For less than a dollar you can get yourself a loaf of nutrient-deficient white bread, or opt for a whole 100% wheat choice. Yet many of us prefer to go the extra mile, spend the extra dough, and make our bread at home. By doing this, we control the ingredients, reduce the number of preservatives, can adjust the flavor, and eat some of the freshest bread ever whipped up. Once you’ve used a good bread-maker to produce a baguette, you’ll never again be able to stomach the store-bought lies of yeast and flour.
Picking a quality bread maker is an impossible feat. Though making basic bread is simple, being able to do it properly, allowing for the inclusion of whatever fruits, grains, nuts, and other ingredients you want, timing it, then getting the perfect mix of rising airiness is beyond the ability of most home devices. More often than getting a delicious, doughy, flaky slice of heaven, you’re going to have a chunk of useless bakery cast-off that even the feral animals in the neighborhood won’t touch. Which is why you get one of the 8 best bread machines.
Somehow stuffing 2 lbs. worth of bread into this machine seems impossible, as the cute little frame and squat pan hardly seem made for it. Intended to be quick and easy, built for singles or couples who want artisan breads without sacrificing space, the taste is predictably good, even if your best projects are going to come out looking like cute, perfectly browned blobs rather than the elongated loaves you’re used to. A beginner model that lacks in any snappy features, the aim here is to teach you to dump stuff into a bowl and make glorious bread out of it, not remake the baking world in your image. Purchase: $70
The inexpensive Expressbake isn’t going to wow you, and sometimes it’s going to leave a bit of flour in the edges of the pan or give you a laughable loaf that is delightfully lopsided. Those would be major problems if it weren’t for the fact that even when the bread comes out looking mangled or there’s a little leftover flour lurking around, the bread is still pretty good. Unpredictable, certainly, but with enough settings to get by and results that are nearly always exceptionally edible – though occasionally disfigured – you could do a lot worse for the cash. Purchase: $80
A single paddle system that produces extremely tall loaves, the ActiBread is quirky and fickle at first, but after a few attempts and a little bit of a learning curve it can produce golden brown bread that melts in your mouth. The gluten-free bread that comes from the ActiBread model is superior to anything else on the market, so those with Celiac disease will be handily served. Kneading and rising are consistent over each loaf, though the excessive cubed size can cause some issues with toasters and fitting your slices where you want them to go. Purchase: $100
West Bend Hi-Rise
Bread machines tend to get creative with loaf variations, because in the contained body of the machine, it’s easier to bake in different shapes. West Bend seeks to stay classic by providing loaves that actually look like loves, with fluffy interiors and crusty outsides that are ideally browned. A dozen settings provide innumerable ways to mix and match your dough, and the gluten-free choice does a spectacular job of producing light breads that are good for any palate. It uses a slightly larger 2.5 lbs. loaf size, which is above the standard 2 lbs. so you even get more of the good stuff. Purchase: $110
Extremely costly for a single pound model, the BB-HAC10 caters to bakers who want the best stuffed into as small a space as possible. The vertical body reduces the footprint so that the machine can fit in the smallest of kitchen corners, coming out only to produce some of the best small batch bread ever made. While most bread machines try to simplify the process, the BB-HAC10 instead tries to teach you better control of your food, and how to use an elite piece of equipment to achieve your desired results. Sweet breads, cakes, rolls, and almost anything with wheat and yeast can be cooked up in here, and once you’ve mastered it, you’re ready to take your game to the pro level. Purchase: $177
Having a fruit and nut dispenser built right in helps avoid those times when you’re stuck waiting around for your machine to chime so you can dump in your cranberries and almonds. Being able to alter the size of the loaf from a single pound to a full 2.5 lbs. is helpful if you’ve got a big family or tend to bake in various batch sizes. It also retracts the paddle to reduce the hole in the base of your bread. Not a major standout, largely because the price is a bit weighty for what you get, but a strong option if you want to avoid Zojirushi. Purchase: $250
Zojirushi is the name to remember when it comes to making the best homemade bread out of a machine. Though you’re going to be paying tippy top dollar for the Virtuoso, it’s going to make you memorable breads of varying kinds for years to come. Full control over mixing and baking lets the obsessive chef get on the stick to make the Virtuoso sing, or you can follow the instructions and let the device do all the work. Lots of pre-programmed settings carry the bulk of the labors and let you tweak everything, but the end results aren’t several times better than cheaper choices. Unless bread is your passion, this is probably more machine than you require. Purchase: $300
Panasonic makes domestic bread machines, but they’re not good. For some reason, you need to get a Japanese import from the company in order to find a maker that doesn’t bumble along, leaving you with clumps of sad, dejected dough in the bottom of your pan. Managing to cleverly incorporate a fruit and nut dispenser that fits into the slender body was a work of masterful craftsmanship, and though the loaves are towering in height, they’re so buoyant it’s easily ignored. Purchase: $304