Baking is a fun hobby but it isn't the easiest to pick up. Making a loaf is a time-consuming and tedious task. It requires intense attention to detail, and one wrong move could be the difference between a crunchy crust with chewy insides and a flat, stodgy piece of dough. Maybe you're not sure you have all that measuring, kneading, proofing and baking in you just for a piece of fresh bread -- and that's not to mention the immense amount of cleanup that comes with baking bread from scratch. But there is a shortcut: making killer homemade bread with a bread machine.
All you really do is combine dry and wet ingredients right in the appliance, and the bread machine does the rest of the work. Finding the best bread machine for the type of bread you'd like to make, how much of a yield you're looking for and what will fit your bread maker budget requires a little more work. Most bread machines are engineered to make a few different styles of bread and have settings and programs to help you nail a rye, sourdough or multigrain but there are differences between different brands and models worthy of an investigation. You can also spend loads on a bread machine if you've got some extra coin lying around, but there are inexpensive bread machines that work great so don't withdraw that entire stimulus check just yet.
If you're in the market for a quality bread maker, we've assembled this list of the best bread machines. While each model wasn't tested firsthand, we based our suggestions on in-depth research, including user reviews and specs comparisons. We'll update this list periodically with the best bread machines available, including new models that hit the market. After all, no one ever tires of fresh bread.
What to look for when buying a bread machine
As you start the process of choosing a bread machine, you'll find they vary significantly in shape, size and price. There are a few factors that contribute to these differences in bread making machine options and you'll want to consider which features are most important for your bread baking needs.
First, automatic bread makers come in different sizes. This not only refers to the physical space of the appliance for baking bread (which can be substantial), but also the loaf size it can bake. Common bread maker sizes include 1- and 2-pound loaf models -- if you're only baking a loaf of bread for yourself, a smaller bread maker might work just fine, while larger families might need larger loaves to keep everyone satisfied with comforting carbs.
You'll also want to think about the shape of the appliance's inner bread pan, as this will determine the shape of the loaf of bread. Many bread-making machines have square pans, which yield square loaves, but you can also find bread making models that make horizontal loaves that are closer to what you'd buy in the store.
Want to make different kinds of bread? Bread makers can only churn out specific types of bread depending on the bread flour and settings, so if you want to make wheat, whole grain, French bread, white bread, sourdough bread, or other varieties, you'll need a machine that has the appropriate settings for your bread machine recipe. If you want gluten-free bread then you should go for a gluten-free bread machine. Some fancier bread machines even have nonbread settings, such as ones for cake.
Finally, bread makers often have additional features that let you customize the final product. Popular settings include crust color, delayed start, mix-in dispensers and even different loaf sizes. It's a lot to think about, so to make your bread machine decision a little easier, we've combed the internet for the very best bread machines, taking specs, popularity, buyer ratings and professional reviews into consideration.
Best bread makers
If you're ready to leave grocery store bread in the past, the Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme Bread Maker is one of the top bread machines you can buy today. Unlike many other models, the Zojirushi Bread Maker creates traditional 2-pound rectangular loaves similar to what you buy from the store, and it boasts a variety of baking bread features that let you create amazing bread with minimal effort.
This appliance can make loads of homemade bread in different styles including white, multigrain, whole wheat, gluten-free, salt-free, sugar-free and vegan bread, and it boasts double kneading blades for superior control. You can control the automatic bread maker settings via the large LCD screen, adjusting things like the bread type, crust setting and delay timer. The Zojirushi Bread Maker has a large glass viewing window that lets you see what's going on inside during the baking process and a sturdy inner bread pan, and it even features a rapid setting that whips up white or whole wheat bread in two and a half hours.
This bread machine comes with a liquid measuring cup, measuring spoon as well as a bread machine recipe book. While this Zojirushi Bread Maker is on the more expensive side, buyer reviews say it makes absolutely delicious bread that rivals handmade loaves.
High-end bread machines can cost several hundred dollars, and if you're only baking bread once in a blue moon, you might not want to empty your wallet for one. Luckily, there's the popular Hamilton Beach Digital Bread Maker, which you can call your own for less than $80.
This automatic bread maker appliance lets you bake 1.5- or 2-pound loaves, and it has settings for white, French, quick, whole grain and sweet bread, a gluten free setting, as well as extras such as jam and cake. If you're in a hurry, you can also use the express programs, which are finished in around an hour. The large digital display includes a delay timer, and you can select from three crust settings, depending on your preference. This bread machine's inner baking pan is nonstick and dishwasher safe, making for easy clean up, and if you want to add nuts or fruit into your creation, there's an audible baking process reminder for when to do so.
According to buyer reviews, the Hamilton Beach Digital Bread Maker delivers impressive results, especially considering its affordable price. Many note that it's easy to use and does a great job with all types of bread. The only downside noted is that the bread making machine is a bit loud.
As mentioned above, high-end bread makers can be quite pricey, and while the Zojirushi Home Bakery Maestro Breadmaker certainly isn't cheap, it is worth it. This splurge-worthy 1-pound bread machine does it all with a wide range of bread options, custom memory settings and even an automatic ingredient mix-in dispenser.
This thoughtfully designed bread machine can make just about any type of bread -- we're talking multigrain, whole wheat, quick whole wheat, gluten free, salt free, sugar free and vegan -- as well as bread dough, pizza dough and pasta dough. It can even make cake or jam. Additionally, the Zojirushi Maestro has three memory settings that allow you to set your own knead, rise and bake times to create a personal bread recipe. This bread maker machine also features an ingredient dispenser that automatically drops nuts, fruit or other add-ins into your bread at the right time.
The Zojirushi Home Bakery Maestro Breadmaker has a 13-hour delay timer, crust control and express setting, and it comes with a liquid measuring cup and measuring spoon. If you believe the glowing buyer reviews, this baked bread appliance may very well change your life, letting you create delicious loaves of bread that will wow your family and friends.
Can't be contained to just one type of bread? Then you need an automatic bread maker model like the Cuisinart Bread Maker, which boasts 12 different preprogrammed settings, letting you make any loaf that suits your mood. This versatile bread machine can make 1, 1.5 or 2-pound loaves, but keep in mind its vertical design yields a tall, skinny shaped baked bread loaf -- not necessarily the best for sandwiches.
What can the Cuisinart Bread Maker do? It has programs for white bread, French, whole wheat, ultrafast, sweet and gluten free bread, as well as dough, artisan dough for artisan bread, jam, packaged bread mix, cake and bake-only (in case you're in the mood to knead by hand). There are three crust color options, and you can delay the baking cycle for up to 13 hours. Plus, the kneading paddle and bread pan are nonstick for easy clean-up -- all that for a reasonable price.
The Breville Custom Loaf Bread Maker is arguably the most versatile bread machine on this list thanks to its many, many settings. It's one of the only bread making machines that lets you choose from four different loaf sizes, ranging from 1 to 2.5 pounds, and it has 13 automatic and manual settings, plus nine custom settings to store your own baked bread recipes.
This automatic bread maker can make basic, whole wheat, rapid, gluten-free, crusty loaf, yeast-free and sweet bread, and it also has programs for pizza and pasta dough, jam and bake-only. It has three crust color options, a 13-hour delay timer and a pause button, but one of the most innovative bread making features is its collapsible kneading paddle, which minimizes the indent you often find on machine-baked bread. Oh, and the Breville Custom Loaf Bread Maker also features an automatic fruit and nut dispenser. Basically, whatever type of bread you want to make, this machine has you covered.
Most bread machines take around three hours to mix, knead and bake a loaf of bread, but if you want a faster option, the Oster 2-Pound Expressbake Breadmaker is the best bread machine for you. As its name implies, this model churns out 2-pound loaves of bread in under an hour with its Expressbake setting. It can also be used to create a variety of other types of bread, however, such as white, whole wheat, sweet and French bread.
This express bake bread machine model comes with 12 bread and three crust settings, and it features a large LCD screen, glass viewing window and 13-hour delay timer. It even has a warming setting to keep your bread loaf toasty until you're ready to eat. The Oster Expressbake comes with a measuring cup and spoon, and reviewers say it's a solid basic bread machine for people who don't want to spend too much money.
Convection ovens are a baker's best friend, so it's no surprise that bread makers love the Cuisinart 2-Pound Convection Bread Maker. When you bake with this unique bread making machine, the convection feature circulates hot air around your loaf for superior crust color and texture. Plus, this bread baking appliance is packed with features, including three loaf sizes, three crust colors and 16 settings, including low-carb and gluten-free recipe options.
Other noteworthy features of the Cuisinart Convection Bread Maker include its 12-hour delay start, audible tone for mix-ins and glass viewing window. Reviewers say this bread machine is aesthetically pleasing thanks to its sleek stainless steel exterior, and most agree it's easy to use and yields delicious loaves of fresh bread.
Bread machine FAQs
Is a bread machine worth the money? How much can you save?
If you buy bread often, especially high-quality bread, a bread maker is going to save you money in the long run. A decent loaf of bread can cost anywhere from $3 to $6 at the store or bakery but the ingredients to make a single loaf of bead -- flour, yeast, salt, oil, water -- costs less than 25 cents total, on average.
While you will obviously have the upfront cost of the bread machine, if you opt for a budget model ($100 or so), it will pay for itself in about six months if you make one loaf per week.
How to clean a bread machine?
Most bread machines are very simple to clean so you should do it as often as possible. The bread pan itself is often dishwasher-safe. But even in the sink, it shouldn't take more than a few seconds to wash with soap and water. You should also clean the heating elements but those should be wiped down with a moist cloth and not sprayed with water or scrubbed with soap or any harsh materials. And don't forget to let it dry completely before using it again.
How much do bread makers cost?
Bread makers may sound like fancy, complex cooking machines or a luxury items but you can find them for as little as $100, sometimes cheaper. Higher-end bread maker models such as those from Breville and Zojirushi can cost as much as $350 but they typically offer more nuanced and tailored settings and fancy features.
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This story has been updated from an earlier version originally written by Camryn Rabideau for CNET's sister site Chowhound, which is no longer online.