spring.

  • Much the same process I use as well. I often dust with flour or cover loosely with a floured couche.
    – rfusca
    Feb 22, 2012 at 7:48

I've been letting my pizza dough rise in reusable plastic containers with plastic lids (I coat the bottom and sides of the containers with a bit of olive oil so that the dough doesn't stick). Seems to work just fine, and it's incredibly easy.


I just put a sheet of baking paper on top of the mixing bowl (in which I mixed the dough) and rest a wooden cutting board (which I used to knead the dough). I'll use the baking paper in the baking tin later, so nothing got wasted and there's no extra mess :)


Personally, I spray plastic wrap with oil, then use that. Doesn't stick, even with very high hydration doughs, and completely prevents the dough from drying.

Another method is to use a food-grade plastic bag. Tie it shut inflated with air (so it isn't touching the dough). The humidity in the bag will stay high enough to prevent drying, and since the dough doesn't touch the bag, the bag stays clean and can be re-used.

The food-safe bag is the most environmentally friendly (washing cloths isn't so environmentally friendly).

  • You put the wrap on top of the dough, not on top of the bowl?
    – Mien
    Feb 21, 2012 at 21:54
  • @Mien when its doing its second rise, I put it on top of the dough (because its not in a bowl anymore). When its in a bowl, I put it atop the bowl.
    – derobert
    Feb 22, 2012 at 1:08

I use shower caps especially kept for this purpose and just lightly oil the inside of them. Either normal ones or the thin, clear sort you get in hotels work fine and saves the hassle and waste of clingfilm.


I prefer not to introduce plastic into my baking where feasible. I spend time and money and love on baking, using nice organic flours and all natural ingedients, and the plastic shower cap, although very effective, makes me think there are unhealthy hydrocarbons dripping on to the lovely dough. I vote for clean white flour sack lint free tea towels, dampened aNd even re dampened if needed. I like the dinner plate over the bowl technique too.

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