Bread purists will tell you that buying a bread maker is not necessary. That all you need is flour, water, salt — not even necessarily yeast, if you’re a sourdough aficionado — and time and patience. As someone who makes a loaf of sourdough weekly from a starter I’ve curated, I would also be one of those people. But I’m also a realist. “While many argue about the purity of traditional methods, there’s no denying the ease and convenience brought about by modern bread makers,” says Sarah Bridenstine of Baking Kneads, the daughter of a baker and proprietor of a bread-baking advice site.
The delight of a bread maker is this: You can tip the ingredients into the machine when you come back from work late in the evening, forget about it, and wake up the following morning to freshly baked bread. “Bread makers definitely have their place,” says Ben Ebbrell of Sorted Food. “It makes fresh bread — which still has a real romance — accessible and affordable at home with a fraction of the effort.”
What we’re looking for
Countertop space is at a premium in most kitchens. Anything too bulky likely won’t be suitable for most homes, so I’ve focused on bread makers with a small footprint. However, I have highlighted a higher capacity bread maker, capable of producing larger loaves, for those who have the space.
For something as large as a bread maker, being able to utilize the tool for other purposes is key. I’ve prioritized units that have different crust options, the ability to produce a variety of types of bread — and those that can branch out beyond bread to produce cakes and other items.
Best overall bread maker
Capacity: Up to 1.2kg | Features: 25 bread and dough programs; fruit/nut dispenser
If you want an everyday breadmaker with the capacity for a little extra, then Panasonic is a good bet. Two sources — keen home bakers both — recommended Panasonic’s range of bread makers to us. “For the purists and those keen on dietary needs, the Panasonic Fully Automatic Breadmaker [also known as the SD-R2550] with its gluten-free options is a godsend,” says Bridenstine. “My cousin, a celiac, swears by it, and having tasted her sunflower-seed gluten-free bread, I’m inclined to agree.” However, it’s not just a gluten-free device. There are various other bread baking types included (such as sourdough, brioche and whole wheat), while the built-in raisin and nut dispenser means you can automatically add fixings to your bread later on in the mixing process so as not to destroy them.
A similar model, the Panasonic SD-2501, was recommended by journalist and home baker Sally Howard, who called it “a ‘workhorse’ domestic model that has been on the market for over a decade [previously the 2500].” The differences between the two are slight — the SD-2501 has 25 programs, the SD-R2550 has 20. The key features are the same: It’s not too big (so it can stay on your kitchen worktop), and it has several different programs for bread (including French and Italian loaves). Howard has had hers for several years, bakes all of her family’s bread in the maker, as well as using it to whip up pizza dough.
Best large-capacity bread maker
Capacity: Up to 1.36kg | Features: 12 programs, 3 crust colors
Bridenstine bought the SAKI for its enormous capacity: it makes loaves which are 250g larger than any other on our list. “It immediately appealed to me, perfect for hearty family breakfasts,” she says, calling it her “diligent sous-chef.” You can select from 12 programs, three loaf sizes and three crust color options — and despite what you might fear from such a large capacity machine, it’s whisper quiet. “The machine’s gentle hum as it works is music to my ears, not the usual noisy clatter of kitchen gadgets,” says Bridenstine. That’s particularly important, as many larger bread makers are loud given the torque needed to knead the dough. And though it’s got a large capacity, it doesn’t take up substantially more counter space than our best pick. That said, it’s worth measuring your workspace: You will need a deep counter as it’s 17 inches deep.
Best bread maker for big kitchens
Capacity: Up to 900g | Features: 15 programs
Let’s be clear: This is not the bread maker for a studio apartment. It weighs 24 pounds (that’s quite heavy to pick up and put back in a cupboard after using it), and measures a foot deep by a foot-and-a-half wide, and one foot high. But if you have the space, the size enables the maker to produce standard-size rectangular loaves, as well as the smaller bread-machine sized loaves that the other machines in this list produce. (One bugbear I have about bread machines is the short, squat loaves they produce.) It’s beloved by chef Stephen Parker of Black Tap Craft Burgers and Beer in Nashville, TN. “Whether you are a veteran at bread-making or brand new to the baking world, this is an easy-to-use machine that churns out perfect results every time,” he says. “Its range of settings allows for a variety of recipes — everything from white bread, to multigrain and sourdough — making it quite a versatile machine to add to your arsenal of kitchen appliances.”
It also has two paddles to mix ingredients (bread makers usually only have one), which means a more even, better knead — ensuring you get a good rise from your bread. But two heating features are what makes this machine worth including. First, it has an initial resting time within its process, which gently heats the ingredients to a standardized temperature. This means your bread is more likely to rise evenly. And second, its heated top ensures the crown of your loaf is browned as evenly as the three other surfaces, meaning you get an all-over golden crust.
Best bread maker for small spaces
Capacity: Up to 900g | Features: 12 programs
This slender machine comes with a brushed metal finish: You’d be happy to keep it on your kitchen worktop. “I found it to be a great sidekick for newbies and pros alike. Its space-saving size is perfect for smaller kitchens,” says Bridenstine. “The machine’s versatility for making different breads and even pizza dough matches my adventurous cooking spirit built over years as a pro baker.” At $129.95, it’s also surprisingly fully featured for what you’ll pay: There are three loaf sizes and a gluten-free option. It’s a great option for a small home kitchen.
Best no-frills bread maker
Capacity: Up to 900g | Features: 14 programs, plus three crust colors
The Amazon Basics bread maker is not stylish. However, look beyond the basic white plastic exterior and this is a surprisingly well-powered machine for its price point, a smidgen over $80. Pick from 14 bread programs, including a rapid 90-minute bake. One downside: Amazon reviewers say the kneading paddle tends to stick within loaves once they’re baked, but the device comes with a tool to pry it out from your loaf. As one reviewer puts it: “Amazon Basics isn’t that basic. Their prices are cheaper and the value and quality of products are on par with most brand named items.”
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