Many people these days are looking for healthier choices, especially when it comes to foods, like bread, that are consumed everyday.
Making bread at home gives you power over what goes into your loaf. But, how many of us have the time and dedication to master the art of bread-making, or to provide enough for the daily table? Probably not many, but one of our best bread machines in 2021 has the potential to change that.
After decades of slouching sales, the bread machine is making a comeback due to rising health awareness and an increased demand for low-sodium, salt-free and gluten-free foods. Today’s models are a lot more compact, better at actually baking bread, and can handle other tasks like making jams and meatloaves.
Advantages Of Owning A Bread Machine
- You choose what goes into your bread.
- If you have dietary restrictions, a bread machine offers easy access to the types of bread you can eat.
- If you go through a loaf or more a week, even a fancy bread machine will be cheaper in the long run than buying bread at the store.
- People with physical disabilities and mobility restrictions can save on trips to the store and avoid the potentially painful process of kneading dough.
- Owners can tweak or modify yeasts and gluten volumes to fit their health and diet priorities.
The basic ingredients of bread are flour, water, yeast, and salt. The average commercial loaf, however, has many additional ingredients: GMO soy oil, extra gluten, calcium sulphate, mono and di-glycerides, azodicarbonamide, sodium stearoyl lactylate, DATEM to name the most common. Some harmless, others very questionable, all of them unnecessary. Furthermore, it could be that these changes are more to blame for health issues than the much maligned gluten.
Common Features And Variations In Bread Machines
Whatever bread machine you choose to buy, you should know about the different types of features and components of a typical bread machine.
This is the container you put the ingredients in. The shape of the pan determines the size and shape of your bread. Most are square and tall, producing a taller loaf than the ones you get at the store. A few models are more rectangular, which produces bread that’s better for toasting.
The paddle is a small, detachable, flipper-like tool that connects to the bottom of the pan. It’s the thing that kneads the dough and mixes the ingredients around. Most machines use a single paddle, but the double paddles can be found in wide pans.
The paddle also creates the hole found on the bottom of all machine-made bread. Some models try to minimize this ‘defect’ by having the paddles fold up, while others will stop and beep, giving you the option to take it out before baking starts.
High-spec models may even have two different types of paddles—one for bread and one for jam.
The paddle is the most easily worn out component of a bread machine, and it may need to be replaced after a couple years. If these parts aren’t available online, check the manufacturer’s homepage.
You’re not going to be baking bread without a lid, but some lids are better than others. All the models on our list come with a viewing window so you can see how your bread is doing. A few models also have a push-button light for easier viewing, and the Zojirushi actually has an extra heating element in the lid for improved crusting.
If you want to make bread with nuts, seeds, or fruits, this little tray will automatically do the job for you. But not many models have a dispenser; rather, they rely on a beeping sound to let you know when it’s time to open up the machine and drop in the extras.
A Control Panel
All bread machines have an LCD screen with push buttons or a dial. Several have a numbered legend showing preset options such as basic white, French, whole wheat, or gluten-free bread. Some LCDs are backlit for easier reading.
These are accessible from the control panel, but the important thing to consider is whether the settings can be modified.
Some makers might use the word ‘programmable’ very loosely, but a programmable model should allow you to adjust kneading, rising and baking times, or to customize your own baking courses. On our list, only Breville has both levels of customization. A few models allow you to create up to three custom courses.
In the settings, you can choose which preset course you want, then the loaf size, the type of crust, and lastly the starting time. Check to see if there are any special presets like fast bake or gluten-free before you buy your bread machine. You can also usually choose cycles independently, allowing you to either just knead or just bake your dough.
Of course, the timer is essential, but it doesn’t vary much from model to model. Almost all models allow you to delay the start time by up to 13 hours. This allows you to have your bread done, piping hot and aromatic, just when you want it. Many models also have an automatic keep-warm function for an hour after the bread is done.
Tips for Using a Bread Machine
- Instructions – Always follow the instructions because bread machines are often distinct in function.
- Ingredients – Add your ingredients in the exact order recommended. Usually that means liquids first, followed by dry ingredients and finally yeast. Buy the best and freshest ingredients, and measure them carefully. A scale is highly recommended.
- Climate and weather – Most recipes are formulated for low elevations. If you live at a higher elevation, like in the Rocky mountains, decrease the yeast content as advised in the manual. More humid areas may require less water, while drier regions will require a bit more. Room temperature liquids are always best.
- Monitoring – This is something you can’t always do, but it does help to just check and see if all of the ingredients are mixing in from the sides and corners. If not, you can use a spatula to scrape them in. If your dough seems too dry or wet, add a little water or flour before the second kneading.
- The pan and paddle – If the paddle gets stuck in the bread, carefully remove, soak, and clean it. It’s best to spray the paddle with non-stick cooking spray before putting it back in the machine. Wash the pan gently, as pans are often made from non-stick materials. Check for any dishwasher instructions.
Be patient and take some time to get to know your bread machine. Stick to the recipes in the manual before venturing off with your own creations. If your bread doesn’t come out as you imagined, check the troubleshooting section of your manual.
Reviews of the Best Bread Machines 2021
- Zojirushi Virtuoso Bread Machine – Best Overall To Buy in 2021
- Breville Custom Loaf Bread Machine – Best Programmable
- Cuisinart Bread Machine – Best Convection Bread Machine
- T-fal Actibread Bread Machine – Best Priced For Gluten-Free
- Oster Expressbake Bread Machine – Best Express Model
- Zojirushi Mini Bread Machine – Best Compact 1 Pounder
- Sunbeam Bread Machine – Best Budget Bread Machine
Here’s our picks for the best bread machines.
1. Zojirushi BB-PAC20BA – Best Overall To Buy in 2021
In competitive bake-offs and user comparisons, the Zojirushi Virtuoso consistently produces the best all-around quality bread and scores the highest customer satisfaction rating.
- Extremely versatile
- 15 preset options
- 3 custom settings
- Best model for gluten-free
- Heating element in the lid
- Only makes a 2-lb loaf
- LCD screen not backlit
- No dispenser
We chose this model over the cheaper Zojirushi Supreme for two reasons: It has a dedicated setting for gluten-free bread, and the lid incorporates an additional heating element for the best even browning and crusting.
The Zojirushi has a rectangular pan and is one of the few models that can bake a traditional 2-pound loaf suitable for toasting. With two kneading paddles, it’s particularly good for gluten-free flour, which requires more kneading and less rising time.
The lid of the newer model has a unique heating element, so it’s able to get consistently good crust browning—something only convection models can typically achieve. It does the three standard types of crust: light, medium, and dark.
Bread makers have three functional cycles: kneading, rising, and baking. With this model, you can select a single function to knead any kind of dough or use it as the perfect proofing or rising chamber.
The baking cycle can be used to make bread cakes, cinnamon rolls, jams, and even meatloaf.
The 15 preset options on the Zojirushi include not only the most common types of bread, but also gluten-free, salt-free, sugar-free, and vegan options. Many users find the included recipe book very useful, especially the gluten-free alternatives.
There are three memory slots for you to program your own baking course. Preset courses, however, are not adjustable. The timer can be set up to 13 hours for a delayed start-up.
Users should be aware that the paddles will wear out after a year or so, depending on how much you use them. However, replacement paddles are easily available.
Over a foot tall and a foot-and-a-half wide, this Zojirushi is fairly large. It’s also the heaviest machine on our list, weighing some 22 pounds (10 kg). While it is the best model for baking great bread in decent quantities, it’s probably not a good fit if you’re limited in space or on a budget.
One major drawback is that this machine can only bake one size of bread— the 2-pound loaf. According to manual guidelines, it’s better to use active dry yeast rather than rapid rise yeast used in quick baking breads.
There’s no dispenser in this model, so you’ll have to rely on the program alert to know when to add fruits, nuts, or seeds.
One thing that could use improvement is the LCD lighting. The display isn’t backlit, so some people find it rather difficult to see.
This machine offers the best baking results by far, especially when it comes to gluten-free bread. It only produces a 2-pound loaf, so it’s best suited for serious bakers or large families.
2. Breville BBM800XL – Best Programmable Bread Machines
While the Breville Custom does not match the Zojirushi or the Cuisinart for quality and evenness of crust, it comes at a slightly more affordable price tag. And it has a few thoughtful design features that put it in a category of its own.
- Most programmable model
- Stylish and top-class interface
- 13 adjustable preset options
- 9 custom settings
- 4 different loaf sizes
- Collapsible paddle
- Dispenser tray
- Crust not uniform
- Bread not always perfectly domed
- No side handles to easily lift
The Breville stands out with its top-quality, stainless steel body. Its user interface is easily the best designed, most intuitive, and pleasurable to use of all the models we looked at. It’s also a bit smaller and lighten than the Zojirushi.
One of its most useful features is the ‘Modify’ button, which allows you to adjust knead, rise, and bake cycles for any of the 13 automatic presets. You can also enter up to nine of your own custom courses.
Unlike the single-size Zojirushi, this bread machine is able to produce four different sizes— 1lb, 1 ½ lb, 2 lb, and 2 ½ lb— so it’s much more versatile in the quantity and size of breads that it can make.
While it only has one paddle, it collapses into its hold before the baking cycle starts in order to minimize the size of the hole on the bottom of the loaf. It also has a swivel, which helps a lot with kneading compared with other one-paddle pans.
Unlike some models, the Breville has a dispenser tray, so you can add extra ingredients at the start of the cycle rather than halfway through. Additionally, the pause button allows you to interrupt any cycle to add bread designs or to cancel or modify a recipe.
Although many models have a limited power back-up function, only the Breville has a 60-minute back-up, which rescues your bread in case of an electrical outage.
Other extras include a light in the window to reveal the breadmaking process, a sound-mute button for overnight baking, a specialized paddle for stirring jams, and a cord wrap on the back of the machine.
More critical reviewers who have tested the Breville against the Zojirushi find that the Breville, as nice as it is with its high-tech options, tends to produce less consistent results.
The main issue is with the crust, which tends to be darker on the bottom and sides, and often doesn’t dome as nicely.
Although Breville were very thoughtful about all sorts of extra finishes, they didn’t include outside handles, so many users find it a hassle to move around.
While the Breville doesn’t always deliver the perfect loaf, it has a range of convenient and unique features that add value. With this model, you can modify all settings, save on the price tag, and get a bunch of cool extra features.
3. Cuisinart CBK-200 2-Lb Convection – Best Convection Bread Machine
There aren’t many convection options out there, but the Cuisinart is by far the best of the bunch, and it’s reasonably priced. It makes a lovely, evenly browned loaf, and its overall results are second only to the Zojirushi’s.
- Convection fan system
- Best crust formation
- 16 preset options
- Low-carb, gluten-free options
- 3-year warranty
- Not programmable
The most obvious advantage of the Cuisinart Convection Bread Maker is the convection fan system, which spreads heat evenly and rapidly all around the oven interior. This produces a perfect crust that few other home bread machines can manage.
It also comes with 16 preset options, including low-carb and gluten-free. Many users appreciate the included recipe book, which has six recipes each for low-carb and gluten-free breads.
The special Last Minute option is useful for faster baking recipes, which can be done in as little as an hour. You can find examples in the recipe booklet that comes with the machine.
Like the Breville, you have a choice of loaf sizes, but the Cuisinart has just three: 1, 1 ½, and 2 pounds. You can also choose from three crust choices: light, medium, and dark.
It has a delay-start option of up to 13 hours, and a power failure back-up, but it only backs up the memory for 15 minutes.
What sets this model apart is its longevity. It comes with a 3-year warranty, and users often report lifespans of 5 years or more.
While the model description advertises itself as programmable, the only thing you can actually adjust is the time, and even then only in 10-minute increments. There is no fine tweaking like with the Breville, nor is there an option to make your own courses.
Its display is basic but functional. It emits rather loud beeps—some short, others long or repetitive— at different notification stages like when to take out the paddle or add ingredients, but it’s kind of difficult to remember what they all mean.
There aren’t many reported issues with the bread’s quality, but it does have a tendency to overcook the crust when using the dark crust setting, and sometimes even on medium.
If all you want is a simple machine that bakes good quality bread, then this Cuisinart convection oven is a much more affordable option than either the Breville or the Zojirushi. Its 3-year warranty is another bonus.
4. T-fal Actibread Bread Machine – Best Priced For Gluten-Free
If you’re looking for a bread maker with high-quality features at an affordable price, then we recommend this T-fal. Its MSRP is usually cheaper than the Cuisinart.
- Best gluten-free settings
- 15 preset courses
- Not programmable
The T-fal looks good with its brushed stainless steel body and modern, black top. It has comparable features to the others on this list. There are 15 preset courses, three crust types, a 1-hour warming function, and a 15-hour delayed start function (the most by two hours). It’s also got a 7-minute memory protection function in case of power loss.
This machine stands out for its gluten-free setting. In the manual, there are a number of gluten-free recipes with good advice on how to make gluten-free bread, such as sifting flour and scraping the bowl during the mixing phase. The delayed start function doesn’t work with the gluten-free option though, so keep that in mind.
As with the Cuisinart, what you see is what you get, since you cannot program or tweak anything.
It has a similar over-cooking problem with some types of flour when you use the medium or dark crust settings. Also, if you use the cook cycle independently, it only goes for 70 minutes, which can be a problem for longer-baking bakes.
This baker is a good value for the money, and it’s designed to work especially well with gluten-free and salt-free breads. If you don’t need a programmable model, this is a solid, affordable alternative to both the Zojirushi and the Breville.
5. Oster Expressbake Bread Machine – Best Express Model Bread Machine
The Oster Express Bake is probably one of the most popular models of bread machine, and it comes at a reasonable price. Reviewers testify to its hardiness and durability, and there are many repeat buyers of this brand whose previous models lasted up to 10 years.
- Best fast-bake options
- Tough and durable
- 12 presets
- Not programmable
- Not suitable for gluten-free
This model’s niche is, as the name suggests, fast and easy baking. It can cook a standard loaf with its express mode in under an hour—58 minutes to be exact.
With the Expressbake setting, you can’t use the delayed start-up option, but it’s good for those who like to wake up early and do things before breakfast. It features three easy express recipes and an additional rapid-bake button, which you can use with basic, wheat, and French bread to shave an hour off the usual time.
It has 12 pre-set modes, including options for pizza and bagel doughs, cinnamon rolls, and jams. You can also use the bake function independently of the other functions.
The delayed start-up timer is the usual 13 hours, and it automatically goes into the keep warm mode right after finishing the bake.
With this machine, recipes cannot be tweaked and there are no programming options.
There’s also no special settings for gluten-free breads. There is a cousin model that does gluten-free, but it retails for more or less the same as the T-fal, which is a much better all-around bread maker.
Like other models, this one will beep to let you know when to add fruits, seeds, or nuts, but there’s no additional beep to remind you to take out the paddle before baking. You’ll have to rely on the LCD screen to let you know where you are in a cycle.
A number of user comments say this one is a bit of a ‘walker’—that is, it tends to move around on the counter, so better set it away from the edge.
This is a great affordable choice for busy families and every day ‘breadders’, as long as you don’t need the gluten-free setting.
6. Zojirushi Mini Bread Machine – Best Compact 1 Pounder
If you want a no-fuss, easy-to-use machine consider the Zojirushi Mini. This tall, slim one-pounder is unique for its size and can be relied on to produce high-quality, consistent bakes.
- Easy to operate
- Carry handle and cord clip
- Not programmable
- Not suitable for gluten-free
Most bread machines are quite large and bulky, but the Zojirushi Mini manages to slim down by adding extra height.
It only bakes a 1-pound loaf, which is typically more square-shaped and tall. If you have limited counter space, then this is a good choice. It bakes enough for singles, couples, and small families. Some people use it as a back-up supply for regular bread or to have occasional hot, fresh loaves.
With this model, you don’t have to think about 12 or more pre-programmed options. What you see on the LCD is what there is—you can choose basic bread, quick bread, or French bread. For basic bread, you can choose from regular, firm, or soft, and from one of two crust choices: regular or light.
The Mini also does the usual doughs and jams, and it comes with a quick bake function, but it’s not nearly as fast as the Oster.
Like the Oster, it only beeps twice in its cycle: before the second rise when you need to add ingredients, and once again at the end. It also switches automatically into the 1-hour keep warm mode. Its optional delayed start-up goes to 13 hours.
Two convenient extra features emphasize its portability: a carrying handle, and a cord clip at the back of the machine for easy storage.
For some, the price may be a bit much. The suggested retail price is generally over $200—pretty much the same price range as the Breville. However, it bakes well and lives up to the standards expected of the Zojirushi name.
If you’re looking for programmable options or more preset choices, this probably isn’t for you. It also doesn’t work with gluten-free bread, which requires more kneading and only one rising.
If you have limited space and don’t care for complexity, the Zojirushi Mini will suit you fine. For the price there could be a few more frills, but overall it’s a very sturdy and durable product.
7. Sunbeam Bread Machine – Best Budget Bread Machine
Oster is a sub-brand of Sunbeam, so these two models are pretty similar. The Sunbeam often retails at a more competitive price, and both use Expressbake technology.
- Tough and durable
- 12 pre-set options
- Not programmable
- Not suitable for gluten-free
This model has all the standard features you should expect: 12 programs, three loaf sizes, three crust choices, a 13-hour delay start-up timer, an automatic 1-hour keep-warm function, and the ability to make both doughs and jams.
It has the same 58-minute quick bake setting as the Oster, but less versatility when it comes to quick bake options.
This is a well-reviewed product whose customers are, by and large, happy with it and have many positive comments on its durability.
The Sunbeam claims to be programmable, but in fact only the timer is programmable. A lot of bread machine makers do this, so don’t be fooled. “Programmable” should mean that you can adjust the individual kneading, rising, or baking times as you see fit—not just the overall time.
This model also seems to be a bit of a walker, so keep it away from counter edges. And some users think it’s a bit bulky, but it weighs slightly less than the Zojirushi Virtuoso.
If you’re on a budget and can pick up one of these Sunbeams for cheap, then it’s worth it, because it has all the basic functions and is reportedly pretty durable. If it’s retailing at the same price as the Oster, it’s better to go with that one instead.
Top-rated Bread MachinesComparison
|Maker||Bin and Paddle||Loaf Sizes||Key Features|
|Zojirushi Virtuoso||Horizontal |
|2 lb||3 custom settings
Lid heating element
|Breville Custom Loaf||Vertical|
|1lb, 1.5 lb, 2 lb, 2.2 lb||9 custom settings
All presets adjustable
|Cuisinart Convection Oven||Vertical|
|1lb, 1.5 lb, 2 lb||Convection fan 3-year warranty|
|1 lb, 1.5 lb, 2 lb||3 gluten-free settings|
|1 lb, 1.5 lb, 2 lb||58 min Expressbake™
Extra rapid bake options
|1 lb||Small and compact
|1 lb, 1.5 lb, 1 lb||Tough and durable|
Best Bread Machine Brands
When it comes to bread making machines, there’s a good selection of manufacturers to choose from. The most popular brands are generally those of well known kitchen appliance makers.
Zojirushi is a Japanese brand that uses the logo of an elephant (‘zo’). They are best known for their water boiler dispensers, rice cookers, oven toasters and thermo flasks. Their bread machines are some of the most popular and sought after. The larger, rectangular model makes standard sized loaves, and the smaller, taller model makes more typical bread machine loaves.
Cuisinart is one of America’s largest counter-top kitchen appliance manufacturers. The company was founded in 1971 by Carl Sontheimer, an American born Frenchman who was also an MIT graduate. Their first product to gain popular appeal was a food processor. They make a large array of table-top kitchen appliances, outside grills as well as cookware, bakeware, cutlery, and other kitchen tools. Cuisinart have two bread machine models—their popular convection bread maker and a smaller compact bread machine.
Breville is an Australian manufacturer and designer of small home appliances. They have a large selection of kitchen appliances and a limited range of cookware. Their products all feature high-grade, polished stainless steel bodies, and are well-liked for their sleek, user-friendly and well-designed digital interfaces. The Breville Custom Loaf is the only fully programmable bread machine on the market.
T-Fal, or TEFAL,is a French based manufacturer well-known for their non-stick cookware as well as anodized titanium and ceramic coated cookware. They also produce a small range of kitchen appliances including a bread machine, grills, deep fryers, pressure cookers and an airfryer. The also have products for linen care.
Sunbeam and Oster are a joint corporation and two well-known American brands. Sunbeam is the older company and made its name with toasters, irons and mixers. Sunbeam acquired Oster in 1980. Sunbeam products feature electric blankets and mattresses, garment appliances and humidifiers. Oster has a much wider range of kitchen appliances and kitchen tools. Both have a bread machine, but the Oster is better value for money.
Although it was an America, Joseph Lee, who invented the first automated bread making machine, it was Matsushita corporation—now Panasonic— that innovated the first home bread maker in 1986. Panaosnic makes a wide range of electronic devices and not just kitchen appliances, but their bread machines are still popular. Their large bread machine features a unique automatic yeast dispenser, and their more compact model now has an automatic fruit and nut dispenser.
Breadman is a brand name that is dedicated to bread machines and bread making. They belong to a larger group of brand names that include Black & Decker, Juiceman, Rayovac, George Foreman and Remmington. They have the largest selection of bread machines under one name, although their machine designs are not so unique and tend to copy those of more successful brands.
Hamilton Beach is a well respected brand that focuses on high-end value as well as an array of commercial restaurant equipment. They make a full spectrum of kitchen appliances and some kitchen tools. They have a number of bread machines in their selection, including an all stainless steel premium model, and their Artisan Dough & Bread Maker that comes in three different colors.
Our best bread machines are all top performing models. They include a convection bread machine, the only fully programmable bread machine, affordable and compact bread makers, and bread makers suitable for gluten free bread. If you have anything to add, or a question to ask, please use the comment feature below. We are always here for you.