Best Bread Makers

Why Buy a Bread Maker?

We've been researching the 10 best bread makers for the last three years, spending more than 40 hours combing through product specifications and reviews – and going up and down the aisles of home goods stores. We found some quality machines that can give you the glorious smell of fresh baked bread without requiring hours of prep or a ridiculous initial investment. Three of the top bread makers on the market are the Zojirushi Home Bakery SupremePanasonic SD-YD250 and Oster CKSTBRTW20.

The Panasonic SD-YD250 offers a yeast dispenser so you don't have to open the lid to add ingredients, which can lead to heat loss and less consistent baking. With its simple five-button controls and compact size, this is one of the most convenient machines we considered. There is no specific gluten-free setting, which means you have to make your own adjustments for that type of dietary restriction, but it is still doable.

The Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme is another great option. It has dual blades for thorough mixing and a horizontal design that many prefer because it is more like the loaves you get at the bakery than the vertical loaves that some machines make. You choose from a number of different settings to get what you want for crust shades and styles of bread, including gluten-free, French and wheat bread.

The Oster CKSTBRTW20 is a good fit if you are looking for the best value. This one is equipped to make up to a 2.5-pound loaf, and it offers a nice LCD display so you can learn to operate it quickly and easily.

Bread Makers: What to Look For

The best bread makers vary in price from as low as $50 to more than $300, and in capabilities – some of them make much more than basic bread. If your goal is simply making white bread, a lower budget machine will work. One important feature that is worth the extra money is a timer. A bread machine that has a programmable timer will give you the option of waking up to the smell of hot, fresh bread after having put all the ingredients in the night before. Also, before you consider purchasing a bread maker, keep in mind the amount of counter space you'll need, as they tend to take up a lot of room.

Design
Bread makers used to only produce tall, square loaves that weren't convenient for sandwiches or toast, but machines now offer horizontal loaves similar to what you'd find at your local bakery or supermarket. The newest machines offer two kneading blades, producing evenly mixed and kneaded bread with a consistent taste and texture throughout the loaf. If you want to save money, the vertical designs are available at a lower price.

Size
Bread makers vary in size depending on how much bread you need and how much space you have. The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a bread maker is how much bread your family will eat. Fresh bread in a bread machine doesn't have the preservatives in store-bought bread, so you can expect it to go bad within only a day or two.

You'll find different machines that range in size from 1-pound loaves to 3-pound loaves. A family of two to four people should be fine with 1.5 pounds, though some of the best machines will give you the option of varying the size. The larger machines are also a nice option because they work with a wider range of bread recipes. There's nothing worse than finding a great recipe that only has measurements for 3 pounds of bread. Be careful with trying to change the recipes to fit your bread maker; simply halving the ingredients won't work.

Settings
Almost all bread makers offer at least a small amount of programming. The most basic options include crust color (light or dark) and the option to knead dough without baking or bake dough without kneading. The more complex bread machines are incredibly smart, with specific settings for French bread, artisan loaves, gluten-free, whole wheat and sweet breads. You are even able to tell the machine the kind of flour and other ingredients used to vary rising, baking and kneading times.

The higher priced bread makers aren't only for simple bread. Some automatic bread machines have settings for jam, cakes, pizza dough and homemade pasta. Some even make meatloaf. If you are looking for versatility as well as convenience, it might be worth it to spend a little more.

The most important feature you should consider may be the delay-start timer, however. This is the feature that gives you the ability to set it at night and wake up to warm, baked bread in the morning. Some of the more advanced machines offer a rapid cook setting, which cuts cooking time in half. A loaf can take anywhere from two to four hours depending on the grain. The rapid cook setting delivers cooked bread in less than an hour, though there is a sacrifice in taste.

Consider how much bread you plan to eat and the types of recipes you’ll cook to find the best bread maker for you. Even the less expensive automatic bread machines offer you great-tasting bread with minimal effort. If bread is a staple in your diet, a bread maker is a convenient and cost-effective option.