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The Best Bread Machine

We spent 35 hours researching, testing, and retesting six bread machines (plus many more hours waiting for 30 loaves of bread to bake), and we think that the West Bend 41410 2.5-pound Hi-Rise Bread Maker is the best machine for most people. It handled white bread, whole wheat bread, and several gluten-free recipes with ease, and it’s one of the few models that bakes a standard-shaped bread loaf. It proofs, kneads, and bakes evenly, and it does so for a reasonable price.

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Our pick
West Bend 41410 2.5-pound Hi-Rise Bread Maker
Not many bread machines make a loaf in a standard shape like this one. The West Bend also kneads and bakes evenly, producing tall, domed, golden brown loaves for a fraction of the price of comparable high-end machines.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $70.

Runner-up
T-fal PF311E ActiBread Programmable Bread Machine
This is a good starter machine for anyone not ready to make a big investment. It kneads well and bakes evenly, but loaves come out taller than they are long.

The West Bend makes a great, standard-shaped loaf, but the T-fal PF311E ActiBread Programmable Bread Machine is a little more compact and includes more gluten-free settings. Like the West Bend, it kneads thoroughly and proofs and bakes evenly, but its loaves come out at least as tall as they are long, which makes for very large sandwiches. The T-fal also baked bread darker than some other machines but was fine on the lightest crust setting. Otherwise, it handles both whole wheat loaves and gluten-free breads with ease and is intuitive to program.

Upgrade pick
Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker
A favorite among the pros, the Zojirushi is sturdy, super reliable, and makes a standard shaped loaf. But it may not be worth the nearly-$300 price tag unless you’re a bread obsessive.

For bread-baking enthusiasts, the Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker is a top-of-the-line machine. Like the West Bend, it makes a standard 9-by-5-inch loaf, and its two kneading paddles, powerful motor, and even temperatures yield lofty, golden brown breads. It also allows you to program your own settings in addition to 10 pre-programmed options (ranging from gluten-free to whole wheat), which is useful for anyone interested in tweaking or experimenting with recipes. But it’s a very large machine, and at around $300, it may not be worth the expense unless you like to play around with making a lot of different breads on a regular basis.

Table of contents

Why you should trust us

When researching this guide, we interviewed three bread experts well-versed in the world of bread machines: Marsha Perry, the blogger behind Bread Machine Diva, who has been publishing bread machine recipes and tips since 2009; Beth Hensperger, author of The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook; and PJ Hamel, senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour. We also looked at reviews from Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required), combed through forum posts on the Fresh Loaf and ratings on Amazon, and read up on advice from sources like King Arthur as well as Hensperger’s comprehensive cookbook.

I’m a former professional baker and once worked in a restaurant where part of my job was to supply the kitchen with fresh loaves of sandwich bread. I’ve made plenty of bread in my spare time, too, everything from brioche to bagels to Tartine’s artisan sourdough loaves. In the past, I’ve also reviewed cake pans, waffle makers, and more for The Sweethome.

Who should get a bread machine

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A bread machine can be a great tool for anyone who likes the idea of having fresh bread at home but doesn’t have the time or the ability to make it by hand. Baking bread takes time and effort: usually you have to mix it, knead it, let it rise, shape it, let it rise again, and bake it. But a good bread machine can do all that for you. Just measure the ingredients into the pan, turn the machine on, and you have a loaf of bread three to four hours later. It’s a great way for busy households to keep a steady supply of bread, and it’s a valuable aid for anyone with physical limitations like arthritis that make it hard to make bread by hand. Making bread from scratch in a bread machine is also likely to be less expensive than buying a nice loaf, and that goes doubly for gluten-free bread, which most newer models can handle with ease.

A good bread machine can make a surprisingly wide variety of breads and doughs, from fluffy white sandwich bread to hearty whole grain loaves or chewy pizza dough, and do so better than you could by hand. The machine kneads doughs more thoroughly, which King Arthur found yielded a taller, fluffier loaf. Plus, it maintains a better temperature for rising than a drafty kitchen might.

For most recipes, it takes no longer than 10 minutes to load the machine with ingredients, and it’s safe to leave running while you’re away. Even better for busy people, most machines have a delay timer, so you can set it up in the morning and come home to freshly baked bread after work. Most machines can also be used on the “dough” setting (which does everything but bake the bread) to have fresh dough ready for cinnamon rolls in the morning or for an easy pizza dinner on a weeknight.

Two loaves of bread sliced thick on cutting board.

Clockwise from bottom left: bread from the West Bend, Zojirushi, and Hamilton Beach machines.

For people with food allergies or restrictions, a bread machine offers total control over what goes into your bread for a fraction of the effort that it takes to make bread by hand. Most newer models of bread machines even include a setting for making gluten-free loaves, so they can be big boon for anyone with gluten sensitivities. More so than wheat bread, store-bought gluten-free bread can be expensive and mediocre quality; a good bread machine will make a fresher loaf for cheaper.

If you already own a bread machine and aren’t happy with the way your bread turns out—if the ingredients aren’t mixed thoroughly, or the crust comes out uneven or dark—consider swapping it out for our top pick. And if you already love your bread machine but are using an inexpensive model, consider moving on to our upgrade pick, which is worth the steep price tag if you know you’ll be using it all the time.

A good bread machine can make a surprisingly wide variety of breads and doughs.

All that said, a bread machine is not for everyone. It’s a big appliance, and though most bread machines do have settings that allow you to make other things like jam and cake, for the most part it’s meant to do one thing: make bread. It’s also not foolproof. Like any other baking project, bread made in a bread machine requires precision. Haphazardly dumping in ingredients without careful measuring is likely to yield an uneven loaf at best (and a rock-like lump of baked dough at worst). Those with a tiny kitchen are probably better off just buying their bread, and those expecting something utterly effortless will likely be disappointed. A bread machine is also not great for making super chewy, crusty, artisan loaves like those in, say, the Tartine Bread cookbook, which require much slower rising times and hotter oven temperatures. For a relatively easy version of that, you’re better off trying Jim Lahey’s famous no-knead bread (this recipe comes from The New York Times, parent company of The Sweethome).

How we picked

Our top three bread machines next to each other on a kitchen counter.

From left to right: the West Bend Hi-Rise, T-fal ActiBread, and Zojirushi Virtuoso.

A good bread machine just needs to do one thing: make bread as good as or better than you could make by hand with less effort. In some ways, a bread machine loaf will always be a little different than what you’d bake in your oven. It will always have a hole in the bottom from where the mixing paddle was. And because the heating element is right up against the bread pan, you should expect the crust to come out a little thicker and tougher than oven-baked bread. But with a good bread machine, neither of these things should matter much. You can still make a sandwich out of the one or two slices with a hole, and the crust will still be tasty.

In looking for bread machines to test, we scoured Amazon and big box stores like Walmart and Target. For an appliance that has historically been pretty niche—not the kind of thing you see in every household—the range of machines out there is relatively broad, and we considered 17 of the best-rated models on Amazon before choosing six to test. There aren’t too many reliable reviews out there, but we did find a small community of avid bread machine users (including Marsha Perry of Bread Machine Diva and Beth Hensperger, author of The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook) to help narrow down what to test. Hensperger’s book was filled with information on the ins and outs of using bread machines, and numerous discussions on the Fresh Loaf (a popular forum for bread bakers of all types) offered more insight.

Keeping that in mind, and after consulting with experts and reading through bread machine reviews and cookbooks, here are the criteria we used when selecting and testing bread machines:

Even kneading and baking
The paddle(s) should knead the dough thoroughly, reaching every bit of the pan, so there are no patches of flour left in the corners. The machine also needs to maintain an even, gentle warmth as the dough rises so that the loaf doesn’t come out leaden and under-risen or overproofed and collapsed. And finally, the machine should bake the bread to an even golden brown with no hot spots.

Loaf shape
A lot of bread machines use a single paddle to knead, which means the bread pan has to be taller than it is long to keep the dough contained where the paddle can reach it. This yields a rather odd-shaped loaf and very tall slices of bread. PJ Hamel, the senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour, prefers something “that is pretty much the shape of a regular loaf of bread.” There aren’t many models like this available, but those that are out there use two side-by-side paddles instead of one in order to reach the dough on both ends of the pan. Two paddles don’t necessarily do a better job of kneading than one (that’s more up to the motor), so the main reason you might want a machine with two paddles is the shape of the loaf pan.

Durability
A strong motor won’t stall while kneading heavy whole wheat doughs and won’t break down after several months. But eventually, even the best bread machines will wear out under frequent use. Marsha Perry uses her bread machine three to four times a week and says that “the blades are the first thing to go, then the pan is second to go. The gaskets will break and leak.” So it’s useful to be able to purchase replacement blades and pans from the manufacturer rather than having to spring for a whole new machine.

Settings
We looked at bread machines with up to 16 different settings, each with kneading, rising, and baking times adjusted to suit a particular type of bread (or cake or jam). But not everyone needs salt-free bread or wants to make pasta dough in their bread machine. For anyone who isn’t planning to really geek out on their bread machine, the most essential settings are: basic (or white) bread, whole wheat bread, sweet bread, and dough. A gluten-free setting is also important if that’s what you plan on using your machine for, since gluten-free bread requires more kneading and less rising than any wheat bread. Hamel and Perry both recommend getting a machine that also allows you to program your own cycles, but that may only be useful if you like to tinker with recipes. Another important feature is a delay timer, so you can load the machine with ingredients and set it to start baking a few hours before you wake up in the morning, or as soon as you get home from work.

Size
Most bread makers are two-pound machines, which means they make a two-pound loaf of bread, though they usually also offer the option of making a 1.5-pound loaf. That’s not an exact measurement (obviously the weight of a loaf of bread will vary based on the ingredients) but it’s roughly the size of loaf you’d buy in the grocery store. There are some one-pound and three-pound machines available too, but the former makes a loaf too tiny to be of use to a household larger than two people, while the latter seems unreasonably large for an appliance that already takes up a lot of room in the kitchen. We decided to only test machines with a two- or 2.5-pound capacity.

Ease of use
While we recommend reading the manual, we think a bread machine should be easy and straightforward to program, with settings that are clearly labeled and self-explanatory. Once the machine is running, it should also be easy to tell at a glance where it is in the cycle. A loud signal can alert you when the bread is done and also, on most machines, tell you when to add things like fruit and nuts.

Price
Bread machines range in price from about $50 to nearly $300. The cheapest machines may have durability issues, and Hensperger thinks that the higher-end models “have more sophisticated heating elements” that do a better job baking bread. We don’t think everyone needs to spring for the top-of-the-line machine, especially if they don’t plan on using the machine multiple times a week, but we tested models ranging from $70 to $285 to see how they compare.

How we tested

Person cutting a small loaf of bread into thick slices.

Slicing a loaf from the T-fal ActiBread.

We started out by testing five machines, using each to bake a loaf of white sandwich bread to see how it performed on the basic setting. We baked each loaf on the “medium” crust setting and looked for finished breads that were evenly mixed, risen, and baked, with a smooth, domed top and golden brown sides. Then we baked a 100-percent whole-wheat loaf with raisins added in each, again on the “medium” crust setting. We looked for loaves that were tender and even-crumbed on the inside, evenly shaped and baked on the outside, with the raisins intact and distributed. After eliminating models that did not meet these criteria, we also baked multiple gluten-free loaves in all the top contenders. At first we tried a recipe from King Arthur, but that made dense, cakey loaves across the board. So, realizing that gluten-free recipes can be particularly finicky and disappointing, we made two more gluten-free recipes to confirm that the original recipe was to blame and to see how reliably each machine would perform through multiple approaches. We tried a recipe for gluten-free buttermilk white bread from Beth Hensperger’s book, The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook, then one that came with the Zojirushi, and we had much more success with each while also gaining insight into how the bread machines actually handled gluten-free baking.

The writer pouring water into a bread machine's inner bowl.

For best results, it’s important to weigh out your ingredients.

For every recipe, we weighed out both wet and dry ingredients rather than measuring by volume. This ensured precision and consistency across multiple tests, and is a better approach to making bread—and all baked goods—in general (baking pro Alice Medrich has a good explanation of why over on Food52).

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Late in the game, we also had to go back and retest several machines after one of our frontrunners (the Hamilton Beach Programmable Bread Machine) suddenly began overproofing bread. This was when we brought in a sixth machine (the Oster 2-pound Expressbake, which is in the same price range as the Hamilton Beach) for testing. We made more loaves of white and gluten-free bread in multiple machines during this second round, ultimately baking 30 loaves in all.

In every test, we also paid attention to how easy each machine was to use. We noted how much noise each machine made (some can be quite loud, and may also jump around on the counter), and how easy each pan was to clean (because all bread machine pans contain greased moving parts for rotating the paddle, none are dishwasher safe).

Our pick: West Bend 41410 2.5-pound Hi-Rise Bread Maker

Our top pick, the West Bend Hi-Rise Bread Maker, on a counter next to a plate of toast with jam.

The West Bend Hi-Rise Bread Maker.

Our pick
West Bend 41410 2.5-pound Hi-Rise Bread Maker
Not many bread machines make a loaf in a standard shape like this one. The West Bend also kneads and bakes evenly, producing tall, domed, golden brown loaves for a fraction of the price of comparable high-end machines.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $70.

The West Bend 41410 2.5-pound Hi-Rise Bread Maker is the best machine for most people because it consistently bakes tender, evenly browned breads in a more standard, elongated loaf shape than most other bread machines out there. It has 12 different settings, including gluten-free, and its delay timer allows you to delay the start of the cycle by as much as 13 hours. Programming it is easy and intuitive, and a digital screen clearly indicates both how long until the bread is done and where it is in the cycle. And at around $60 at the time of writing, it delivers bread as good as or better than some machines that cost over twice as much.

Knife cutting into a loaf of bread from the West Bend machine.

Slicing a loaf of bread from the West Bend.

What really makes the West Bend stand out is the shape of the pan, which is 9 inches long and 5 inches wide. It was one of only two machines we tested to make a normal-looking loaf, the other being the much more expensive Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Bread Maker. Of the single-paddle machines we tested, other pans were around 7 inches long and 5 or 6 inches wide, producing loaves about 6 inches high that yielded fewer slices and bigger sandwiches.

Every loaf came out golden brown from top to bottom, with a crust that wasn’t overly thick or tough.

Despite its 2.5-pound loaf capacity, which is slightly bigger than the 2-pound standard, the West Bend is still reasonably sized for a bread machine (which are inevitably all rather large). It measures 17 inches long and 11.5 inches tall, smaller than either the 18-by-13-inch-tall Zojirushi, which has a 2-pound capacity, or the 16.5-by-13-inch-tall Breville BBM800XL Custom Loaf Bread Maker, which has a 2.5-pound capacity. You can also adjust the settings on the West Bend to make a 1.5- or 2-pound loaf, so it’s easy to use with just about any recipe you’ll find.

The twin paddles on the West Bend kneaded both white sandwich bread and 100-percent whole-wheat bread thoroughly and evenly, incorporating every last bit of flour and yielding a springy, tender crumb. In comparison, some of the least expensive single paddle machines, like the Oster 2-Pound Expressbake, sometimes left clumps of unincorporated flour in the corners of the pan. Loaves from the West Bend also came out nicely risen. They had a soft, fluffy interior, and weren’t overproofed and collapsed like the loaves of white bread we made in the Oster or the Hamilton Beach 29882 Programmable Bread Machine.

In baking, the West Bend beat out even some of the more expensive machines we tested. Every loaf came out golden brown from top to bottom, with a crust that wasn’t overly thick or tough. It baked more evenly than the pricey Breville, which produced loaves with sides much darker than the top, and it didn’t bake as dark as the T-fal PF311E ActiBread Programmable Bread Machine, which turned out a whole wheat loaf that was borderline burnt on the medium setting.

The West Bend also made one of the best gluten-free loaves of all the machines we tried. It performed well with all three gluten-free recipes but did especially well on the recipe supplied by the Zojirushi manual, making a loaf with a spongey, open crumb that rose higher than any other one we made, though the one made in the Zojirushi was a close second. Though we did need to scrape down the sides of the pan during the first round of kneading each gluten-free loaf, this turned out to be the case with all the machines we tested––it has more to do with the nature of the bread than the machine.

Display screen and buttons on the West Bend machine.


The control panel on the West Bend is clearly labeled and easy to use.

Operating the West Bend is simple and straightforward. The menu display clearly indicates which cycle is selected, and separate buttons allow you to select the loaf size, crust color, and (if you choose it) delayed start time. As the machine runs, it tells you how much time is left. There are 12 different settings on the West Bend, ranging from sandwich bread to whole wheat to sweet bread, plus cake and jam (both less useful, but standard on almost all bread machines). We only tested the basic, whole wheat, and gluten-free settings, but none of the others seem as minimally useful as some of those on machines like the T-fal, which has a “salt-free” setting. And while you can’t make a custom cycle like you can on the Zojirushi or the Breville Custom Loaf, the West Bend does have mix-only and bake-only settings as well as a dough setting. The “mix” setting will just mix the dough for you, while the “bake” setting simply bakes an already-risen loaf, so you can be more hands on with the rising, kneading, or baking process if you want.

The West Bend makes noise while it’s kneading—all bread machines do—but it wasn’t nearly as loud as the Breville, which shook and rattled disconcertingly. Nor did it wobble as much as the Hamilton Beach, which is light enough that it danced around a little on the counter. What was loud was the alarm, which beeps when it’s time to add fruit and nuts at the beginning of the second knead cycle and again when the bread has finished baking. If you don’t remove the bread immediately and turn the machine off, the alarm also sounds periodically for the hour that it remains on “warming” mode so there’s less of a chance you’ll accidentally leave the loaf in too long. (It’s a good idea to remove the bread from the pan as soon as you can, otherwise the crust will get soggy from steam.)

Like most newer bread machine models, the West Bend has a memory feature that allows it to pick up where it left off if it loses power for up to five minutes. West Bend sells both replacement bread pans and kneading paddles; you don’t have to buy a whole new machine if your paddle accidentally gets bent, or if the nonstick coating gets scratched. The machine comes with a one-year limited warranty. In anonymous calls to West Bend, we’ve found their customer service to be friendly and prompt.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The risk with any bread machine that uses two paddles rather than one is that your dough will end up unevenly distributed in the pan, so the loaf is taller on one end than the other. One whole wheat loaf we made came out slightly sloped in this machine, though another was perfect. One white bread loaf didn’t have a perfectly smooth top, but it was uniformly tall from end to end. Given those results, we don’t think it will be an issue for most breads, but you may have trouble with dense doughs or small batches that might bunch up at one end of the pan, out of reach of one paddle. Though it’s a little less hands-off, you may want to check on your bread before it starts its second rise, especially when working with a new recipe or a heavy dough. The great thing about bread machines is that you can open the top and reposition the dough at any time.

Compared to more expensive models like the Zojirushi, the West Bend does feel somewhat more lightweight and flimsy. It also doesn’t have a custom cycle setting, which both Marsha Perry of the Bread Machine Diva and PJ Hamel of King Arthur Flour prefer. But after baking eight loaves of bread and washing the pan as many times, we didn’t come across any major red flags as to its durability. Between that and the one-year warranty, plus many Amazon reviews from longtime West Bend users, we’re confident that this is a reliable machine for an average amount of use, and we will continue to long-term test it to be sure. But if you anticipate using your bread machine multiple times a week or are interested in doing a lot of experimenting with bread recipes, you may want to go straight to our upgrade pick, the Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker, which most of the pros swear by.

Finally, it’s a small thing, but the digital display on the West Bend also doesn’t have a backlight, which was a feature we liked on the Zojirushi and the Breville just because it made reading a little easier. But as long as you’re not working in a dark kitchen, the display is nowhere near unreadable and definitely not a dealbreaker.

Runner-up: T-fal PF311E ActiBread

Our runner-up, the T-fal ActiBread machine with bread and jam on counter.

The T-fal ActiBread bread machine.

Runner-up
T-fal PF311E ActiBread Programmable Bread Machine
This is a good starter machine for anyone not ready to make a big investment. It kneads well and bakes evenly, but loaves come out taller than they are long.

If you’re looking for a slightly more compact bread machine or are interested in more gluten-free options, the T-fal PF311E ActiBread Programmable Bread Machine has a couple quirks but consistently made evenly kneaded, risen, and baked bread. It’s a single-paddle machine, so it does make a taller loaf than anything you’d find at the store, but it also has a smaller footprint than the West Bend or the Zojirushi. It excels at gluten-free loaves, and while it tends to bake bread on the dark side, using the lightest crust setting yields a nicely golden exterior.

Two slices of bread from the T-Fal machine, in an Oster toaster.

Slices from the T-fal were too big to fit in the toaster: their tops stuck out even when the lever was down.

In comparison to the standard-sized, 9-by-5-inch loaf from the West Bend or our upgrade pick, the Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker, a loaf from the T-fal has the odd, extra tall, almost cubelike shape that is actually standard for most bread machines. Slices from it were too tall to fit in our favorite toaster. But the dimensions of the pan, which uses one paddle instead of two, also mean the T-fal takes up fewer square inches of counter space. And the single paddle doesn’t run the risk of shoving all the dough to one side of the pan and leaving you with a lopsided loaf, which is not something we encountered in testing, but definitely a possibility with two-paddle machines.

Two full, un-cut loaves of bread on a wire rack on counter. One is much taller than the other.

The loaf from the T-fal (left) is much taller than the loaf from the West Bend Hi-Rise bread machine.

Loaves from the T-fal came out evenly kneaded and risen. They had a fine, even crumb and a smooth domed top, without any of the floury, unmixed corners or the collapsed, overproofed tops that we got from machines like the Oster 2-Pound Expressbake or the Hamilton Beach 29882 Programmable Bread Machine. Their only flaw was that, when baked on the medium setting, the crust tended to come out dark––evenly baked, but nonetheless dark. The white loaf was still tasty but at least a shade darker and with a thicker crust than most of the other loaves we baked, while the whole wheat loaf sweetened with honey (which scorches easily) looked burnt. When we retested with the machine on the lightest crust setting, loaves came out a nice golden brown, so it’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s something to keep in mind, especially when baking sweet loaves that can burn more easily.

The T-fal’s regular gluten-free setting passed our testing with flying colors, producing a tall, soft, spongy loaf from the Zojirushi recipe. It’s also the only machine we tested that actually included more than one gluten-free setting. It has three: regular gluten-free bread, sweet bread, and cake. We didn’t test all three, and for anyone not interested in baking gluten-free, it seems excessive, but if you are avoiding gluten, it could be a bonus.

A few of the other settings on the T-fal also seem unnecessary, such as a program for making pasta dough and the one for making salt-free bread. It also has options for making jam and cake, standard for most bread machines. We also haven’t tested these settings, so we can’t say how successful they are, but they probably won’t get much use with most people.

Display screen and buttons on the T-Fal machine.

Overall, however, the T-fal has all the settings you’d want in a bread machine: basic, whole wheat, sweet bread, and dough, plus a delay timer up to 15 hours. The buttons are clearly marked, the settings menu is easy to navigate, and the backlit screen is easy to read. At the time of writing, it’s comparable in price to the West Bend. It also has a one-year warranty, and T-fal sells replacement pans and paddles on its website.

Upgrade pick: Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker

Our upgrade pick, the Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso, on counter with bread and butter.

The Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso.

Upgrade pick
Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker
A favorite among the pros, the Zojirushi is sturdy, super reliable, and makes a standard shaped loaf. But it may not be worth the nearly-$300 price tag unless you’re a bread obsessive.

The Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker is a high-end machine that’s worth the cost if you love to bake bread and want more control over the mixing and baking process. It’s a sturdy, reliable machine, and in addition to having a number of pre-programmed settings, it also allows you to customize and save your own. Like the West Bend, it uses two kneading blades, and creates a standard-sized loaf. Every bread we made came out beautifully risen and baked, with a soft crumb and a crust that wasn’t too thick.

Overall, all the loaves we baked in the Zojirushi were great but not significantly better than the ones from the West Bend, which is why it may not be worth the steep price for everyone. But many people swear by Zojirushi machines: Both Marsha Perry of the Bread Machine Diva and PJ Hamel of King Arthur Flour say Zojirushi has been their preferred brand for decades, and it’s a favorite of many of the bread enthusiasts on the Fresh Loaf forum. A few features make it a good investment for anyone looking to upgrade from a less expensive machine or spend a lot of time making bread. For one thing, the Zojirushi allows you to program your own cycle, adjusting kneading, rising, and baking times to the minute. It also allows you to save up to three of these custom cycles.

Display screen and buttons on the Zojirushi machine.

The control panel on the Zojirushi is easy to navigate.

The settings on the Zojirushi are easy to use, and the digital display lights up, making it easy to read. And, rather than telling you how long the bread has left to bake, like all the other machines we tested, it tells you what time the loaf will be done. That sounds minor, but it’s nice not to have to do the mental math. (Just make sure the clock is correctly programmed first.)

Every bread we made came out beautifully risen and baked, with a soft crumb and a crust that wasn’t too thick.

Unlike all the other machines we tested, the Zojirushi also stops kneading automatically if you open the lid, which makes it easier to quickly scrape down the sides of the pan or make adjustments to the dough if necessary. In our experience, the need never came up, but it’s another convenient feature for those who want to be more hands-on or who like to tinker.

Finally, the Zojirushi is the sturdiest of all the machines we tried, but also the biggest, which is a downside for anyone short on space. It’s heavy like the Breville Custom Loaf, but unlike the Breville it kneads relatively quietly and doesn’t shake or rattle violently. Zojirushi sells both replacement pans and paddles, but the pan was also thicker and more durable-feeling than any other we tried. The machine comes with a one-year warranty, but is built to last much longer. Perry, who uses her machine three or four times a week, much more frequently than most, says her Zojirushis have always lasted for four or five years.

The competition

The Breville BBM800XL Custom Loaf Bread Maker was one of the more expensive models we tested. It has some nice features, like an automatic fruit and nut dispenser and the ability to adjust the time on any cycle as well as program your own. But it’s violently loud when kneading, and it overcooked the sides of every loaf we made.

The Oster 2-Pound Expressbake Bread Machine is inexpensive and a bestseller on Amazon. But it doesn’t include a gluten-free setting and overproofed the loaf of white bread, causing it to collapse.

Like the Oster Expressbake, the inexpensive Hamilton Beach 29882 Programmable Bread Machine ran hot and overproofed our white bread, leaving the interior spongy and the top sunken in. It also has a gluten-free cycle that goes through two rises instead of one. Gluten-free bread doesn’t have the strength and elasticity to rise again after being punched down, so the Hamilton Beach gluten-free loaves always came out collapsed and dense.

The Black & Decker B6000C Deluxe 3-Pound Bread Maker is another one of very few machines to feature two paddles instead of one. But we chose not to test it because its 3-pound capacity makes it huge and incapable of making 1.5-pound loaves, which is the standard for many recipes.

We chose not to test the Breadman BK1050S 2 lb. Professional Bread Maker after reading many Amazon reviews complaining that the paddles scratch the nonstick coating off the pan and release black grease into breads.

The Cuisinart CBK-200 Convection Bread Maker is enormous, and Cook’s Illustrated says it always overheated in their testing, leading to overproofed bread, so we decided not to test it.

The Cuisinart CBK-100 2-lb. Bread Maker is just an older version of the CBK-200. It’s just as huge, and not much better reviewed, so we chose not to test it.

We found a lot of Amazon reviews complaining that the Panasonic SD-YR2500 Bread Maker stopped working after a few months or less of use, and every single one mentioned that customer service had been unhelpful and unwilling to replace the machine. We don’t think it’s worth the risk.

The Rosewill RHBM-15001 has a lot of negative reviews on Amazon, so we chose not to test it.

The Sunbeam 5891 2-Pound Programmable Bread Maker is an inexpensive machine, but a lot of Amazon reviews suggest it doesn’t last long. The belt on the motor breaks easily, and this lightweight machine has a tendency to walk off of counters.

The Zojirushi BB-CEC20 Home Bakery Supreme is an older version of our upgrade pick and doesn’t include a gluten-free setting, so we chose not to test it.

The Zojirushi BB-HAC10 Home Bakery 1-Pound-Loaf Programmable Mini Bread Maker is only capable of making tiny, almost cube-shaped loaves, so it’s not as practical as most other machines.

(Photos by Michael Hession.)

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Sources

  1. PJ Hamel, senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour, phone interview, March 2017
  2. Beth Hensperger, author of The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook, phone interview, March 2017
  3. Marsha Perry, blogger for Bread Machine Diva, phone interview, March 2017
  4. Equipment Review: Bread Machines, Cook’s Illustrated, March 2015
  5. Irene Shover, Curious About Yeast Bread?: Old Traditions, Meet New Techniques, King Arthur Flour Blog, August 2012
  6. PJ Hamel, Successful Loaves from Your Bread Machine: 5 Tips for Home Bakers, King Arthur Flour Blog, February 2015
  7. Beth Hensperger, The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook, Harvard Common Press, April 2000
  8. Why Use a Bread Machine?, The Fresh Loaf forum post, February 2010
  9. Which Bread Machine Should I Purchase?, The Fresh Loaf forum post, March 2012

Please take your shoes off.