Choosing The Best Bread Machine For Home Use
I’m not going to try and convince you to buy any particular bread machine or to have one at all, other than to say it’s the most satisfying feeling to put a fresh warm wholesome home baked loaf out for the family (and you) to get stuck into.
What I will do is run through the best bread machine in each price group (cheap, in the middle, expensive), so you’ve got a baseline of ideas to start from and a good idea of which offers what.
By the way, all homemade bread carries a warning – home baked loaves, all warm and aromatic are totally impossible to resist, and you won’t be able to stop yourself cutting a slice, any more than I can!
That said, lets have a look-see at what’s on offer, no matter what you budget.
A Word To The Wise
In my opinion, just about every bread machine on the market is okay and will do the job you want it too. Whether you spend $60 or $260 you are going to absolutely love the loaves of bread that come out, because all of these mini bakeries have been around for a while now and got the basics pretty much sorted.
The main difference – and what you pay more for, is the features on a more sophisticated model because of the flexibility and convenience these offer. Any plain white or wholemeal loaf will taste more or less the same whichever you use – honestly, it will.
Those features are matters of convenience and variety not taste – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I promise you’ll influence the flavor and lightness in a loaf far more by using different flours, than any changes you’ll make using different machines.
I know several people who have been put off getting one at all because they couldn’t afford, or didn’t want a top of the range Zojirushi and were convinced cheaper bread machines would turn out heavy inferior tasting bread, which is a real shame – particularly as it isn’t true.
What Do I Mean By Sophisticated Features?
Basic bread makers make basic loaves, usually wholemeal or white, sometimes you can choose between a pale, medium or dark crust and most of them will bake at least two sizes of loaf. Some at the upper end of inexpensive have a timer delay option, but not all so check carefully.
They also offer the time delay allowing you to set the ingredients in the machine and go to bed and wake to heavenly scents. One feature I’d strongly recommend to you is the ‘Rapid 2 Hour Bake’ offered by many of these machines.
Being able to bake a loaf in less than two hours is one heck of an advantage, particularly when you forget to put it on early enough to make packed lunches unless you can do a rapid bake loaf – the loaf tastes pretty much the same but won’t rise quite as high and can be a little more heavy in texture, easier to slice though!
The most expensive bread machines like a Zojirushi have an ace up their sleeve which extends bread options much further. They have separate pockets to hold dry ingredients like fruit, cheese, sundried tomatoes or maybe herbs and these pockets then release the contents into the dough at the correct time for perfect results.
Sadly, putting sun dried tomatoes or sultanas in at the start of a cycle results in them being pulverized into the mix and not retaining any solid bits – I tried it once with the dried tomatoes, the loaf came out a sort of pinkish shade with smears of red, it tasted okay though! And that in a nutshell is what you pay extra for, the fancy gourmet bread options, flexibility in timings and high quality parts, plus usually a longer warranty.
The Beeping Bread Machine!
A quick word about beeps and how loud you want them – it matters to some people and not others. Take the Cuisinart below, an all round good well made appliance – with very loud beeping at certain points in the baking cycle.
The beeps are loud enough to wake people upstairs with the doors shut, a friend sent one back because you can’t turn it down or off, the only place they couldn’t hear it was in the garage. Others are so discreet that you can’t hear them and need a kitchen timer as back up – the Panasonic I have is a very polite, subtle beeper.
How Can You Choose?
Decide what you think you want from the machine and which features (like the timer) will be important to you as a family. That, plus how much you want to spend will narrow down the options a bit. I would always get a machine with a dough only setting, because artisan breads are open to you, so easy to finish baking in the oven you can enjoy bread from around the world at your table every day.
By the way, if you are interested in hand baking artisan bread, here’s a link to Paul Hollands bakery site, where you’ll find a few really cool recipes including for an easy cob loaf and some heavenly baguetts. He’s a British baker and a real hit with bread fans everywhere – don’t you just love satellite TV?
Listen, passionate cooks are more likely to get a machine and use it every day for as long as it lasts, those busy professional city folks who visit the kitchen for juice and toast, otherwise eating out a lot, probably won’t get their moneys worth out of a very sophisticated machine, but being working people, will want the convenience of a timer option.
It would be very easy for me to say buy the best bread machine you can afford, but in this case it doesn’t necessarily work that way, a better way to go is to get something that will do everything you want it to.
I’ve picked out the models below as a selection representing (in my opinion) great value for your money. I’m not into ripping pages of specifications from Amazon, so have given you the bare bones of their functions and features, anything you like the look of enough to buy, you’ll no doubt read the reviews.
But remember, each and every one of them will turn out great tasting bread, you don’t need to spend a weeks wages and if you don’t like these there are loads more to choose from. The prices were correct on the date of publication – but check.
The Best Bread Machine – Budget Options
Oster 2lb Expressbake Breadmaker
At just under $59 the Oster is probably the best buy of the lot. Hovering around the bestsellers slot on Amazon for bread machines, you can see why – there are a lot of features for a comparatively low price.
Baking options include Quick, Basic, Whole Wheat, Sweet, Plain Dough, French, European and Bagel dough, enough to keep most people happy.
It also has a delay timer and beeps to alert you when you need to add fruit etc.
What it doesn’t do is automatically add the extra ingredients, you must do that manually.
If I was looking for a budget machine and didn’t expect it to work as hard as mine does, I’d have this one in a heartbeat, the reviews are really very good too.
West Bend 2 Lb. Breadmaker
They both have a similar footprint size on the counter, but are a slightly different shape and sometimes that’s the clincher!
At $59 it also gets great reviews – as I said, this may come down to the one you like the look of most!
Sunbeam 2 Pound Programmable Breadmaker
You also have three different crust selections – light, medium, and dark plus up to a 13 hour delay on the timer. No one on the reviews mentions beeping one way or the other…
With more than 1000 reviews this is obviously popular, but I can’t see why you’d pay extra over either the West Bend or Oster.
Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29881 2 lb
Hamilton Beach are a good make and produce reliable kitchen appliances. However, it lacks one major thing in my book – a delay timer for overnight baking, though there is a beep and delay for you to manually add fruit etc during the baking cycle.
My advice despite the fact I like Hamilton Beach appliances, is to leave this one alone.
For an extra $10 you can have the timer, please believe me there are times you need to bake overnight and times you want to, just so you can come down on a bitter cold winter morning to the awesome smell of bread cooking.
Best Bread Machines – Medium Priced
Cuisinart CBK 100 2 Pound Programmable Breadmaker
This is the beeping bread maker!
A quality machine in every way, like the others, it is not fully automated and beeps throughout the cycle to let you know when to add raisins or nuts etc, it also beeps 15 times when the baking cycle is finished – no missing this one then.
Cuisinart is a great make and I have the rotisserie oven, but for the money even considering the reduction from $185 to $99 I think an over-loud persistent beeping would get the better of my family sooner or later and doubtless wake my noisy little greyhound into barking every time – let sleeping dogs lie I say!
Jostling for the position of No 1 best seller on Amazons bread machine list is the latest and most popular model from Panasonic – but I’ll be honest, I’m not sure why.
Costing $150 is the SD YD250 Automatic Bread Maker has a function to add yeast at the appropriate time, though you still need to add the fruit, nuts and dried tomatoes manually – the program beeps to tell you when.
With bread machines the instruction has always been to add the yeast before anything else, so I can’t say this is a particularly stunning feature – I reckon for another $23 the SD RD250 is a better bet.
Panasonic SD RD250 Bread Maker with Automatic Fruit & Nut Dispenser ($173)
The Panasonic with an automatic dispenser for extras is the more expensive modern equivalent of the one I currently have, mine does automatically add fruit and other ingredients, but you have to add the yeast in at the start yourself.
Panasonic has a reputation for producing top quality home bread machines, which have managed to automate the whole process and this one certainly does.
In short you measure or weight the ingredients and set the cycle you want, then walk away as everything else is taken care of – some of the loaves must be oven baked, but the hard work of kneading and proving are done, just shape the dough and bake.
You can get three loaf sizes and three crust options of light, medium and dark, there are multiple settings for different artisan bread types like Brioche, Pizza base, Ciabatta, wholemeal, mixed grain and plenty of others to choose from.
Actually, this machine has a setting for mostly anything you want to try – it even bakes your cakes! I’ve made a banana cake, carrot cake, chocolate brownies and several fruit tea loaves, all of which cooked beautifully.
What I know about these Panasonic’s is that they are quiet, have a great rapid bake option and will deal with any kind of bread dough you want to make, there is a variety of crust options including on the rapid bake cycle, (to be clear, the rapid bake cycle is not available on the timer option). If money is not a consideration for you here, I’d nudge you towards this one simply because I know it makes awesome bread and great cakes too.
The Best Bread Machines You Can Buy – Top Price Category
Zojirushi BB PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker
Top of the range and expensive for a home bread machine, the whole Zojirushi brand seems aimed at people who like all the programs available to them plus the ability to work manually with their own recipes – this one fits the bill perfectly.
In addition to a range of Artisan breads you can also use the machine to make meatloaf, jams, cakes and a range of other food including pickles.
This is almost a bakery in itself and it’s easy to see why it sells so well. Would I buy it? Yes, this model is superb and offers completely customizable bread, fully automated operation and plenty of other cookery options.
Equally if I only had $60 I really would be happy with one of the cheaper choices, just so long as I can make my own bread!
If you’ve had your appetite whetted, do read plenty of reviews, check the warranty length and availability of a spare pan and paddle. Then sit back and wait for it to arrive, when you can make the best tasting bread you’ve had for years, and then bake another loaf for breakfast!
If you go ahead and get yourself a bread machine, you might also like the post on bread slicing guides for homemade bread and the post on how to cut a loaf of freshly made bread – there are some helpful hints and tips.
There aren’t any bread recipes here, each bread machine is different and it’s best to follow the book provided until you get a feel for baking bread, then you can begin to experiment. I do hand bake more specialist loaves when time allows and probably more in the winter to have with soups – but the dough is usually produced with the machine.
Bread Machine Recipe Books
However, because you’ve emailed and asked, these are two bread making books I have and use regularly both at school and at home for specialty or artisan breads. There are some simply stunning recipes in The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook – you won’t need another bread machine recipe book period, though if you’re like me you won’t be able to help yourself!
This book has several features which make it one of the best I’ve got and one I’ve taken recipes for school from – the kids love making the Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns, be warned they’ll put you off shop bought forever. Also awesome are the easy to follow recipes and instructions plus the sheer variety of recipes will blow you away, including some with semolina flour and others using potatoes.
The other awesome bread machine recipe book in my collection is by Beatrice Ojakangas – Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand: 200 Delicious, Healthful, Simple Recipes – and they are.
Again, this is the only bread making recipe book you’ll ever need and Beatrice Ojakangas has gone a step further than other books in that she gives you the recipe and directions to use either the bread machine, a stand mixer, food processor or of course hand mixing. For newbies to bread making, making a recipe in the machine often inspires confidence to give hand kneading and baking a try.
If you take the time to read the reviews, you may come to the conclusion there is a mix up between what constitutes whole grain bread and white. If you use 100% whole grain flour with no added white, the loaf can be as solid as a brick and totally lacking in that wonderful springy texture, because whole grain flour and spelt flour lack sufficient gluten for the loaf to rise properly, adding white flour overcomes this.
Either of these books will enthuse and inspire you to make fantastic bread instilling the confidence to try new recipes – stuck for a potluck night? Bake bread and everyone will love you! Looking for a cool gift for a keen cooking friend – they’ll treasure the book and the friend who gifted it, and that’s a promise.
But when you’ve had a bit of practice, you can find some great bread recipes (in fact awesome recipes for everything) here at one of my favorite websites www.browneyedbaker.com – it’s where I go to get inspired and I can work up an appetite in minutes!