Bread—we all love it and especially appreciate it when it’s fresh from the oven. But other than fresh made loaves at a local bakery, most of us settled for the plastic wrapped loaves at the grocery store. The truth is, making your own bread at home—even gluten-free loaves—is easier than you think, thanks to high-tech bread machines.
You see, making homemade bread is something special, in my opinion. My husband grew up in a household where a fresh loaf was baked daily, so once I got married, I knew mastering breadmaking was something I needed to do, stat. And the truth is, it’s actually an enjoyable process to knead and bake. Not only do you know all the ingredients that go into your bread, but it also makes for quite an impressive addition to a dinner party.
While I don’t typically make bread with a bread maker, I found that using one of these nifty machines actually took the guesswork out of the equation. Breville Custom Loaf BBM800XL(available at Amazon for $299.95) was the best bread machine we tested because it consistently produced a nicely shaped loaf with a crunchy crust and soft, pillowy inside. Plus, the machine was so easy to use.
And those on a budget will be pleased with results from the Oster Expressbake CKSTBRTW20 (available at Amazon) , our choice for Best Value.
Here are the best bread machines we tested, ranked in order:
Breville Custom Loaf BBM800XL
Oster Expressbake CKSTBRTW20
Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus BB-PDC20
Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29881
Breadman Professional BK1050S
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After making five impressive loaves and a perfectly pliable pizza dough, Breville Custom Loaf was the clear winner amongst the tested machines. From crunchy crust on white and whole wheat bread loaves to a super soft interior in a gluten-free version, this stainless steel machine surely impressed.
There are nine custom settings, which makes it a no-brainer for users to make a variety of bread types without much effort. I also found that the kneading blade seemed to be the most durable of all the bread makers with one paddle. It also has a smart feature that collapses the blade before baking, so it doesn’t get stuck in the loaf as it cooks.
Another feature that bread lovers will find useful is the automatic fruit and nut dispenser. Of course, you can put other mix-ins inside this compartment, but it dispenses your added ingredients at the best time to be evenly distributed throughout the dough.
As for usability, the LCD display was pretty much self-explanatory so I didn’t even have to read the instructions before making my first loaf. I also found that the Breville properly kneaded all of the doughs until soft, smooth, and elastic. With other machines, I had to manually scrape the sides to ensure the dough came together in a perfect ball.
What really set this apart from the other machines is the result of the gluten-free loaf. Most of the machines struggled in this department, but the Breville was practically perfect and developed a crusty exterior and a super soft interior.
The only major setback of this bread maker was the inconsistency in the loaf top. Even though the dough was super soft and pliable, over half of the loaves came out with lumpy tops. A lumpy top won’t change taste, but it does make a difference in presentation.
The other downside is the size of the machine. Living in a one-bedroom apartment with a galley kitchen, there isn’t much space in my house to store it. However, if you plan to make bread once or twice a week, you could store it in a cupboard or closet until you’re ready.
One of the inconveniences of breadmaking is the amount of time it takes to make the dough, proof it (sometimes twice), and bake it. It can take a few hours just to get fresh bread on the table, which requires a lot of planning ahead.
If you aren’t quite a planner, or you just have limited patience, this Expressbake is the one for you. You can have a freshly baked loaf of bread in less than an hour.
Not to mention, it comes at a much lower price tag, plus a viewing window to watch your baking in progress. In fact, this express machine is less than half the price of some of the other machines we tested.
The loaves I made with the Expressbake weren’t the prettiest amongst the bunch, but they were still edible and had a proper crunchy crust and fluffy middle. Instead of a rectangle-shaped loaf, expect a rounded, artisan-like shape from this maker.
Personally, I didn’t consider this a concern, but it did come to mind that it may be an issue for someone hoping to feed a large family. This machine also did not have a gluten-free setting, so if you are avoiding gluten, this may not be the machine for you.
I'm Andrea Jordan, a lifestyle writer who loves to write about all things beauty, home, food, and family. My love for homemade bread comes from my mother-in-law. She is a mom to seven children and made a loaf of bread at least once a day. Her trick to feeding many mouths and using a bread maker is to let the machine do the work with mixing, kneading, and rising the dough, and then take the dough out of the machine and allow it to bake in a bread pan. A bit more complicated, but it’s a solid option for someone feeding a multitude.
I’m no bread expert, but I have been making bread for a few years now. Although I have used bread makers in the past, my go-to machine for whipping up a fresh loaf is my handy-dandy KitchenAid mixer.
While it’s the easiest for me, I realize that bread makers are better fit for bread beginners or those who aren’t particularly familiar with working with dough. I wanted to test bread machines to help reveal which are actually worth the investment for at-home bakers looking to develop their breadmaking skills.
Before the testing began, we did thorough research to see which bread machines have won over the hearts of reviewers and notable editorial websites. Once we narrowed down the top machines, we made five loaves of bread in each varying in type, size, and crust color. We wanted to make sure that each machine could perform in a variety of categories including white bread, whole-wheat bread, gluten-free bread, and sweet breads. Once these loaves were complete, we put the top three machines to the test with creating a pizza dough.
In addition to the actual bread, we looked at how each machine functioned, the ease of cleaning, and additional features that make it more user-friendly.
What You Should Know About Bread Machines
Bread makers aren’t new inventions. The first machine was invented in Japan in 1986 and quickly became one of the most popular kitchen appliances over the next few years, making bread baking more convenient and self-explanatory than ever before.
How Do Bread Machines Work?
Here’s exactly how bread machines work: Add ingredients into the bread maker pan, press a button, and the machine begins to mix the ingredients for you. Once the ingredients are properly mixed, the machine kneads the dough and lets it rise. Once the dough has risen and rested, that same pan turns into a mini oven and bakes the dough into a loaf shape.
And as with all things technology, the 21st-century bread maker does a whole lot more than make bread. Some have features to make jams, pizza dough, and even pasta. Settings include choosing the loaf size and weight of your bread, and there are even crust settings that allow you to choose the crust color. Consider it a bakery at the touch of your fingertips.
Can Bread Machines Help You Save Money?
On average, you can expect to pay $100 to $300 dollars for a bread maker. While this is a large investment up front, if you find yourself making and consuming bread regularly it can help to save you money in the long run.
On average, a loaf of bread at the grocery store costs about $4, but making a loaf of bread in the bread machine can cost less than $1, if using basic ingredients.
Is it Healthier to Bake Bread at Home?
The other benefit of using a bread machine is controlling what ingredients go into your bread. Since you’re making this at home, you can eliminate preservatives, added sugar, and processed ingredients. Of course, this means your bread won’t have as long of a shelf life as store-bought bread, but the nutrition and flavor can be much more impressive.
Other Breadmakers We Tested
Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus BB-PDC20
Even though this machine didn’t earn top marks, it was still one of the most impressive units we tested. The best feature is the double kneading blades that thoroughly mixed ingredients and made a soft, pliable, and stretchy dough.
Overall, the shape of the loaf with this machine was the most consistent amongst the bread makers tested, leaving each loaf with a nice rounded top like what we’re used to seeing in the grocery store aisles.
The major downside is that this machine has a rest mode that allows all the ingredients to be warmed to the right temperature before mixing and kneading begins. On one hand, this is a nice feature and surely impacts the final results of the bread, but it did take about 45-60 minutes longer than the other machines to get the end of the cycle. This means you’ll have to plan ahead even more if working within a specific time frame or schedule.
This bread maker has all the features you want if you’re whipping up a basic loaf of bread, and it performed well on all of the tests—except gluten-free. Of all the bread makers, this HomeBaker machine had the best crust color in each of the categories, producing light, crunchy crust on the light cycle and a deep brown, crunchy crust on the dark cycle.
The main frustration with this machine is that the kneading paddle was baked into the middle of the loaf during each test. This meant that with each loaf, I had to cut the bread in half to remove the paddle before serving. It also leaves a deep hole in the middle of the loaf. This can be quite inconvenient if you’re looking to serve a crowd.
This machine had an impressive variety of features that can come in handy for a baker that likes to experiment with different bread recipes. Of course, it includes the basic white and whole wheat modes, but there are also modes for French bread, low-carb bread, and even artisan dough.
Another great feature is the automatic fruit and nut dispenser that adds mix-in ingredients at the perfect time to be evenly dispersed throughout the dough before baking.
The biggest downfall with this machine was the inconsistency in the shape. One white loaf had a slightly sunken top, while the whole wheat top was scraggly and uneven.
There’s something to say about the ease of this compact, automatic bread maker that made it super simple to program and bake a loaf of bread. We also found this machine to be perfectly sized and sleek enough to sit on the counter top without looking fussy.
The audible tone that alerts users to remove the paddle before bread baking begins is one of the most helpful features. This helps to avoid that paddle getting baked into the middle of the loaf or allows users to remove the dough and shape into their very own loaf pan to bake in the oven.
Unfortunately, this machine underperformed on the gluten-free setting. The dough turned into a bubbling liquid that completely overflowed the baking pan and caused smoke and an unpleasant burning smell that didn’t occur during other bakes.
This bread maker was the cheapest of the bunch and doesn’t come with any of the bells and whistles that the other machines do. It’s also relatively compact and lightweight, which made it easy to move around and store away if needed.
The downfall of this machine is every loaf tested was baked with a sunken top. For someone who wants to serve bread to family or guests, that’s not exactly the end goal.
The other issue with this bread maker is the crust color was the same no matter which setting was programmed. Overall, it was relatively disappointing, but could be a good option for someone who wants to test out a bread maker without breaking the bank.
Andrea Jordan is a lifestyle writer who loves to write about all things beauty, home, food and family. Her work has also appeared on InStyle, Real Simple, Oprah Mag, TODAY.com, and Allure. When she's not writing or testing new products, you can find her cuddled up with her husband and cat while playing a board game.
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