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What You Should Know About the Preheat Phase on a Bread Machine

Preview: The preheat phase of a bread machine cycle automatically starts at the beginning. Find out why it’s there and why you may or may not need it.

Do you have a preheat feature on your bread machine?

If your machine sits quietly after turning it on, and nothing happens for 20-30 minutes, you most likely have a preheat phase. But, of course, that’s assuming the blades are engaged correctly.

Most bread makers (not the older ones) include a preheat phase to “stabilize the temperature of ingredients.” As a result, the bread baked in a bread machine has a better chance of success.

bread machine control panel with the preheat phase on and highlighted with an arrow.

What is the purpose of a preheat period?

I’ve read that bread machine engineers discovered that bread makers with a preheat stage were more likely to turn out a decent loaf of yeast bread than those without it. It seems to provide a gracious margin of error for inexperienced users who don’t always use ingredients at the proper temperature.

But there’s a price to pay–extra time.

I don’t know about you, but time is precious in my kitchen.


Note: If this is your first time on my website, you may not know that I rarely use my bread machine for baking bread. However, it’s the best kneading machine in my kitchen. The built-in timer and beeps make it more convenient (in general) than a stand mixer, food processor, or kneading by hand. Also, I use the regular DOUGH cycle, not the QUICK DOUGH cycle.

Do you need the preheat feature if you only use the DOUGH cycle?

No, for several reasons:

  • Save time and warm the ingredients before adding them to the bread machine pan. (Keep reading to see how I do it.)
  • Mixing the dough with cold ingredients can slow down the rising process. However, the longer the rise, the better the flavor, so no harm done. (That’s one reason homemade sourdough bread tastes so amazing.)
  • There’s another reason to start with cold ingredients: summer in Texas or any warm kitchen. Humid heat can give your dough super rising powers.

    If the dough over-proofs, the bread can fall or fail to rise correctly when baking. Over-proofing is a common cause of dense bread.
  • Don’t worry. The friction caused by the paddles will heat the dough quite nicely. If you don’t believe me, stick a digital thermometer into the dough after it finishes kneading.
taking the temperature of the dough in a bread machine at the end of the kneading cycle.
YIKES! The kitchen itself was 78˚F, but the dough warmed up fast even though the eggs and butter were cold and the milk was lukewarm. Chill the pan in the refrigerator before you start if the ambient temperature in your kitchen is extra warm or if you want to slow down the rise.

Do I need the preheat feature if I bake the bread in my machine?

The preheat feature may be advantageous when using the “one-and-done” REGULAR BREAD button. The reason is that the bread machine’s timing mechanism is programmed for ingredients at the same temperature.

However, if you are short on time and have the choice to turn the feature off on your machine, you can always warm the ingredients as you measure and add them to the bread maker pan. That is my favorite method.

I want to be in the kitchen as the machine kneads to make adjustments on the fly. Waiting an extra 20-30 minutes for the mixing and kneading phase to begin is not on my schedule.


bread machine crash course sign-up

How do I warm the ingredients before mixing the dough?

Of course, you can set the ingredients on the counter and let them warm up naturally. But that takes too much time for my tastes. So this is what I do:

chopping butter so it will soften more quickly.
Butter is special.

Butter is special:

  • Cut it into small pieces if the butter is hard to soften quickly. Squeeze the buttery pieces between your fingers as you add them to the bread machine pan to ensure they are soft and squishy.
  • Don’t want to squish it through your fingers? One of my readers suggested grating the butter. Great idea!
  • If you heated the milk or water, drop small pieces of butter into the warm liquid to soften it quickly.
  • Using a microwave to soften butter is risky. I use the DEFROST button. DON’T LET THE BUTTER MELT!

How can I circumvent the preheat feature?

bread machine control panel showing the preheat feature turned off.
  • Inactivate it. If you own a Zojirushi, turn it off by pushing the “time” and “cycle” buttons simultaneously until PREHEAT OFF appears in the display. Do the same thing if you ever need to turn it back on. Check the manual if you own a different brand of bread maker. (Don’t forget to look online if you don’t have a manual.)
  • Try creating a custom cycle without the preheat feature if your machine offers the option.
  • Many machines do not allow the user to inactivate the preheat cycle. Try starting the bread maker when you first walk into the kitchen. Much of the preheating time will pass as you assemble the recipe.

If you have another solution for people who can’t turn off the preheat function, be sure to send me an email and let me know.


No matter how you use your bread machine, I hope this gives you some ideas for making the preheat phase fit into your lifestyle and how you like to make bread.


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

Hope to see you again soon!
Paula

PattiAnn

Sunday 5th of December 2021

Good info as usual, Paula. Another way to soften butter is to use your grater. Works great. Happy Holidays ๐ŸŽ„

Paula

Sunday 5th of December 2021

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll add it to the post to make sure everybody sees it.

Don

Sunday 5th of December 2021

Thanks, Paula. Great information. Up early making rolls for a family function.