The top bread makers for fresh loaves, pizza bases and gluten-free goodies.
Few smells are as appealing as that of freshly baked bread. But if you can’t spare hours for kneading and proving, it’s time you got yourself a bread maker.
You won’t need to clear an area of work surface to pummel your dough. Nor will you have to find a spot in a crowded airing cupboard to let it prove. Plus, your bread will be more consistent, well-risen and golden brown. In other words, perfect for doorstep sandwiches, tasty toasties and buttery soldiers to enjoy with a boiled egg.
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Best bread makers
1. White Compact 1lb Daily Loaf Bread Maker by Lakeland – best 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
2. SD-ZX2522 Bread maker by Panasonic – 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
3. 48281 Fastbake Bread Maker by Morphy Richards – best for speed
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
4. BM450 Bread Machine by Kenwood – best for families
Sometimes it’s the smallest of details that make an appliance satisfying to use. In the case of the BM450, its appeal comes from several thoughtful features. These include a removable sleek glass lid with extras dispenser and the ability to modify programmes to create five saved favourites. They also include a light, so you can watch your loaf through the viewing window whenever you want.
This bread maker comes with a proper recipe book so you can get the most from its 14 programmes. They include Artisan dough, jam, gluten-free, pizza dough, cake and even a rapid wholewheat one. Choose from three loaf sizes, ranging from 500g to 1kg, plus three crust colours. There’s a 60-minute keep warm and a 15-hour delay timer. This makes it a great buy for big, busy households.
Programming the machine will take some getting used to – rather than named buttons, the controls are icon-led. You’ll need to learn what they are or keep the instructions close by. One handy feature is a single button for rapid bake, perfect for time-poor families.
In tests, it was used to make a 1kg basic white loaf. It made only a little noise when mixing and kneading and stayed relatively cool on the outside. The alert to say it was ready was unobtrusive. The finished loaf had risen so much, the dispenser tore into the top. However, there was some unmixed flour around the bottom.
The machine itself is quite big and tall, so you’ll need to make room for it on your worktop. And, it is pricey. It comes with a measuring cup and spoon and no parts are dishwasher safe.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
5. Fresh Bake Digital Bread Maker by Andrew James – best for versatility
Considering that this model costs less than £100, it’s crammed a lot in to its sleek stainless-steel exterior. For example, there’s a higher-than-average 17 programmes. These include jam, cake, gluten-free, sourdough and even yogurt. There’s a removable extras dispenser, 15-hour delay and one-hour keep warm.
There is also up to 10-minute pause, and an option to illuminate the pan. This means you can see it in detail through the viewing window. It’ll make 500g, 750g or a 1kg loaf with three crust darkness settings. It comes with a measuring spoon and cup, plus a hook for getting the loaf out of the pan if it’s stuck. Plus as it’s wide, rather than long, it can be pushed to the back of a busy worktop.
There are a few niggles. One is that the digital display only lights up when you’re pressing buttons, making it harder to check on progress at a glance. The names of the programmes also don’t pop up on the display. Instead, they’re numbered. This means you either have to have the guide to hand or refer to the list on the lid.
While mixing and kneading is unobtrusive, the alert beep is piercing and loud. However, in testing it baked a perfect basic white 750g loaf – evenly browned with a thick crust. It was easily removed from the pan. A long soak was required to get the paddle out of the pan when cleaning, but it was eventually freed.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
6. Compact Black Bread maker by Russell Hobbs – best for affordable style
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
7. Cookworks Bread maker by Argos – 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
How to buy the bread maker for you
Why do I need a bread maker?
Filling the house with the aroma of bread is a great reason to invest. But it doesn’t stop there. Avoiding the additives and preservatives that can lurk in shop-bought loaves is a plus. But making your own bread allows you to decide what goes into your recipe. That might be a healthy boost of nuts and seeds, dried fruit, or a cheesy twist.
Many bread makers have a gluten-free programme, or one for spelt or rye flours. This allows you to bake to suit different dietary requirements. Baking smaller loaves means less waste and the ingredients tend to be more economical. This is especially helpful if you’ve been buying pricey ‘free-from’ breads. Finally, most bread makers don’t use a lot of energy, so they’re cheaper to run than heating an entire oven cavity.
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.
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.