Best Bread Machine of 2021
If you want a bread machine that can outbake the rest, look no further than the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus. This top-tier machine produced some of the tastiest bread in our tests and took home the prize for making the most consistent and aesthetically pleasing loaves. This is also the only model we tested that included two separate kneading blades, ensuring that all of the ingredients are thoroughly integrated into your dough and leaving no residual flour behind. The Virtuoso has numerous presets and is unique because it has memory functions, allowing you to customize the knead, rise, and bake times to match your preferences and favorite recipes.
However, these bells and whistles don't come cheap. The Virtuoso Plus is one of the most expensive machines we've tested. It's also one of the bulkiest and heaviest machines of the group, requiring a significant investment in terms of both money and real estate in your kitchen. We strongly feel that the Zojirushi is the best baker of the bunch, but it might be overkill for folks who bake bread infrequently or who aren't willing to pay a premium for the best model.
Read review: Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus
The KBS Pro MBF-010 is another excellent bread machine that we wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone seeking a premium appliance. This machine did exceedingly well at incorporating all of the ingredients into the dough, only leaving a tiny amount of unmixed cornstarch on the outside of the gluten-free loaf in our tests. It has all the features and functions that we could ask for and is fairly easy to use. The kneading paddle usually stays in the machine, and the locking pan makes it very easy to pull the finished bread out once it's done baking. This machine produced some of the most consistently colored crusts with very uniform browning.
Our biggest gripe with KBS Pro MBF-010 is its interface. We found having all the options lit up at once can make it a little cluttered and confusing, though it's easier once you become accustomed to it. It's also a bit heavier than some of the other machines. However, we feel these are fairly minor dings against its performance. We're huge fans of this model and highly recommend it.
Read review: KBS Pro MBF-010
If you're simply seeking a decent bread-making appliance that won't blow your budget, check out the Elite Gourmet Maxi-Matic Programmable. This model did a decent job in our baking tests, incorporating the ingredients quite well, and it has 19 different preset functions for everything from basic bread to yogurt. It includes a hook for removing the kneading paddle from the finished bread, a measuring spoon, a measuring cup, and a recipe book. It also has a keep-warm function, as well as a 15-hour delay timer and an audible tone to alert you when it's time to add any mix-ins.
The crust that this bread maker produced wasn't always the most evenly done. The bottom of the crust was usually much darker than the top of the white, whole wheat, and gluten-free loaves we made for testing. We also found that it occasionally left some of the dry ingredients unmixed. All in all, we still think it's a decent option if you're shopping for a bread machine on a shoestring budget.
Read review: Elite Gourmet Maxi-Matic Programmable Bread Maker
If you saw the price tag on the Zojirushi and started to panic, then the Hamilton Beach HomeBaker might be worth a gander. This appliance costs a fraction of what the Virtuoso Plus does, all while delivering comparable loaves in terms of taste and texture. The crust is usually reasonably uniform, and the overall appearance of the bread is fairly nice. The nonstick pan is also a breeze to clean — it's dishwasher safe-- and the bread pan's handle will lock into the folded down position, making it easy to dump out the bread once it is baked.
This discount bread machine does make a few concessions to keep the cost down. The HomeBaker has a much smaller set of presets than many of the others, and it struggled a bit with some of the more specialized loaves in our test, with the whole wheat bread and the gluten-free loaf collapsing a bit. Despite a few significant drawbacks, it's hard to find a better bread-making appliance than this Hamilton Beach model if you are shopping on a budget.
Read review: Hamilton Beach HomeBaker
If you're into premium kitchen appliances, you might already be familiar with the Breville name. The Breville The Custom Loaf is a sleek and stylish option with tons of features and functions, allowing you to choose between a ton of different preset programs and even create up to 9 custom options for your recipes and preferences. This bread maker has an interface that is exceptionally clear and easy to read, makes great bread, and is the only model we have tested that has an integrated automated dispenser to add mix-ins — think dried fruit or nuts — at the appropriate time. The Custom Loaf also has a backup power supply that can hold your place for up to 60 minutes — it won't continue baking or kneading, but it is quite handy if you accidentally unplug the device or your power flickers.
While The Custom Loaf has a ton of handy features, there are a few things we weren't enamored with. The bread maker has a collapsible paddle that is supposed to minimize the hole at the bottom of the bread, but we found this didn't really help all that much and just made it harder to remove the bread pan. Additionally, the bread pan is somewhat hard to clean — Breville recommends that you don't submerge it and only wash the interior of the pan. This is an excellent model if you frequently make bread with tons of mix-ins, but if you're going to spend top dollar, we still think the Zojirushi is a slightly better choice.
Read review: Breville The Custom Loaf
The Oster Expressbake thoroughly failed to impress us, making it our least favorite bread machine we have tested to date. It did earn some accolades for making one of the better-looking gluten-free loaves, but this was completely outweighed by its subpar performance in our other tests. It is one of the lightest machines in the group and has a few handy features, but we overall found the cons of this product to vastly outweigh its pros.
We honestly struggled to think of a compelling reason to recommend this machine if you aren't exclusively making gluten-free bread. It isn't a great bargain option, and we found it somewhat difficult and inconvenient to use. We would strongly recommend considering other options unless you found the Oster at such a bargain that they would practically be giving it away.
Read review: Oster Expressbake
Why You Should Trust Us
To find out which bread machine is the best of them all, we researched and compared tons of different models, then bought all the products that had the most potential to test head-to-head. Our testing and reviewing team, composed of Austin Palmer and David Wise, have extensive experience testing and scoring home and kitchen appliances, having reviewed hundreds of different appliances over the past few years, covering everything from vacuum sealers to ice cream makers. Both are avid home cooks and bakers, lending their expertise to this review as well.
We extensively tested all of the appliances with a series of rigorous side-by-side tests, ranking and scoring the whole wheat, gluten-free, and white bread produced by each product. We had a panel of judges — some with a professional culinary background — rate the color, crumb, crust, and overall appearance of each loaf, as well as the taste. We also evaluated each product on the amount of effort required to clean it after you are done baking with it.
How to Choose a Bread Machine
Bread machines aren't the most technically complex or difficult kitchen appliances out there, but there are still a few key differences you will want to consider when shopping for a new one. The first thing is deciding if you even need a kitchen appliance dedicated to baking bread and what is different when using one versus baking in a conventional oven.
Bread Machine vs. Traditional Oven
While one of these kitchen appliances and a traditional oven can both bake great bread, the finished product undeniably comes out quite a bit different. Bread baked in a conventional oven is usually a freeform loaf, meaning the dough is briefly shaped after rising and baked without a pan on a baking stone. Freeform bread has a much airier and less dense internal structure — the "crumb" of the bread — and a thicker and crunchier crust, as it is exposed to much more intense heat than what is generated in a bread maker.
Bread baked in a machine tends to be a bit heavier. It has a spongier crumb with an ultrathin crust that makes it perfect for sandwiches. It's very similar to typical bagged sliced sandwich bread that you get in the grocery store. It is important to note that you can achieve a similar effect in a conventional oven if you cook your bread in a traditional loaf or Pullman bread pan. Still, it is almost impossible to replicate the taste and texture of a freeform bread baked in a traditional oven in a bread maker. We aren't advocating for one type of bread over another; it all comes down to personal preferences. However, if you find that you can't stand pre-bagged grocery store bread, you might be a little disappointed in the results from your bread machine.
Regardless of whether you prefer bread from a machine or a conventional oven, bread machines undeniably have a huge advantage over traditional baking: convenience and ease of use.
Ease of Use
One of the main things that prevent home bakers from attempting bread is the huge amount of hassle involved. Between mixing, kneading, proofing, and proofing again, it can turn into an enormous amount of work to make something that you can pick up for a few bucks at the local grocery store.
With a bread machine, you simply — in theory — measure the ingredients exactly according to the recipe, dump them in, and hit go. Give it a few hours, and you have freshly baked bread ready to enjoy. Many of these machines even have delay timers and warming functions, allowing you to measure and add ingredients for standard bread — no recipes that require perishable eggs or dairy — in the morning and set a delay to coincide with the bread finishing right when you are getting ready to sit down to eat dinner. This allows you to go about your day as usual and ensure that you get the treat of freshly baked bread with dinner with a bare minimum of effort on your part.
Ease of Cleaning
The next thing you may be wondering about is how much effort it is to clean out a bread-making kitchen appliance once you are done with it, as specialized kitchen appliances like this tend to be a bit of a hassle when it comes to cleanup time.
Fortunately, we found cleanup to be a breeze for most of the machines, though there are a few differences. This mainly manifests when it comes to cleaning out the bread pans. Some of them are safe to stick right in the dishwasher, where others can only get wet on the inside of the pan and can even be damaged if you submerge them fully. You are going to want to go with the former option if you hate doing dishes by hand.
However, we found that even the most difficult to clean bread pan still doesn't take all that much time and effort to render it spotless, so ease of cleaning shouldn't be too much of a deciding factor when making your choice between different models. However, it is a bit of an inconvenience to clean the models that don't permit you to completely submerge the bread pan. It adds some unnecessary stress to what should be an otherwise simple task and can make it difficult to remove any stuck-on dough or bread.
After considering cleaning, the next factor when picking out the perfect bread maker for your kitchen is looking at the amount of available storage you have and the size of your prospective purchases. These products are not small; they take up a significant amount of counter space, and most people will probably not be using them frequently enough to warrant leaving them out on the counter.
Additionally, these appliances are on the heavier side, so you might want to store them somewhat close to your kitchen. You also will want to think about how much you will end up using one of these appliances and if that will justify sacrificing all the space they take up.
The last thing to consider when deciding which bread-making appliance you are going to buy is what else you can use them for. In addition to baking bread, many of these appliances have additional settings, allowing you to make things ranging from cakes to yogurt. Based on user experiences, it seems that using these appliances to make homemade jam or jelly, yogurt, and cakes appear to be the most popular. Most people probably won't use these features all that much compared to baking bread, but it's worth considering and getting a machine that has additional functions if you hope to push the envelope of what food you can make in these appliances.
Hopefully, you should have a pretty solid idea at this point of which bread maker is going to be the best bet for you, what to search for when looking for a new one, and if one of these products is even the right choice for your kitchen. We bought all the products in this review and tested them side-by-side, so you don't have to — and so you can find the absolute best choice for your budget and baking endeavors.
— Austin Palmer and David Wise