Baking your own bread is a good way to guarantee soft, fresh and delicious bread on demand.
But baking bread can be a pretty time- and labor-intensive process. Between measuring ingredients, kneading dough and allotting time for dough to rise and bake, it’s very easy to mess up and end up with a less-than-stellar loaf of bread. Bread machines do most of the work for you, ensuring you get consistent and delicious results — even on specialty breads like sourdough or gluten free.
In a nutshell, bread machines handle the more involved parts of bread baking, allowing you to focus on adding ingredients at a specific time (which they helpfully point out) and simply “set it and forget it.”
Regardless of whether your budget is $80 or $300+, keep in mind the type of bread you want to bake when shopping for a machine. Because different breads require different ingredients, you might see a model that can bake white, whole grain and gluten-free breads — but not be capable of producing sourdough or pumpernickel.
Once you’ve found a model that can bake the bread you want, there are a few extra details to consider. Some models include extra features such as a choice of color of your bread’s finish (from light to dark toasting), the ability to mix in ingredients while the bread bakes (sunflower seeds, raisins, etc.), and even customizable programs to try your own non-standard recipes. More importantly, many models (including the ones on this list) feature a delayed start option that allows you to set it to begin baking bread overnight — perfect for waking up to warm, freshly baked bread.
Bread machine buying guide
Before you rush to grab one of the useful kitchen appliances for your home, keep the following factors in mind:
• Appliance size. Bread machines are handy, but they’re pretty large appliances. Most models are about as wide and tall as a microwave. But some are smaller, or have different shapes that may work better in your kitchen. The Cuisinart CBK-110, for example, is built tall and thin to fit in small kitchens with limited counter space.
• Loaf size. Just because your bread machine takes up a lot of counter space doesn’t mean that it will make an equally large loaf of bread. Make sure to pick out a bread machine that will produce loaves that are large enough for your needs and there is plenty of fresh bread to go around the table come meal time. It's also nice to have the option to make breads in different sizes: While some bread machines have this versatility, others only make bread in a single size.
• Heating element. Many bread machines only use a heating plate at the bottom of the appliance, which can produce uneven browning on your bread. Some models have an additional heating plate on the top (like the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus), while others (like the Cuisinart CBK-200) use convection heating for a more even toast.
• Settings. Simply put, if you want to be able to bake more than just plain white bread, you’ll want to look for a bread machine with several baking settings. This way, you can try your hand at whole grain, yeast-free, gluten-free and more.
• Extra features. Depending on your needs, the extra features included with a specific bread machine can make or break your decision. Things such as a dedicated chute for fruits and nuts, a viewing window to track your bread’s baking progress, and dishwasher-safe pans are good perks.
Best bread machines
1. Best overall: Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus
Loaf Size: 2 pounds | Size: 10.5” x 18” x 12.8” | Settings: 15
With 15 different baking settings and a design resembling a traditional bread box, Zojirushi’s Virtuoso Plus bread machine is one of the best-regarded models out there. Its control panel features large and easy-to-read buttons that make operating it simple, while the glass window lets you keep an eye on your bread as it bakes. It also features a heating element on its lid, which helps produce evenly browned bread every time.
The Virtuoso Plus is capable of baking breads such as white, whole wheat, gluten-free and even vegan. And it includes a recipe book to allow you to try out a few recipes while you get used to baking bread on your own. Once you’ve graduated from these recipes, you can program custom baking modes to try new, original recipes.
The Virtuoso Plus’s only downside, if you can consider it one, is that it only produces 2-pound loaves of bread. That might be a bit much for small households or infrequent bread eaters. This is also a bread maker that takes up a lot of counter space, so make sure to plan accordingly.
2. Editor's pick: Breville “the Custom Loaf” Bread Maker
Loaf Sizes: 1, 1.5, 2 pounds | Size: 15.75” x 9.75” x 14” | Settings: 13
With a bread machine, it's easy to produce delicious and fresh homemade bread, even with ingredients such as oatmeal or raisins. Still, many bread machines require you to open the machine mid-process to dump these extras in, which can cause them to be unevenly distributed throughout your loaf. Breville’s “the Custom Loaf” bread machine avoids this by including a dedicated fruits and nuts chute.
In addition, this model includes 13 different settings, allowing for a variety of different breads, and it can make loaves between 1 and 2 pounds. Like any good bread machine, it has three different crust color settings (light, medium, dark) and a 13-hour delay start function, which is useful for baking overnight.
Besides regular bread, “the Custom Loaf” machine can make pasta and pizza dough, and it includes a “bake only” setting. Be aware that while this Breville model is outstanding overall, it carries a price tag of $300+ to match. It can also produce unevenly browned loaves on occasion, so make sure to pay close attention when baking.
3. Best for low prices: Hamilton Beach Bread Maker
Loaf Sizes: 1, 1.5, 2, pounds | Size: 16” x 10” x 10” | Settings: 14
Bread machines provide you with a great way to save time and money on your weekly or daily carb consumption, but they also represent a significant investment. Hamilton Beach’s budget model, on the other hand, is a solid compromise between cost and function. With 14 different baking settings, many common features such as crust color control and “keep warm,” and a price tag under $100, it is a good option for home bakers on a budget.
The Hamilton Beach bread machine is fairly compact, about as tall as a blender and just slightly wider. It allows for loaves of bread of different sizes of 1, 1.5 or 2 pounds, which is great for small families who like to cook the occasional large meal. The baking pan and paddle are also dishwasher safe, which makes it a boon for anyone with limited cleaning time.
As expected from a budget model, the performance suffers with some types of bread, particularly gluten-free. Some users report inconsistent results if recipe instructions aren’t followed to the letter.
4. Best compact bread machine: Cuisinart CBK-110 Bread Maker
Loaf Sizes: 1, 1.5, 2 pounds | Size: 10.25” x 13.25” x 11.25” | Settings: 12
If you’ve always been curious about bread machines, but you feel your kitchen is too small for one, the compact CBK-110 Cuisinart bread maker might literally be a good fit. What sets this model apart from similar bread machines is its tall and narrow design, which helps it take up less space on countertops while still producing loaves up to 2 pounds. Of course, this means that the loaves will be vertical, which isn’t ideal for sandwiches, but you can make it work with some creativity.
As far as bread machines go, the CBK-110 comes with all the features you’d expect from a $100+ model, including a “keep warm” setting, gluten-free baking and crust color control. It also has a small window to help you keep track of your bread’s progress as it bakes. The removable baking pan is non-stick, which makes cleanup easy, and a small recipe book is included to get you started on your home baking journey.
5. Best for multiple settings: Cuisinart CBK-200 Bread Maker
Loaf Size: 1, 1.5, 2 pounds | Size: 12” x 10.25” x 16.5” | Settings: 16
The Cuisinart CBK-200 is a terrific model for anyone looking to add variety to their home baking experience. With 16 different bake settings, the CBK-200 can handle a number of different bread types — white, whole grain, yeast-free, all the way to gluten-free.
The fact that it uses convection heating makes it one of the better models for an evenly browned crust, regardless of the type of bread. Convection heating is also faster overall, which is extra handy when using the “express” setting.
The CBK-200 also features customizable baking programs, which are useful for experimenting, and it even includes a low-carb setting for when you want to enjoy bread without messing up your diet. While it is a versatile and solid performer, it is pretty large — about as wide and tall as a microwave — so you want to make sure you have enough kitchen space for it.