We Tested the 6 Best Bread Machines for Home Kitchens

The Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus ranks best overall by ensuring piping hot loaves of varying sizes and styles.

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Best Bread Machines of 2022
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Flour has played a significant role in man's ability to survive and thrive for centuries. Whether formed into hardtack, flatbreads, tortillas, or bread, entire civilizations have relied upon flour for sustenance. Nowadays, it sometimes seems fresh bread warm from the oven is less of a dietary staple and more of a luxury. Modern automatic bread makers attempt to address this by streamlining the high-touch process for busy people, and today's bread machines attempt to cater to a variety of needs. The loaf size and the overall size of the machine are where many home bakers will start, but the features don't stop there. Some bread makers seem to perform better with particular types of flour; others keep the bread warm until you're home from work and ready to have it with a big bowl of soup for supper.

Our lab tested the top bread makers, marking six with scores and characteristics strong enough to earn our recommendation. We've shared them with you below, outlining all the things you need to know to make a decision about the best bread maker for your household. First up, our top pick is the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus

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Pros: The easy-to-clean machine has a smart timer and a double-kneading blade.

Cons: It's the most costly machine on the list.

Our best bread maker overall is the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus. This bread maker is easy to clean, with features designed to support a wild array of yeasted breads and doughs, an easy window for viewing, and a large LCD screen for simple operation. It also produces beautiful loaves.

The lab team found that Virtuoso Plus's two dough blades allowed for thorough mixing in the dough stage, which created better quality crumb in almost all the recipes tested. The fully programmable cycles allow a home baker to program kneading, rising, and baking times in keeping with whatever the recipe may call for. In 90-minutes, it produces a thoroughly mixed and well-risen dough.

Our testers also liked the way the timer displays when the loaf will be ready, which is "great for a hands-off baker who just wants to know quickly what time the bread will be ready."

Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus also excels with baking, producing an even and golden brown crust that is easily removed from the pan thanks to stainless steel handles and a non-stick, easy-to-clean interior. This machine performed well for us with banana quick bread, whole wheat bread, white loaves, and even gluten-free bread, making it our pick for best bread maker overall.

  • Dimensions: 10.5 x 18 x 12.88 inches
  • Loaf size: 1.5 and 2 pounds
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Best Compact: Cuisinart Compact Automatic

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Also available at Home Depot and Crate & Barrel.

Pros: This ultra-quiet machine has a setting to adjust the crust's darkness and a delayed start timer.

Cons: The 2-pound loaf wasn't as successful as the other tests.

Designed to produce loaves in a variety of sizes, the Cuisinart Compact Automatic Bread Maker offers additional flexibility by including 12 preprogrammed options, a 13-hour delay-start timer, and options that allow you to bake various types of bread and control whether the crust is light, medium, or dark. Its slim vertical baking pan, with easy release, makes use and cleaning simple and keeps the machine slim and suitable for counters in smaller kitchens.

Despite its suggestion that it can produce 1-, 1.5-, and 2-pound loaves, our lab discovered that the 2-pound loaves weren't very successful, so this machine isn't a good pick for anyone looking to produce a larger loaf with regularity. "The 2-pound loaf rose perfectly until it hit the ceiling of the machine and caved in at the center," noted the lab. "We would not max this out past 1.5-pound loaves."

Even if you never use the machine for baking large loaves, the Cuisinart Compact Automatic produces incredibly attractive and evenly browned golden-toned loaves of bread, suitable for gifting.

The lab also felt the loaves weren't quite as tasty as the pricier Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus, but with such a different price tag, it's questionable as to how significant that flavor differentiation is.

  • Dimensions 10.25 x 13.25 x 11.25 inches
  • Load size: 1, 1.5, and 2 pounds
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Most Versatile: Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 2-Pound

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Also available at Hamilton Beach and Walmart.

Pros: This affordable machine is often on sale, comes in two colors, and is great for loaves of multiple sizes.

Cons: It produces a thinner crust and does not have a window.

The Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 2-Pound has unique features our test kitchen loved, including being the only bread maker reviewed to come with an extra kneading paddle. The "keep-warm" and "quick" settings offer flexibility when baking. While it runs a bit warm, our testers did note that the HomeBaker creates a deliciously flavorful crust.

Comparatively, more dried flour stuck to the sides of the loaves during the kneading process with this machine than others. It's also primarily made of plastic, which does give it a cheaper feel next to some of the other models. The lack of cycle indicators may quite literally keep you in the dark, but we think at $100, this bread maker is worth the blind baking.

  • Dimensions: 10.43 x 14.13 x 12.2 inches
  • Loaf size: 1.5 and 2 pounds

Related: These Are the Best Bread Cloches for Crispy Sourdough, Based on Our Tests

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Best Beginner: Cuisinart 2-Pound Convection

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Also available at Cuisinart and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Pros: This machine is intuitive and easy to use, produces even browning, and has a "keep warm" setting.

Cons: It can be noisy, difficult to clean, and requires an oven mitt.

The intuitive interface of the Cuisinart 2-Pound Convection was a win for us; our testers found that its clear text and directions were a real advantage compared to some of the other machines. There are 16 preset options, all of which are customizable in terms of baking time. In performance, the bread had a fantastic rise and some of the most even browning we saw. The "keep warm" option was also a major pro.

There was difficulty with cleaning this machine — the paddle is difficult to handle and we found that the cleaning process was time-consuming. Steam does come from the sides of this machine rather than the front or back, so counter space will need to be cleared to accommodate that when the machine is in use.

Overall, there were so many advantages in the turnout of the bread and using the interface that we would certainly recommend it for any first-time user.

  • Dimensions: 19 x 16 x 13 inches
  • Loaf size: 1, 1.5, and 2 pounds
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Best Custom: Breville Custom Loaf

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Also available at Breville and Williams Sonoma.

Pros: This machine has progress indicators that help produce balanced moisture and fluffier texture.

Cons: It's not the best for gluten-free bread and has just a single paddle.

The Breville was hands-down our favorite machine in terms of customization. It comes with a booklet of recipes that specify which type of paddle needs to be used (there are two included for collapsible and regular kneading), and the progress indicator shows you where the bread is at each step of the way. The design is easy-to-use and attractive; the bread basket is simple to put in, the outside handle stays comfortable to the touch while in use, and there are backlit buttons as well as an oven light inside.

The real difference here is our test kitchen, noting that the Breville loaves turned out fluffier and sweeter than the other breads. We recommend some hand-mixing before, as there is a concern with flour clumping during kneading, but the loaves turned out well enough for us to fall in love with the Breville Custom Loaf.

  • Dimensions: 16.4 x 9.6 x 13.3 inches
  • Loaf size: 1, 1.5, 2, and 2.5 pounds
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Best Automatic: Zojirushi Home Bakery Maestro

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Also available at Kohl's and Walmart.

Pros: The non-stick interior and smart timer produce loaves with great flavor and texture.

Cons: It produces limited loaf sizes and is not as successful for gluten-free loaves.

The non-stick interior of the Zojirushi Home Bakery Maestro was a godsend for our test kitchen, which recognized that flour can often clump together in any bread machine's kneading process and didn't have that issue with either Zojirushi machine. The Maestro has an extremely usable timer that displays the time of day the bread will be finished rather than a countdown, as well as an LED display with text that lets you know when add-ins like nuts or dried fruit can be, well, added in. It also had some of the quietest kneading and alert beeping we saw in our assessments. In short, this bread maker is like a polite roommate, and we're not complaining.

Taste scores of the loaves ranked high here; while we don't feel the Maestro is amazing at everything it does, it excels when it comes to producing white and whole wheat breads.

  • Dimensions: 13.63 x 8.88 x 12.5 inches
  • Loaf size: 1 pound

Related: The Best Bread Baking Tools Every Home Baker Needs

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Our Favorite

Not all bread makers are created equally, and since home bakers want different things out of their bread maker, that may be okay. The machine that delivers 10-pound gluten-free loaves a year may not be the same bread maker that makes the best 2-pound whole wheat loaf once a week. The best bread maker overall, the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus, is on the pricey side but worth it for a person who will use their bread maker with some frequency. Some of our test kitchen staff really favored the Cuisinart models as well.

The Tests

Each bread maker was put to the test by our lab using a series of experiments and rigorous inspections. Baking a loaf of banana bread, whole wheat bread, white bread, and gluten-free bread in each machine showed us a lot, especially when examining the fresh loaves side by side. All of the machines came with a recipe for white bread, and we relied on those recipes. If a bread maker included recipes for the other types of loaves, we again pulled the recipes from the cookbook provided. In instances where no recipe was provided, we used three of the same standard recipes.

Additionally, each bread maker was evaluated using the following criteria.

  • Ease of use: Is it simple to use? Are the built-in settings simple to use when making different types of loaves?
  • Performance: How well does it work? Do the loaves bake well consistently and with even browning?
  • Versatility: Does the machine make loaves of different types, sizes, and crust shades (light, medium, dark)? Does it knead? Does it have a delayed start, a "keep warm" function, automatic nut/fruit addition, a gluten-free setting, or other extra features?
  • Ease of cleaning: Is the bread maker easy to disassemble and clean, and can any of it be washed in the dishwasher?

Factors to Consider

Choosing the best bread maker is a matter of knowing yourself and your needs.

Size

How big do you need your loaves to be? Oftentimes, machines only produce loaves of one size, whereas others produce them of various sizes. Knowing how big (or small) you prefer your bread size is important.

Features

Are there specific automatic settings you'd prefer your bread maker to provide, or do you want to be able to tweak the kneading and baking period to meet the needs of your own recipes? Does your family prefer white bread to whole wheat? Do you want the bread machine to do the kneading for you? Do you care if the kneading paddles leave marks on your loaves? These are all features to take into consideration when choosing the best bread machine for you.

Ease of Cleaning

Lastly, how hard is it to clean the machine and all of its accouterments? Does it require disassembly, and are all of the pieces hand-wash only? Knowing how much time and effort you wish to commit to cleaning your machine is important when looking to make an investment in a countertop bread machine.

Q+A

Is it worth getting a bread maker?

Like our favorite air fryers, waffle makers, and pasta machines, bread machines are universally convenient; even the less-than-ideal versions save time and effort over working from scratch. All-in-all, bread makers are less dependent on the ambient temperature of your home (or the weather outside) to rise dough successfully, which takes some of the chance out of being the baker of your family's daily bread. They also mitigate mess and tend to be very efficient. They can also save you money over time (see Is it cheaper to make my own bread? below). Then there's the timeless and hard-to-quantify reward of a home filled with the warm, yeasty scent of freshly baked bread and the satisfying taste of melting butter against a warm slice just from the oven.

Can you use regular flour in a bread maker?

Bread machine flour has a higher protein content, which means it also has a higher gluten content. The increase in protein strengthens the dough and allows it to rise more easily, and the increased gluten creates a chewier loaf. If you do choose to use all-purpose flour, you may need more of it to reach the percentage of protein (and gluten) necessary to make perfect loaves. While many people prefer bleached all-purpose flour, the increased finer and protein of other forms of flour produce tastier and healthier loaves. Be sure to examine your bread maker's manual or contact the machine's manufacturer if you have additional questions.

Why is my bread maker bread so hard?

This can be a result of not kneading bread thoroughly enough, but most often, it is from not using the proper kind of flour. Higher protein flour produces taller, lighter, and chewier loaves. Also, keep in mind that allowing your bread to rest for three hours after baking gives the starches in the bread a chance to settle in a bit and can produce tastier results.

Is it cheaper to make my own bread?

Depending on flour prices, the average loaf of homemade can cost around $2. When compared to high-quality store-bought loaves, this can represent solid savings over the course of a few months. What baking your own bread doesn't save, however, is time. For busy people who cook at home daily, this won't feel like a pinch. But for people who opt for convenience due to habits and busy schedules, making a staple like bread at home can quickly become a frustrating task.

What Didn't Make the List

Pohl Schmitt Stainless Steel

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This machine didn't stand out from the others in its class. With a less-than-intuitive manual and interface, slow rise, long bake time, and not terribly great loaves, the Pohl Schmitt just didn't win the marks it needed from our test kitchen to stay out of the bottom.

Oster ExpressBake 2-Pound

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The Oster ExpressBake didn't win points for speed and annoyed our lab with the loudest operation and timers as well as a lengthy cook time that smelled of melting plastic. The resulting loaves were also nothing to write home about.

Our Expertise

While sampling and examining the loaves, our expert testers learned a lot about each machine's strengths and weaknesses above and beyond operation. They evaluated each machine on its ease of use, performance, versatility, and ease of cleaning. When combined with the test results, contributor and food writer Christa Glennie's longstanding devotion to all things gluten easily determined which of the bread makers stacked up.

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