How to pick the Best Bread Machine
Finding the perfect one for you could be a daunting task. Nowadays, bread machines come with so many different features and functionality. The price could also range from $60 to $300. But with so many options to choose from, you will undoubtedly find the one just for your needs. Either you are an avid baker or an amateur, we are here to help you find the best bread machine for you. We put together a list of different factors to consider:
1. Size and Shape of the Loaf
2. Programmable Settings
3. Convenient Features
1. Size and Shape of the Loaf
Many bread makers have different options for the size of the loaf. Depending on the number of people in your family, you should pick the bread machine that can make as big of a loaf you need. For a general rule,
- 1lb loaf = 8 slices
- 1.5lb loaf = 12 slices
- 2lb loaf = 16 slices
- 2.5lb loaf = 20 slices
Also, most bread makers produce a vertically shaped loaf that is taller than the traditional loaf. If you want a traditional looking bread, make sure you pick the bread machines that are designed to make horizontal loafs. There are other shapes of loafs as well.
From my experience, horizontal loafs are the best for making sandwiches. They are generally better looking as well. Check out the Zojirushi BB PAC20 if you want to make the best looking loaf.
Delicious Sandwich with Homemade Bread
2. Programmable Settings
The variety of pre-programmed settings and the ability to customize settings are a bread machine's best selling point. The more programmable options there are, the more expensive the bread maker.
Most of the machines come with 3 different crust settings: Light, Medium, and Dark. Basic models have standard settings such as whole wheat, multigrain, quick bake, and white bread. But the top of line models show off its versatility with programs such as cake, jam, gluten-free bread, sour dough bread, or bread with nuts and seeds.
Also, if you like to try out different recipes besides just bread, we suggest you pick ones that has customizable programs so you can fine tune the baking cycles to get the best result. For example, many bread machines have the dough setting to knead dough for you.
The quality of the dough can be just as good and you save a lot of energy. You can use this feature to make pizza dough, noodles, bagels, cinnamon rolls, etc .Some bread machines can even be used to make meat loafs!
Gluten-Free Bread Maker
If you need a machine that can make gluten-free bread, look for bread makers with the gluten-free option as a pro-programmed setting. The Cuisinart CBK-100 makes the best gluten-free bread out of all the bread machines on the market.
Best Gluten-Free Bread Maker
3. Convenient Features
Besides the programmable settings, many bread machines also have other great features. If you're a busy person on a tight schedule, look for bread makers that have quick bake options. Some models can bake a fresh and delicious loaf in less than an hour, such as the Oster CKSTBRTW20. Many machines also come with a 13-hour delay timer. So you can enjoy your bread when you wake up or after work like it is right out of the oven.
Other cool features to look out for:
- Add-Ingredients signal to alert you when to add ingredients such as nuts and fruits. The Panasonic SD-YD250 even has an Automatic Yeast Dispenser;
- Pre-heat cycle to bring your ingredients to room temperature;
- Keep Warm cycle to keep your bread nice and toasty at the end of your baking cycle;
- and the Power saver feature to save your current baking process in case you accidentally shut off the power.
Automatic Yeast Dispenser
All these programmable settings and convenient features are great, but don't overlook the quality of the machine. If you plan to make a loaf at least once a week, we suggest you buy a good quality brand like Zojirushi, Panasonic, or Breville. Otherwise, your machine might break within a year of purchase. To judge the quality of the bread maker, pay attention to these key features:
- Heating Element and Motor- A quality heater ensure that your loaf is baked thoroughly and the crust is turning into the color you want. The motor is used to turn the kneading paddles, which is crucial to the consistency of your loaf. Most bread machines that are over $100 have good heating elements and motors that can last for 5+ years.
- Non-Stick Pan - When you are reading reviews on bread machines, make sure to pay attention to what reviewers are saying out the non-stick pan. Make sure that the majority agrees that the pan is durable to withstand lots of scratching and washing. Often times, you may need to manually pull out a stuck loaf with a help of a tool. Read carefully if the pan and the kneading paddles are dishwasher safe or not.
- Noise - The flimsier bread makers will makes a lot of noise. It can be quite annoying if you live in a small place like me. Sometimes they would even shake and move around on the counter top. We have heard some cheap bread machines fall off the counter because it was moving so much. Generally, the higher the price of the bread machine, the sturdier it is.
Zojirushi is know for making quality home appliances
Size and Weight
Bread machines come in all different shapes and sizes. Make sure the dimensions of the model you've picked can fit on your counter top or can be stowed away in your cabinet. Bread machines can be quite heavy as well. You should consider the weight of the machine if you plan on moving the machine in and out of your storage.
The general rule is that the greater the functionality and greater the quality, the bigger the machine. However, price does not really correlate with the size. Sometimes big bread makers are inevitable if you are looking at a heavy duty machine that can bake 2lb or 2.5lb loafs.
When you are trying out a new recipe, you want to make sure that you have the right settings for you machine. The quality of your loaf is dependent on whether or not the dough is kneaded thoroughly, the loaf is rising evenly, and the crust is coloring.
Having a viewing window can be really advantageous if you want to keep an eye on the baking process. Opening up the lid to check will effect the temperature, and thus the quality of the bread.
Large Viewing Window
Kneading Paddle(or Blade)
If you are planning on using your bread machine to knead dough, be sure to pick one that has a big enough kneading paddle. Some bread machines even come with two paddles for best result. The paddles are essential to kneading a good dough.
Be sure to check out the instruction manual and take a look at the recipes. You should see if they have clear instructions on what to do when the machine is malfunctioning or who to call when you can't fix the problem yourself.
The recipes in the manual usually makes the best quality bread for that particular machine. Good recipe books will include at least a dozen recipes, sometimes even more if the bread maker has more programmable settings. You can find the manuals online at the brand's official websites.
Having a bread machine not only saves you a lot of time and effort, but also adds to the bread making experience. However, bread machines can cost anywhere from $50 to $250. That's why choosing the best bread machine for your needs is very important.
If you are just looking for a simple bread maker so you can have a fresh loaf at home, then a basic model that costs less than $100 is more than enough. But if you are an avid baker that is looking to try different recipes, then a high-quality, versatile machine will definitely be worth the price tag.
So these 6 points are essential for you to consider when choosing the right bread maker for you. You should also check out the pros and cons of each bread machine in our rankings to make an informed purchase.
Most importantly, have fun baking!