There’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread, but making your own loaves from home is hard work. There’s the kneading, proving, and not to mention the all-important bake. The best bread makers in 2021 will deliver fuss-free homemade bread with the push of a button, and many come with bread maker recipes included for the perfect loaf, every time.
Many of the best bread makers will come from brands you already know, such as Panasonic, Russell Hobbs, Morphy Richards, and Lakeland. In our bread maker reviews we tested machines for a range of budgets, including bread makers for under £50, and high-end options with compartments for adding seeds and dried fruit at just the right moment.
For more expert product reviews, see our other buying guides
Why do I need a bread maker?
Bread makers take the mess out of the process, allowing you to add your raw ingredients before kneading, proving, and baking right there in the tin. A lot of the best bread making machines are able to cut down on mess, too. As much fun as it can be to knead your own loaves (for the first few minutes before your arms start to ache, that is) you will usually be left with a sticky, floured kitchen counter that can be a pain to clean, and that’s before you consider that the dough will be all over your hands too! Check out the best stand mixers if you want a machine that can do all that tricky kneading for you.
How much should I spend on a bread maker?
A basic bread maker can cost as little as £50, with more premium models costing more than £200. Consider what’s important to you when deciding how much to spend. A higher price tends to mean more features and versatility, rather than necessarily corresponding to performance.
If all you plan to make is a mix of white or wholewheat loaves, a sub-£80 machine should fit the bill nicely. Do you want to experiment with different flours and recipes, such as sourdough? Then you will get more out of a premium appliance. Plus, it’s likely to have a longer lifespan.
Bread makers can be expensive, but when you’re able to buy bread flour and yeast in bulk they can actually be very cost-efficient machines. Homemade bread can actually cost a lot less than the supermarket alternatives, and you can eat it fresh out of the machine when it’s done. Mmm…
What is the best bread maker in 2021?
After testing and tasting hundreds of loaves, cakes and more, Ideal Home rates the SD-ZX2522 Breadmaker by Panasonic as the best bread maker on the market. However, if you are short on space, the White Compact 1lb Daily Loaf Bread Maker by Lakeland runs it a close second.
On a budget? The Cookworks Breadmaker is a solid if not spectacular buy.
Best bread makers
1. Panasonic SD-ZX2522
Best for gluten-free goodies
Here’s a fuss-free way to turn out not just the perfect loaf, but also gluten-free bread, pasta and cakes, plus jam and compote. Introducing the SD-ZX2522. This bread maker has 37 programmes, 13-hour delay start, yeast dispenser and three loaf size and crust options. It should have a snappier name, like The Ultimate Bread, Pasta and Cake Machine.
If you fancy getting creative, it has a preset and accessories for making your own sourdough starter. This is alongside a separate raisin/nut dispenser and rye bread paddle. Touch panel controls and a sleek steel finish also mean you won’t mind having it out on the worktop.
The downside is that this bread maker is quite tall, so only just squeezes below some wall cabinets (although this minimises its footprint). Also, there’s no viewing window and it’s pricier than most. Its parts aren’t dishwasher-safe. There’s a lot of information in the instructions – this could feel overwhelming to a baking newbie.
However, the bread maker was easy to use. In testing, it was ultra-quiet even when kneading with purpose. It made a basic large white loaf over four hours, although there’s also a rapid option if you want it faster. The outside of the machine grew warm but not hot. The finished loaf was well-risen with a light, fluffy interior. A sure-fire choice for better bread every time.
Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars
2. Lakeland White Compact 1lb Daily Loaf Bread Maker
Best bread maker for small spaces
A tiny kitchen is no barrier to having convenient freshly baked bread thanks to this small but perfectly formed machine. Its footprint isn’t much bigger than a four-slice toaster. This means that it can live at the back of a worktop or squeeze into a cupboard.
Yet, it manages to produce a 1lb loaf (around 450g, using 320g flour). It’s also fantastically easy to use. Pop the ingredients in and set one of 11 programmes (including gluten-free and knead-only). Decide how brown you’d like the crust, and set it mixing.
There’s a 13-hour delay start so you can be there when the bread finishes baking to remove it. There’s a one-hour keep warm if you’re not around. Plus there’s a viewing window to check on progress, and a measuring spoon, cup and hook for removing the paddle from the loaf.
On the downside, it’s noisier than some when mixing. Also the white bread programme beeps loudly midway through (so you can add extras) and again at the end. In tests, it produced a tasty 1lb white loaf with a thick golden brown crust and well-risen top in three hours on the basic programme.
Despite the pan and paddle being non-stick, the loaf was reluctant to be removed. The pan and paddle are, however, dishwasher-safe.
Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars
3. Cookworks Breadmaker
Best for budget
While it’s not billed as compact, this basic bread maker is relatively small. This makes it a good buy for a space-poor kitchen. The size is reflected in its pan, which is tall rather than wide, and can make small (1lb) or large (1.5lb) loaves with three crust colours.
There’s a decent amount of versatility with 12 programmes (no gluten-free but there is jam and cake). There’s a 13-hour delay start, an ‘add extras’ alert, viewing window and one-hour keep warm, plus a measuring spoon and cup. For all that, it’s probably a better bet for previous bread maker owners, rather than newbies. This is because the instructions and recipe book are poorly written.
Another quirk is two programmes that deliver speedy baking (Ultra Fast and Quick). There is no discernable time difference between them (both just under two hours). In testing, it was used to make a small loaf on the basic white setting with a dark crust.
One frustration was the lack of conversion to grams for flour in the recipe. The measurement was only available in cups. This means if you’ve mislaid the cup, you’re left with guesswork. The bread maker also had an annoying whine as it kneaded. However, it didn’t get too warm on the outside and produced an evenly browned loaf. It hadn’t risen as well as hoped, but was acceptable and came out of the pan easily.
Ideal Home rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Buy now: Cookworks Breadmaker at Argos
4. Morphy Richards 48281 Fastbake Bread Maker
Best fast bread maker
Hate waiting? The Fastbake is the bread maker for you. Equipped with two rapid programmes for making a 1.5lb or 2lb loaf in less than an hour, it’s perfect for a busy lifestyle. This machine boasts 12 programmes that include wholewheat, French, sweet, cake, jam and dough.
There’s also a 13-hour delay start, 60-minute keep warm and three crust colour options. There’s no gluten-free setting. However, there are instructions on making gluten-free bread and cakes using the other programmes. There’s also no extras dispenser but it will sound an alert when you can add ingredients. Two spoons and a cup make measuring simple.
While there’s no button for it, the machine can be used to make a 1lb loaf but on the 1.5lb setting. However, making sure you stick to the right quantities for the recipe can be a challenge. In testing, it wasn’t as easy as some to programme. The buttons aren’t in a logical order.
This bread maker was used to make a 1.5lb white loaf on the basic programme. While it wasn’t too noisy, it beeped loudly when it was ready for extras. The action isn’t shown on the display so first-time bakers might wonder what it wants.
The loaf rose and baked well, and stayed crisp on the keep warm setting. It came out of the pan easily. However, the paddle had to be dug out and there was some unmixed flour on one corner.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
5. Russell Hobbs Compact Black Bread maker
Best affordable bread maker
There’s a tendency to think of affordable appliances as lacking in features. However this bread maker has a lot of what you’d expect in a more expensive model. It has 12 programmes. These include gluten-free, jam and cake, two fast bakes, 13-hour delay, optional one-hour keep warm.
Despite its small size, this bread maker can still make a loaf up to 1kg, as well as 500g and 750g versions. There’s a viewing window, an alert to add extras, buttons with icons as well as words, and a dishwasher-safe paddle. Its black glossy finish feels more premium. As it’s compact, it won’t hog the worktop.
On the downside, while the buttons are straightforward, there are a few quirks. For example, the crust settings don’t make much sense. Light appears on the LCD display as L, but medium and dark are P and H. There’s no measuring spoon and cup, and the pan pushes, rather than twists, into place. This needs a sharp yank to get it out.
In testing, the 750g white loaf rose incredibly well. But while the sides and bottom were sufficiently browned, the top was pale, despite it being set for the darkest crust. The loaf came out of the pan easily but the paddle tore a hole. It was still a fluffy loaf, but its two-tone look somewhat let it down.
Ideal Home rating: 3 out of 5 stars
6. Panasonic SD-ZP2000KXC Breadmaker
Best bread maker for crusty rustic loaves
Most bread makers can turn out a passable basic white loaf but if you want bread that’s more like the handmade stuff from a bakery, it’s time to invest in the Croustina. That’s because it works differently, employing a mixing process that mimics hand kneading, while the lid reflects heat to create a baking cavity that’s more like an oven, meaning there’s no window or dispenser.
All of which helps to create a thick, hard crust that cracks beautifully. The Croustina also features a ceramic-coated blade and oval pan rather than the usual box-shaped tin, with the option to take the blade out before baking so you can avoid the tell-tale hole in the bottom of your loaf.
The options are different too – it offers two sizes rather than three, fewer programmes than a Panasonic machine usually provides, 18 compared to the SD-ZX2522’s 37, and they’re geared towards artisan-style recipes. As well as typical wholewheat, you’ll find programmes for stuffed, raisin and lean loaves with a good hard crust, and options for pizza dough, gluten-free bread and cake, jam and soft rapid raisin.
The timer is a maximum of 13 hours – enough for waking up to a crusty loaf but not for long days out of the house.
During our tests we found that it made a well-risen hard-crust white loaf in just over three hours, which emerged golden brown and was simple to slice. The wholewheat hard-crust bread we made in five hours also turned out well, with a good distribution of seeds, and, despite using heavy flour, the Croustina was noticeably quieter than many when mixing.
Brioche was a trickier programme to use – our bread sank in the middle and felt slightly greasy rather than moist and fluffy, but this could be improved by tweaking the recipe.
Because it’s not as straightforward to use as some, the Croustina probably shouldn’t be your first bread maker but if you want bakery quality loaves without having to leave your kitchen, it’s great to try.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
7. Tower Gluten-free Digital Bread Maker
Best for great value
A stylish design with features galore, this affordable bread maker delivers plenty of bang for your buck. Three loaf sizes (listed in the instructions as 1lb, 1.5lb and 2lb but, confusingly, on the control panel they’re 500g, 750g and 1kg) and three crust colours sit alongside 17 programmes covering everything from a speedy loaf in just 1hr 38mins to jam and of course, gluten-free.
There’s even an automatic dispenser for extras, such as nuts and raisins, though it has to be removed and replaced at the beginning of each bake, rather than a permanent dispenser that can be added to throughout. A 15-hour delay timer and 60-minute keep-warm function is great for fitting around a busy lifestyle, too.
What’s especially good about this model is that it’s sleek enough to have out on the worktop. As well as a brushed stainless-steel exterior to help prevent fingerprints and a large viewing window, there’s a touchscreen instead of buttons and an LCD display. Annoyingly, the display only stays lit while it’s being programmed, so it’s hard to see at a glance how much time it has left, especially on a sunny day.
During testing it functioned effectively – while being one of the noisier models we tried as it mixed, especially with heavier dough, it produced a well-risen 2lb loaf, which was consistently browned. There were a few traces of flour lumps on the side, and loose flour thrown into the baking chamber but it came out of the pan easily and sliced well.
Our gluten-free loaf was more challenging. The programme had plenty of mixing built into it, so there weren’t clumps of ingredients left behind, which can be a common problem. However, it didn’t rise as well as hoped, so the loaf was dense, and browner on the sides than on the top even though we baked using the dark crust option.
That said, it was an easier, and less messy, process than making gluten-free bread by hand, so for saving time on that, it’s a win.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
How to buy the bread maker for you
What are the main features of a bread maker?
Using a bread maker means all the hard work is done for you. But there are a few differences to conventional baking. Bread makers have a non-stick pan with a handle to lift it out of the machine. The usual shape produces a shorter, wider loaf than shop-bought.
1. Loaf size
Most machines will make three sizes of loaf, with compact models often offering two. These are usually labelled as a general size, eg medium, large or extra large. Loaves may also be measured in pounds, eg 1lb, 1.5lb and 2lb, or in grams, ie 680g, 900g, 1kg.
2. Dough paddle
One thing that bread maker-baked loaves have that homemade bread doesn’t is a hole in the bottom. This is down to how the bread is produced – the dough is mixed and kneaded by a paddle that stays in place. Some paddles can be easily removed while others have a tendency to stick. Although, there may also be a tool to help you free it from the loaf.
Alternatively, look for a model with a paddle that collapses before baking. Bread makers can be bulky, so balance the size of the machine with how much you plan to bake.
Larger machines will make bigger loaves but require more space. It’s a good idea to make your bread maker a permanent worktop resident. This is simply because storing it away means you’re less likely to use it regularly.
3. Viewing window
Some, but not all bread makers will have a viewing window so you can check on your dough’s progress. It’s essential that you don’t lift the lid to look as this lets heat out as it’s proving or baking.
Check how many programmes each bread maker has – more affordable models may only have 11 or 12. Premium designs can have as many as 37. At the basic end, these should include white, rapid bake (for speedier bread), wholemeal, brown, knead only (for bread rolls, focaccia or pizza) and bake only.
High-end bread makers may include settings for sweet breads, rye, spelt, gluten-free breads, pizza dough, cake, jam and pasta. These extra programmes can help you get more use out of your bread maker.
Each programme will calculate the temperature and baking time and/or function. There should be an option for selecting how brown you prefer the crust to be, and a delay start. This allows you wake up or come home to fresh bread or make sure you’re there to remove it.
This setting won’t always be suitable if you’re baking with ingredients that can spoil, such as eggs. Up to 13 hours is average, which includes the time the bread takes to be made. A default keep warm is a handy option if you’re not around to take the bread out. This maintains enough heat inside the pan to prevent condensation being absorbed by the loaf as it cools.
There should be some recipes to get you started. For the best results, stick to these until you become familiar with the machine. Most have accessories, such as spoons, tiny yeast scoops or cups, to help you measure each ingredient. Bread making is more of a science than most cooking. This means that varying quantities affects how your loaf looks and tastes, so use these where they’re provided.
Another accessory some machines have is a fork-like paddle for kneading less elastic rye bread. Bread makers have different ways to add ingredients. This may be a pause button so you can add them when you want. Or, a specific time in the programme with an alert.
Alternatively, the machine can have an automatic dispenser that tips in fruit, nuts and seeds. There may also be a dispenser for adding yeast after initially mixing. This prevents the yeast activating too soon.
What other key questions do I need to ask?
Are bread makers easy to clean?
Most pans and paddles aren’t dishwasher-safe, so need to be cleaned by hand to prevent the coating from being eroded. Kneading paddles can get stuck on the spindle, so try soaking in warm water to remove them. The paddle’s hole can get clogged with baked-on bits of bread or flour. Clean this thoroughly – a toothpick is useful for removing residue.
Does the bread maker have well-insulated walls?
All machines will grow warm on the outside as they bake but some will be hotter than others.
How long will each loaf take to make?
It can take three to four hours to produce a white loaf not using rapid bake, and three to five hours for wholemeal. You’ll need to be present to remove the loaf, even if there’s a keep warm option. Therefore it’s a good idea to plan ahead. If your bread maker has a rapid bake option, check the duration of the programme. Bread doesn’t like to be rushed, so the longer the programme is, the better the loaf.
Are bread makers noisy?
Some machines will be almost silent while they’re mixing and kneading while others make more noise. If you’re a light sleeper, look for a quiet model that won’t disturb you early in the morning.