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Jun 6, 2008 11:17 AM

lye vs. baking soda for homemade pretzels

I want to make homemade pretzels, and my recipe calls for the lye bath. My beloved Alton Brown suggests baking soda instead. I like this idea, because I have it on hand. Does it work as well? Where does one buy lye? At the hardware store?


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  1. Actually I recall that Brown wanted to advocate lye but sort of legally had to nix it in favor of baking soda. I guess the network lawyers told him that there just wasn't enough time in a day, let alone a half hour to present enough warnings about the hazards to cover their legal butts.
    Neither here nor there..........sorry, I don't know how effective the soda method is and aside from drano, I don't know a source for lye. Good luck.

    1. I searched for possible sources of lye to make pretzels, and it seems that you can make a great product w/o the hassle of lye.

      1. As far as I know lye is an extremely caustic, and dangerous substance. Nothing that an amature should be using. Long, long ago you used to be able to buy it in a supermarket, from the same shelf that had Draino and household cleaners. My mom used to buy it to make homemade laundry soap.

        Here are a couple of webs that might be of interest:

        1. For fresh pretzels, baking soda is not alkaline enough to get the real crust. For pretzels that are going to be be completely dried hard, it makes less of a difference.

          For a primer on making pretzels in the Swabian manner:

          1. I tried making them a while ago and used baking soda. They where a slimy mess and I've given up.

            there was a thread a bit ago regarding your question, but my seach didn't bring it up.

            Here's another one though:


            hope it helps some.