Best bread machines?

The lovely Alicia writes:

The Husband loves bread and I will periodically stun and amaze him by making some on a rare, slow weekend. But he cleans without being asked so I’d like him to have homemade bread more often! A full time job and 2 kids makes it difficult though. Any recommendatons on a good bread machine…it would be heavily used since he can consume a whole loaf by himself (and maintain his 32″ waist, for which I’ve not yet forgiven him).

A deal would be nice too but I’m willing to pay more for easier to use!

I’m sorry, I’m stuck back on the part where your husband can eat an entire loaf of bread and stay skinny. I hate him a little, now. (Kidding!)

Here’s the thing about making bread: While I’m happy to talk bread machines, I also feel the urge to point out that baking bread doesn’t have to be a time/labor intensive endeavor. A good heavy-duty mixer (such as my beloved KitchenAid Pro) can do all the kneading, and if you really want ease, check out Jeff Hertzberg’s Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (possibly the greatest bread baking cookbook ever).

But machines are good, too. Let’s take a look.

Hands down, the most popular brand that seems to offer a good balance of product features and price in this realm is Breadman. I see more Breadman sales here on Want Not than any other brand, and they tend to be fairly well-rated. The Breadman TR-520 is currently $59 shipped from Amazon (look in the “more buying choices” column to see that price), and the machine has a fair number of bells and whistles (timer, options for loaf size, etc.). If you want to stick with Breadman but go fancier, the TR2500BC model adds in more options, but the price rises to around $70. Do note: This is the machine that several of my gluten-free cohorts use, as it has a special setting for that. (Perhaps not of concern for Alicia, but relevant for others, maybe!)

If you’re willing to spend a little more for features, though, I’d say there are two even better options than the souped-up Breadman. First, there’s the Cuisinart CBK-100 for around $90 (though I’ve seen it as low as $70, if you’re willing to wait for a sale). It has the same features as the previously-mentioned Breadman, but a better overall rating. (Side note: I’ve never been disappointed with a Cuisinart appliance, ever.)

Finally, the Mac-Daddy of bread machines: The Zojirushi BB-CEC20. At around $200 (depending on the color and when you buy), this is no small investment. Also, it makes 2-pound loaves only, which may be a drawback if you’d like the option to make smaller ones. This is, however, the highest-rated machine in terms of consistency and reliability. (Does Zojirushi sound familiar to you? They’re also the most highly-regarded manufacturer of fuzzy logic rice cookers. Basically, they have the technology for consistent cooking down.) If you’re willing to spend the money, and if you plan to make 2-pound loaves, and you intend to use this machine every day or nearly so, this would be the investment to make.

For somewhat more casual use, I’d recommend the Cuisinart as a better value. And for those on a tight budget, the first Breadman I linked to is probably fine.

I hope that helps, Alicia. Happy baking!

21 Responses to “Best bread machines?”

  1. 1
    meghann January 5, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    I have something really basic, the Oster Expressbake.(Although there is a delay timer now that I think about it.) I’ve had mine for years now, and it’s still running great! And you really can’t beat bread in an hour. AN HOUR. (It’s not the best of the recipes, but it’s BREAD. IN AN HOUR!

  2. 2
    Mom24 January 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    I have the Cuisinart and it’s fine, though I do prefer to use my heavy-duty mixer. I will say I dislike baking in any bread machine and I only use mine to handle the dough and kneading then I shape and bake in the regular oven. Much better results that way.

  3. 3
    Jessica January 5, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    I have the Zojirushi mini, which makes 1 pound loaves – works beautifully (as it should, for $180). It’s perfect for smaller families. The only tricky part is figuring out how to adjust recipes, as most bread machine recipes are for 1 1/2 or 2 pound loaves. The Bread Machine Magic cookbook has all its recipes scaled for different sizes.

  4. 4
    Jodi January 5, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    For some reason, my beloved bread machine is never on these “cream of the crop” lists. I have the West Bend Hi-rise and it’s been very good to our family. It is maybe to only machine that makes a 2.5 lb loaf. I make most of our bread, including for sandwiches, and use the machine about 4x a week or more. It’s really a pretty incredible bread maker. I gave it as a gift to my MIL and she uses it very often and shares my love for it.

  5. 5
    Mary January 5, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    Love, love, love the artisan bread book!

  6. 6
    Katherine January 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    I have a zojirushi bread maker, which I have been using roughly twice a week for 21 years now! My dad got it for me cheap (he had to order some missing parts), and it has worked well for all these years. Many of the years it has made all the bread we eat. So, reliable it is.

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    Emily January 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    We have the cuisinart and I love it! Costco (b&m) has it for $69, I believe.

  8. 8
    Lisa January 5, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    The husband got me the $59 Breadman machine for Christmas. I’ve only used it twice–I baked a loaf of basic white last week and I’ve got the ingredients for a honey wheat loaf in it right now. So far so good. The recipe book is pretty limited, so I was just getting online as a matter of fact, to see what other recipes are out there.

    I’m particularly interested in finding out if I can do anything gluten-free with it. I’m contemplating going gluten free to see if it clears up some of my tummy issues.

  9. 9
    Elizabeth Fox January 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Mir, do you have a bread machine for your GF breads? (if so, what kind?) Or do you buy loaves of it? I usually buy loaves, but am considering a machine for occasional usage. (we don’t eat a ton of bread anyhow)

  10. 10
    Alicia January 5, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Thank you! I’ve been eyeing the cuisinart one since it’s a reliable brand.

    I should mention the bread machine is for HUSBAND to make bread. He’s not allowed to touch my preshus (aka kitchen aid mixer)!

    And, yes, the skinniness without trying thing can be hard to take sometimes.

  11. 11
    Sherri January 5, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    The artisan bread book is the best! I love it and there is no need for a bread machine.

  12. 12
    Mir January 5, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    Elizabeth: I don’t have a bread machine. I’ve all but given up bread, myself, and I actually enjoy baking bread by hand for the rest of the family. Sorry I’m no help on that score!

  13. 13
    myboyzach January 5, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

    I’m a huge fan of the artisan bread book. They also have a healthy bread in 5 minutes book and a new pizza and flatbread in 5 minutes. And guess what, a website to go along with all of that: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/
    (hope that’s OK Mir). I think they’ve posted a recipe or two on the website that you can try before buying the book. Word of advise: if you double the recipe, watch it !! Mine almost took over the entire kitchen, dog included, during Christmas.

  14. 14
    Mir January 5, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    I didn’t know there was a site! Thanks for the link. 🙂

  15. 15
    sarah January 5, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    LOVE Artisan Bread books.

  16. 16
    Kathleen January 5, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    I have to laugh – my response to the title was “get a kitchenaid and the artisan in five books”. 🙂

  17. 17
    My Kids Mom January 6, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    I suggest teaching a child to use whatever bread machine you choose. Then it won’t matter which you get.

    By 2nd grade, kids should know enough measurement to make bread in a machine. (Just supervise until they get the difference btwn tablespoon and teaspoon! We’ll have Friday afternoon pizza dough at our house today!

  18. 18
    amanda January 6, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    I bought an oster for $5 at goodwill- brand new, in its box. It’s worked just fine for me. Maybe drop a few bucks on a cheaper model to see if you like using the bread machine, then save the $ you would have spent on bread at the grocery store to save up for a nicer one!

  19. 19
    Jami January 6, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    Not only is there a site, but a couple of years ago, I had a great and helpful email exchange with the co- author of the book about results using different brands of flour. (I was using White Lily, which while perfect for biscuits is not great for sturdier bread baking, because of the low gluten content). Fabulous results every time, now, and I gave my bread machine to goodwill.

  20. 20
    Leah January 6, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    My mom used to let the machine do the kneading/rising, then she’d pop it into the oven, to avoid the thick crust on 4 sides of the loaf. Maybe newer machines don’t have this crust, but if so, finishing in the oven might be the way to go.

  21. 21
    liz January 6, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    I have 2 zojirushi bread makers – one is almost 20 years old – and I use them constantly. I have 5 boys and a husband and cross country team potlucks so they go all the time. The newer one only makes bigger amounts, but I use it for rolls and pizza dough too – in 45 minutes you can have dough! The older/smaller one only has the slower rise yeast setting but it makes the BEST dough for cinnamon rolls. MMMMMMMM. Never had any trouble except I’ve worn out the pans twice.