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Best Bread Makers

By: Kelly Burgess on October 30, 2017

The best bread machines

If you really love bread and eat it every day, you'll never regret buying a fully-featured bread machine. If you love bread, but can't tolerate gluten, you'll want to see our discussion of gluten-free bread machines elsewhere in this report.

For price and features, there no better choice than the Zojirushi BB-CEC20 (Est. $230). It's highly versatile, easy to use and turns out perfect bread virtually every single time. It can also make cakes, French bread, cookies, pasta and even meat loaf.

Users praise the BB-CEC20 for its many options, noting in particular its 10 total cycles. Three of those cycles are quick, and users say it's nice to have fresh, warm bread in about 2 hours or so. There are other special recipe settings as well, and a very comprehensive recipe book that teaches you how to use them is included. The three crust-color options include light, medium and dark, and the bread maker has a 13-hour programmable timer so you can come home to, or wake up to, a hot loaf of bread. Users say that the BB-CEC20 is solid and durable. Many owners have owned this Zojirushi bread maker for years, have baked hundreds of loaves, and say that they still come out perfectly.

One of this bread makers most popular features is its shape. While most bread machines make a vertical loaf that results in almost "round" slices when you cut them, the BB-CEC20 has a horizontal design that offers bread slices that are more like store bought – better for sandwiches and toast, say users. They also love that it has a sourdough starter function, since many people feel that sourdough bread is one of the healthiest types you can eat.

The Zojirushi BB-CEC20 bread machine uses dual paddles to mix dough. Expert bakers agree that bread makers with dual paddles do a better job of kneading than single-paddle machines, which can leave bits of flour and other ingredients unmixed in the corners of the bowl. Users agree, consistently noting the efficiency of the dual paddles, and most are pleased with the machine's performance. It is large and heavy, but owners also say its brushed stainless finish is attractive enough to sit out on the counter.

Smaller families or singles might instead appreciate the Zojirushi BB-HAC10 (Est. $180), which makes just 1-pound loaves. It has some good features, too, although not as many as its bigger brother. Those features include two crust-color settings, a 13-hour timer and a number of customizable settings. The BB-HAC10 requires less counter space than the larger BB-CEC20 and weighs less, but otherwise operates similarly. It only makes vertical loaves, however; while the larger Zojirushi make horizontal loaves. If making your bread from scratch is a priority and you don't need a bigger machine, this smaller Zojirushi BB-HAC10 bread maker is a solid choice.

A good bread maker doesn't have to cost a lot of dough

The great news about bread makers is that it's hard to find one, even an inexpensive one, that doesn't get pretty good reviews for performance. Of course, you won't get as many bells and whistles in sub-$150 basic bread makers as you would in those machines that cost more, but lots of reviewers say that many of those extras aren't really necessary to make great bread.

However, if bells and whistles are what you want or need, you'll want to read our discussion of the best bread machines above, where you'll find everything you ever needed to know about the top-rated Zojirushi's. And if you can't tolerate gluten, have no fear, we cover gluten-free bread machines in this report as well.

While a lot of less expensive bread machines get good reviews, none get the kind of love that the Panasonic SD-YD250 Automatic Bread Maker with Yeast Dispenser (Est. $130) does. Its biggest selling point is right there in its name -- the automatic yeast dispenser. With most bread machines you're supposed to add the liquids first, then the flour to seal, then add other dry ingredients, then add yeast. However, many bakers worry about the seal, and it is possible for the flour seal to breach and the mix to not work properly. A yeast dispenser keeps the yeast separate so this doesn't happen.

Even aside from that nice extra, users say the Panasonic SD-YD250 offers great performance and a solid array of features, including three loaf sizes and a choice of dough, cake or bread, allowing for a seemingly endless combination of baked goods. Some consider the lack of a viewing window a negative, but most experienced bakers don't really care about that as it's more of a "fun" feature, they say.

This Panasonic bread maker gets great reviews for durability, with users saying it's a sturdy, flexible machine that makes flavorful loaves, and they praise its ease of use and cleanup.

Another mid-priced machine that gets good reviews from experts and owners is the T-fal PF311E ActiBread Programmable Bread Machine (Est. $100). It's the runner up pick after testing at TheSweethome.com, where it's called out as being a good choice if you want to just dip your toes in the bread maker market. While Marguerite Preston says it kneads well and bakes evenly," like most less expensive bread makers, the loaves are vertical, which means round sandwiches. The T-fal makes loaves of 1, 1.5 and 2 pounds. It features three crust settings and 15 programmable settings, including three gluten-free settings and a number of rapid settings as well as all of the standard settings one would expect.  

Thousands of customers love the T-fal ActiBread, with most thrilled to get such a fully programmable bread maker at such a low price. Some do note that there is a bit of a learning curve due to the sheer number of settings, but once you master that it's very easy to use. Many also praise the included owner's manual/recipe book.

An inexpensive bread machine that's worth a look

Just because a bread machine is cheap, doesn't mean it's can't perform as well as a pricier bread maker. The Sunbeam 5891 2-Pound Programmable Breadmaker (Est. $50) gets rave reviews from owners for its high-end performance at a price that pays for itself fairly quickly – especially if you have a large family or just love bread. This bread maker is a simple but versatile machine that is particularly popular with those who are just starting the process of making their own bread. It's easy to use, and if the new baker decides they want to go back to supermarket or bakery bread, they're not out much, expense-wise.

Plenty of very experienced chefs buy this Sunbeam bread maker just for kneading dough, saying it does a great job and saves them time and effort. Others, even those who usually like to customize practically everything they do say this machine is still a great choice to take a loaf of bread from start to finish because it produces evenly cooked bread with a nice crust. The Sunbeam 5891 also has a great array of features for the price, including dough-only, bake-only and jam settings, as well as a signal that lets you know when to add dried fruit or nuts. The one big complaint we saw with this Sunbeam bread maker is that the recipe book is terrible. Most reviewers suggest ignoring it and getting a well-reviewed cookbook devoted to bread machine recipes.

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