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Baking bread takes time and effort unless you have a bread machine to mix, rise, and bake that bread for you. Bread machines have been around for decades but are making a comeback, thanks to renewed interest in home-baked bread. The latest generation of bread machines can handle a baker's dozen of loaves, from sweet doughs and quick bread to pizza. They've got customizable settings and delayed starts that let you bake on your schedule, and sometimes, even leave the cleanup to your dishwasher.
In order to recommend the cream of the bread machine crop, we tested 10 popular models in our Lab. We used each to make whole wheat, banana bread, and gluten-free bread. The top finalists were also tested on how well they made white bread. Our testers rated each on not only the final bread but also how easy they were to use and clean. In the end, the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker won out for its intuitiveness and usability.
While bread machines are convenient, there is a learning curve associated with any new kitchen appliance. Start with the recipes suggested by the manufacturer, as these are formulated to work with your specific bread machine, then branch out once you have the hang of your machine. Here are the best bread machines for every kind of baker.
Best Overall: Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker
What We Love: Very intuitive, can bake up multiple kinds of bread very well, not too loud during baking
What We Don't Love: Can't control level of crust brownness
The Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker is expensive and, at 24 pounds, it's heavy. But if you're serious about making your own bread, you can't do better than this machine. It’s easy to program and accommodates a range of bread, including whole wheat, gluten-free, salt-free, or sugar-free. Two kneading blades ensure the dough is well mixed with proper gluten formation, while two heating elements ensure all sides of the bread bake evenly, all elements that create a better bread.
Zojirushi's bread machine, which measures 10.5 x 18 x 12.9 inches and has a 2-pound loaf capacity, can produce a 9 x 5-inch loaf in under three hours. It has a 13-hour delay timer, a sourdough starter setting, and it makes it very easy to add any nuts or seeds in your load.
Our testers were very impressed by this Zojirushi. It was very intuitive to start up, with very quiet beeping alerts. It lets you know when it's time to add those nuts, and a timer counts down the last 30 minutes of baking. Each loaf that came out scored high with tasters, though it doesn't allow for different levels of brownness. This was also, by far, the easiest to clean, with the nonstick surface only needing a quick wipedown.
Dimensions: 18 x 10.5 x 12.9 inches | Loaf Size: 2 pounds | Power: 700 W
Best Budget: Oster ExpressBake 2-Pound Bread Maker
What We Love: Affordable, evenly distributes dough and mix-ins, good for beginners
What We Don't Love: Plastic smell can seep into bread
Weighing just 8 pounds and measuring 12 x 11 x 11 inches, the Oster Expressbake Bread Maker is easy and affordable. The large LED display with its 12 different presets will help any beginner on a budget learn how to bake with a bread machine. While there isn't a gluten-free setting, this machine does support many other bread types. There's an express-bake 60-minute setting and a 13-hour delay start function so you can set it and forget it.
During testing, the Oster performed moderately well. It evenly distributed any mix-ins while making the banana bread and the whole wheat bread came out with a decent crust. It was easier than some to clean, thanks to its nonstick basket and there wasn't dried flour everywhere. But the design's small buttons were hard to use, and at times plasticky and burning smells came from the machine. We still recommend it, but you might need to upgrade sooner rather than later.
Dimensions: 12 x 11 x 11 inches | Loaf Size: 2 pounds | Power: 650 W
Best Large Capacity: Breville Custom Loaf Bread Maker
What We Love: Bakes great bread with and without gluten, very intuitive to use
What We Don't Love: Noisy with loud alerts
With four loaf sizes from 1 to 2.5 pounds, the Breville Custom Loaf Bread Maker has the biggest capacity, making it perfect for large families and entertaining. This bread machine can handle several loaf styles and includes customizable settings for you to store your own recipes. It also has an automatic fruit and nut dispenser to ensure that those ingredients don't clump together in one area of the dough. The kneading paddle collapses when done so your bread won’t come out with a bottom indentation, a bonus feature that creates professional-looking loaves.
In our tests, the backlit LED screen and knob scroll button were both very intuitive. It constantly lets you know what you need to do and where it is in the preheating, resting, kneading, and rising cycle. Bread came out evenly browned with a really nice crust, with this banana bread being the #1 in taste. The gluten-free bread came out soft and fluffy, similar to the whole wheat bread. One downside was the audible alerts were very loud and it was on the noisier side while kneading.
Dimensions: 9.8 x 15.7 x 13.9 inches | Loaf Size: 2.5 pounds | Power: 830 W
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Best Compact: Cuisinart Compact Automatic Bread Maker
What We Love: Small footprint, customizable crust settings, keep warm post-baking function
What We Don't Love: Outside gets hot to the touch
The Cuisinart Compact Automatic Breadmaker is the perfect fit for kitchens where every inch is premium. It works by baking the bread vertically to save space. The 10.25 x 13.25 x 11.25-inch bread machine has settings for white bread, wheat bread, gluten-free bread, and, for convenience, bread made from a mix. You can choose light, medium, or dark crust settings and plan ahead with the 13-hour delay start feature.
Our first thing to note when we tested this was that, though it says it can handle up to 2-pound loaves, we had to decrease our recipes to 1.5 pounds, as the only 2-pound one hit the top of the machine and collapsed in on itself. That said, the testers found this to be an amazing bread maker. The interface is easy to read and intuitive, and the keep warm setting kept our bread toasty. It was super easy to take bread out, and all of them, save the gluten-free one, came out decently. We will warn the outside of this gets hot to the touch, so it's good to keep this away from little hands.
Dimensions: 10.25 x 13.25 x 11.25 inches | Loaf Size: 1.5 pounds | Power: 550 W
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Best for Classic White Bread: Zojirushi Home Bakery Maestro Breadmaker
What We Love: Quiet when in use, very easy-to-use, feels sturdy
What We Don't Love: Crusts aren't as developed, small
Zojirushi Home Bakery Maestro Breadmaker shares many features with its larger cousin, the Zojirushi Virtuoso machine, but measures just 13.6 x 8.9 x 12.5 inches. It comes with a baking guide full of foolproof recipes. Settings are also printed on the lid, which makes this machine easy to program. This bread machine gets accolades for its Maestro quick setting, which is able to bake a loaf of bread in under 2.5 hours. This machine also features an automatic add-in dispenser for fruit and nuts and has a built-in handle for easy carrying and transporting.
It's very important to note that the Maestro can only handle 1-pound bread loaves, so that's an immediate downside. Once we recalibrated the recipes in testing, it had many of the same positives as the Virtuoso. The banana bread was still good two days later, the whole wheat bread came out light and airy, and the white bread was phenomenal. One tester said, "[It] really excels on the perfect basic white country loaf, it bounces back, perfect hydration and aeration it's not dry." Its crusts though were not as crusty as the Virtuoso and the gluten-free loaf left much to be desired.
Dimensions: 13.6 x 8.9 x 12.5 inches | Loaf Size: 1 pounds | Power: 450 W
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The best overall is the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Bread Maker (view at Amazon); its two heating elements bake better bread. If you need large family-size loaves, the Breville Custom Loaf Bread Maker (view at Amazon) is also a top performer.
What Are the Other Options?
Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 2-Pound Breadmaker (view at Amazon): Our former budget pick is still very affordable, but that lower price means you'll have more money to run to the store for bread. Our testers liked how easy it was to use, but every loaf came out unevenly baked and dried flour everywhere. What was baked in the loaf was dry with an almost non-existent crust.
Cuisinart 2-Pound Convection Bread Maker (view at Amazon): The Cuisinart 2-Pound machine is easy to use off the bat with very intuitive controls and a great interface. It was during baking that an extreme amount of steam is released, the alerts are very loud, our test loaves came out with dried flour around them, and then it was hard to clean. Between those issues and the amount of real estate this will take up on your countertop, you're better off with the Compact machine.
How We Tested
To test bread machines, we had to bake up some bread. Our testers used each machine by making a loaf of banana bread with nut mix-ins to test for even distribution. Then they tested a whole wheat loaf and a gluten-free loaf, noting the ease or difficulty of cleaning in-between each use. They examined how much dough was left behind on the paddles, if flour got everywhere, and if any dishwasher-safe parts were truly dishwasher safe. At the end of testing, the top machines went head-to-head in a test to see which made the best country white bread.
Our testers rated each one on the following qualities: Ease of Use, Performance, Versatility, and Cleaning. Learn more about how we test products.
What to Look for in a Bread Machine
Most bread machines can handle a range of loaf sizes from 1 to 2 pounds or even 2.5 pounds. Bread only stays fresh for a few days, so think about how much bread you and your family will eat within a week. While you could theoretically halve the recipe to make a smaller loaf, for consistency’s sake, you’re better off buying a bread machine that’s sized just right.
Size and Weight
Some people don’t have the counter space for a big bread machine. Size is important, but so is weight. Some of these bread machines are too heavy to be dragged in and out of cabinets for sporadic breadmaking.
Most bread machines are versatile, but you’ll find subtle differences among the programmed settings each one offers. If you think you want to experiment with a particular style of bread, like a sourdough, or have other considerations, you’ll want to make sure the bread machine you choose can accommodate this.
How does a bread machine work?
Bread machines use paddles to mix the dough inside the baking pan, while a heating element maintains the proper temperature for both proofing and baking. You simply put the raw ingredients into the pan, and the machine does all the work. Machines have customizable settings for both the mixing and the bake time so you can achieve the perfect loaf.
Can you use regular (all-purpose) flour in a bread machine?
Bread machines recommend bread flour rather than all-purpose flour because its higher protein count helps dough rise. You can still use all-purpose flour in a bread machine, but the bread will have a different texture.
What kind of yeast do you use for a bread machine?
King Arthur Flour recommends instant yeast for bread machines because it's strong and fast-acting. Active dry yeast will also work.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Lindsey Danis is a food writer and former professional cook. She writes about bread and baking for retail and trade publications.
This list was updated by Siobhan Wallace, commerce editor for Simply Recipes, who thinks fresh bread is one of life's little pleasures.
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