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What To Look for in a Bread Maker: 5 Things To Consider

Preview: Wondering what to look for when buying a bread maker? Here are 5 tips that will help you match your needs and desires with the right machine for you.

When buying a bread machine, you could employ the “scientific” method seen in the picture below. But nobody would let a two-year-old select a kitchen appliance.

Yet, the people selling those appliances rarely have any personal experience or training about the machines they sell. You might as well be talking to a child.

Don’t waste your money buying lots of features you won’t use. On the other hand, don’t spend hard-earned cash on a machine that doesn’t do the job well.

A better approach might be to consider your baking habits, dietary preferences, and of course, your pocketbook when looking to buy a bread maker.

picture of toddler picking his favorite bread maker
This is probably not the best way to choose a breadmaker.

Have you ever wondered which bread maker is best?

Preaching the virtues of a bread machine as I do on this website, is almost as easy as eating this Honey Whole Wheat Bread.

On the other hand, advising people which bread mashine they should buy is not so easy when you consider all the choices available.

bread machine with sliced Honey Whole Wheat Bread sitting in front of it
Get the recipe for this Honey Whole Wheat Bread.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 5 ideas to get you started.

Five factors to consider when choosing a bread maker:

#1

Do you need a timer?

If you like to wake up or come home to bread dough raised and ready to shape, pay attention to the timer. Nearly all machines have a timer on the various mix and bake cycles, but I like a timer on the DOUGH cycle because I ALMOST NEVER bake in my machine.

It’s possible to manually calculate when to set the timer on a bake cycle. However, you must arrive at just the right moment to pull the bread out of the machine. Otherwise, it will preheat and bake the bread.

Considering I’m not the best at math, the hand-calculated method doesn’t always work. More than once, I’ve walked into my house to the smell of a loaf of baked pizza dough. Ugh!

In the event you are home most of the time, you may not need or care about a timer.

#2

Consider the size of the bread machine pan.

If you have a large family or want to make bread when you entertain, get a machine that will hold a recipe containing at least 3 cups of flour. Some will hold up to 4 to 4-1/4 cups or even 6 cups.

On the other hand, if you want a smaller loaf for just 2-3 people, you may want a machine with a smaller pan.  Remember, homemade bread has no preservatives and can stale quickly. Therefore, consider how fast you can eat a loaf of bread at your house.

3 pans different shape

#3

Why does the shape of the pan and the number of blades matter?

At the beginning of bread machine history, most bread machines made a loaf that was long and tall–see pan on the left above. It’s not the traditionally shaped loaf consumers are used to. Furthermore, the odd shape gave away the fact that it was baked in a bread machine.

However, manufacturers soon figured out how to build a machine that made a horizontally-shaped loaf that looked more like loaves sold at the grocery store.

Unfortunately, horizontal pans don’t always knead the dough as well, leaving unincorporated flour in the corners of the pan. Incomplete mixing is a huge negative!

In my experience, the upright configurations enable a better mixing job. HOWEVER. Since I’m not using the machine for baking the bread, the shape of the pan doesn’t matter. You may see it differently.

Conversely, some of the newer machines (see picture above) are horizontally shaped but have two blades. Two blades instead of one seem to be more effective in mixing all ingredients thoroughly.

Choosing the Right Bread Machine--Oster mixing

#4

What about the number and variety of cycles?

Bread machines with lots of different cycles do not impress me.  I want a bread machine to mix and knead the dough with a motor powerful enough to do it well.

Whether or not it makes jam or quick bread is immaterial to me.  Whole wheat cycles can be useful if you plan to bake whole wheat bread inside your machine. Consider your baking habits.

#5

Does price denote quality?

In general, the more you spend, the better the machine. No surprise there. Anybody with two bread makers will most likely tell you the more expensive model makes better bread.

Things that can go wrong, seem to happen sooner with a cheaper machine. The belts are the first thing to go in my experience.

Should I buy a machine if I’ve never made bread before?

If you are short on funds or the cautious type, consider picking up a like-new machine at a garage sale or on eBay. My daughter-in-law recently bought a good machine at a garage sale for 5$. Even better, borrow one from friends who never use theirs to see how you like it first.

Why did I choose my bread maker?

My personal favorite is a Zojirushi, BB-CEC20.  It has a timer on the dough cycle and two blades to mix and knead the dough thoroughly.

The pan will hold up to 4 1/4 cups flour or do smaller batches as well. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive bread machines out there. But it’s worth it to me since I use it nearly every week.

You may already have a bread machine you don’t like or don’t use. Don’t chuck it yet. Your bread maker may not be perfect, but a little practice and a good recipe can make a huge difference. Stick with me.

If you own and love your bread machine, tell me what you have and what you like about it. What is the most important feature to you when it comes to this fabulous kitchen appliance?

So that you know, I have not been paid or compensated in any way to say anything about any bread machine. My credentials are years of experience making bread with and without a bread machine, a Home Economics degree, and a bread machine cookbook collection the size of Texas.


Posts related to using a bread machine

If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: Paula at saladinajar.com.

Hope to see you again soon!
Paula

Peggy

Wednesday 1st of September 2021

I have have the Zojurishi Virtuoso and love it. This is my second Zojurishi. My first one lasted 19 years, my current one is about 8 years old and works great. I loved everything about it, but I especially love that it has the preheating cycle so the liquids are the right temperature. I agree with you, I mostly use the dough cycle and then bake my breads in the oven. Occasionally, I get lazy and bake it in the bread machine. I love you website!

Paula

Thursday 2nd of September 2021

Peggy, I'm so glad you wrote and left a comment. Your testimony can help other people who don't have as much experience as you do. And thanks, too, for your kind words about the website. Readers like you make it all worth it.

Kathy

Tuesday 27th of July 2021

My very first bread machine was, I believe, a Wellbilt. Bought it in the early 90's. It was a basic machine with several bread settings and it would automatically add the "add in" ingredients. It made the loaves upright instead of a loaf (horizontal). It finally quit heating which, of course, I found out in the middle of making a loaf. The paddle fixture also broke but a friend rigged it with screws and nuts so I could keep using it cuz back then they were expensive, even for this one. the next one I bought was a Breadman Ultimate. It's sitting on a shelf in the garage, although I don't know why. It quit mixing well last Christmas when I was making a fruit bread for Christmas morning breakfast. I searched the internet for a store that had one in stock without breaking the bank. I found one at Kohl's. It is a Cuisinart compact. It makes larger loaves but it's footprint is compact. Since I only use it for the dough cycle it was fine. I've actually used my bread machines as a dough maker for years as I didn't like the shape of the loaves they make. I don't go all out in price because 1. Out of my budget and 2. I've found the less expensive ones work just fine. I have a Kitchen Aid Mixer I could use but there is too much guess work that the bread machines take out. I've made tons of bread over the years. I have to say, I have made 2 loaves of the Ciabatta bread from this site (within 24 hours) because my husband was trying to find a recipe for an easy recipe that didn't require a Biga but would give him the crusty crust and LOTS of holes. His recipes weren't giving the desired results. I did a search and found this one. While it does use a Biga it also makes a great loaf of bread. I've made a Honey, buttermilk whole wheat that I adapted from one of the recipes on this site. It was absolutely DELICIOUS! I would say when it comes to buying a bread machine go with what is in your budget. It'll be fine.

Paula

Tuesday 27th of July 2021

Kathy, Thanks for weighing in on this subject. I concur with every word. Good advice for anyone looking to buy a machine. Thanks so much for writing.

Juanita Gresham

Tuesday 2nd of February 2021

Are Panasonic bread makers not sold in the United States? I would love to have one. I ordered one a few weeks ago on the internet then leaved that the website was a scam.

Paula

Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

Oh no, Juanita. I just looked and found this one on Amazon. https://amzn.to/2MRGOqt. If it was a scam, at least you would get your money back from Amazon.

Ann McGuire

Tuesday 26th of January 2021

I have a Hitachi that I've had for a very long time. I love it! I like that is made so you can set it to do the dough cycle only without baking.

Paula

Tuesday 26th of January 2021

Hi Ann,

My first bread machine was a Hitachi. When it bit the dust, I bought another one just like it on Ebay--very slightly used. I bet our machines looked a lot alike. That was a good machine! Thankfully, I think most bread machines now have a DOUGH cycle.

Caroline

Monday 10th of August 2020

Can you use a recipe on any cycle and pull it out to bake in the oven once you figure out when the baking is supposed to start ?

Paula

Monday 10th of August 2020

Hi Caroline,

Yes, you can. But, it's best to use the Dough cycle. Whenever you pull the dough out of the machine, it will probably deflate. You will have to reshape it and let it rise again, then bake. If you use any other cycle and pull it out just before it's ready to bake, it's possible your yeast will run out of steam, depending on the recipe. This would lead to short, dense loaves.