We Tested 20 Bread Machines—Three Proved They Were The Best

We Tested 20 Bread Machines—Three Proved They Were The Best

three bread machines lined up on a counter
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

Bread machines are a convenience appliance, and even though some models advertise settings for making jam or kneading pasta dough, they serve one main purpose: to produce fresh baked bread in just a few hours and with very little hands-on work. For a lot of home cooks, there’s something really appealing about adding your ingredients, pressing go, and lifting out a fresh loaf without having to spend time kneading or turn on your oven.

In order to find which bread machine met our standards for high-quality loaves, we tested 20 of the most popular models to see which ones were the simplest to use, easiest to clean, and above all else, made great-tasting bread.

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Bread Machine: Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker

This machine was spot on with its mixing, kneading, stretching, and proofing, baking up pillowy soft white breads and hearty rye loaves. We appreciated how its dual paddles and rectangular pan shape delivered easily sliceable breads that weren’t too tall, which allowed for a slightly airier crumb.

Also Great: Cuisinart Compact Automatic Bread Maker

Even with its more compact size, this model from Cuisinart was still able to produce 2-pound loaves that were well-mixed and perfectly proofed. Its built-in rest periods during kneading allowed the dough to hydrate fully, which helped contribute to good gluten development and tall loaves.

The Best Compact Bread Machine: Zojirushi Home Bakery Mini Breadmaker

The Zojirushi Home Bakery Mini takes up less countertop and cabinet space without sacrificing bread quality. Even in its smaller form, it still offers many different settings for a variety of bread styles (like Quick Baking and French Bread), making it both convenient and versatile.

The Tests

dry ingredients being added to a bread machine
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik
  • White Bread Test: We made a loaf of white bread from each machine’s recipe booklet  and noted how well each model mixed, kneaded, proofed, and baked the loaf. 
  • Rye Bread Test (Top Models-Only): We followed the recipe for our Bread Machine Rye Bread to see how each machine could handle a standardized formula. 
  • Usability and Cleanup Tests: We evaluated each bread machine’s settings and display and how easy it was to assemble the paddles and pan. We also assessed how easy it was to thoroughly clean all of the parts, along with the inside of the machine.

How Bread Machines Work

a person pokes the top of a loaf of bread made in a bread machine
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

A bread machine consists of a square or rectangular pan, a rotating kneading paddle that sits in its base, and a heating element that wraps around the inside of the machine and radiates heat inwards towards the pan. After the user adds ingredients and presses start, the paddle starts mixing and kneading the dough, and the heating element turns onto a low setting to allow the dough to rise. Once the proofing cycle is complete, the heating element then kicks into high gear to bake the dough. 

Most manufacturers have a specific order in which you add your ingredients to make sure the yeast doesn’t prematurely activate, Usually, recipes call for wet ingredients, then flour, then the other dry ingredients added to an indent you make in the flour to keep them dry. This is important for delayed bread cycles so the yeast doesn’t hydrate and start fermenting, but if you’re starting a cycle right away, it’s not a huge deal if the yeast gets wet.

What We Learned

Bread Machines Were Similar In Design, but Unique in Programming

the browned top of a loaf of bread
The top of a loaf of white bread in the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus browned evenly by the heating element in the lid.Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

Most of the bread makers we tested had a surprisingly similar pan, kneading paddle, and heating element. There were some unique design elements—some machines had a foldable paddle that would lay down automatically after mixing to avoid leaving big holes in the bread. Others, like the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus, had a unique second heating element in their lids to promote browning the tops of the loaves. 

Instead, what set each bread machine apart was its settings. We appreciated the “rest” cycle in the Zorijushi models, which allowed ingredients to warm up before they began mixing. We also liked the pauses in the Cuisinart’s kneading cycles, which allowed the dough to fully hydrate and build stronger gluten strands. It was these subtle differences that helped our winners edge out the competition.

Proper Rise Wasn’t Guaranteed

a lumpy improperly risen loaf from the Zojirushi Home Bakery Mini
Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

Bread machines might seem magical, but proper rise isn’t guaranteed. Yeast is a living organism, and its ability to leaven bread requires the right moisture content, temperature, and fuel. Yeast that performs well in some loaves might not do so well in others, due to improper mixing, varying proofing temperatures, or the starting temperature of the water being used.

Because of this, even a high-performing machine can produce  a sub-par loaf from time to time. When making bread by hand, a baker can check the dough consistency and rise mid-proof in order to make adjustments, but with an automated bread machine cycle, you just have to try again.

Two Paddles Were Better Than One

liquid ingredients being added to a bread machine pan
The single paddle had issues mixing everything in the rectangular Breadman pan.Serious Eats / Will Dickey

The only well-performing bread machine we tested that had two kneading paddles was the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus, which proved necessary due to its elongated pan. The dual paddles immediately incorporated all ingredients, kneading them well, and even functioned as a dough shaper: during proofing, the paddles would rotate back and forth, stretching the dough to fill the pan fully. The result was a perfectly shaped loaf of white bread with a textbook dome and soft crumb. 

The Breville and Breadman bread machines also had rectangular pans, though slightly shorter in length, and only had a single paddle. Both models struggled in the first 20 minutes of mixing to fully incorporate all of the dry ingredients and would have benefitted from having another paddle or a square pan, like the other models we tested.

The Best Bread Machines Were Also the Best at Proofing

two loaves of bread side by side
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

Bread machines are able to proof each loaf at a precise temperature and the top machines had consistent temperature throughout this proofing cycle. Even though our test kitchen was 66ºF, the loaves proofed between 82-92ºF, depending on the settings of each machine and stayed there for two hours throughout their multiple rise stages.

Most Recipes Needed To Be Tweaked

all of the ingredients for a loaf of white bread in the bread pan
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

Not all bread flour or yeast is the same. Even with fairly standard recipes, each loaf baked will be slightly unique. That said, we really appreciated the detailed recipes from Zorjirushi, which gave both volume and weight. We also liked their troubleshooting guide in the user manual that helped new home bakers adjust their recipes to best suit their ingredients, like reducing water if the loaf rises too much. 

Ultimately, many of the  machines we tested produced an acceptable loaf of bread, and it’s likely with more time dedicated to each machine, slight recipe adjustments would likely improve the quality of loaves. However, our winners produced the best breads based on their default recipes, so if you just want to set and forget and leave the tinkering to someone else, you’ll likely still get tasty results.

All the Machines Were Easy to Use and Clean

the inside of a bread machine showing caked on bread dough about to be cleaned
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Even with unique interfaces, it only took a few seconds to learn how to select the right program on each bread machine and, after baking, the nonstick bread pans were easy to remove and wash. 

The one gripe about bread machines are the paddles. Because the keading paddles are left under the dough during proofing and baking, you either end up with a paddle shaped hole or the paddle itself stuck in the loaf. Even the fold-down paddles still left big indents, so no machine had a true advantage with clean up.

The Criteria: What to Look for In a Bread Machine

a diagram showing all the best features of a good bread machine
Serious Eats / Jesse Raub

The best bread machines are able to mix, knead, proof, and bake great loaves of bread with their default recipes. If they’re rectangular in shape, they have dual paddles for better mixing. They also have more unique programming cycles with built-in rest periods that better mimic traditional bread making processes, delivering consistent, fresh baked bread time and time again. 

The Best Bread Machine: Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker

What we liked: The default white bread this model baked was truly exceptional, with a slightly open crumb that was tender, pillowy, and the ideal shape for sandwiches. This machine was the only model that had a rectangular loaf pan, which avoided producing the taller, squared-off loaves that bread machines are usually known for. What was most notable, however, was how both the white bread and the rye loaf had a slightly more open crumb, which gave the bread a softer, more delicate texture. Because the dough was stretched by the dual paddles lengthwise, there was less dough resting on top of itself, giving fermentation minimal resistance during proofing. We also appreciated the extra heating element in the lid for a more evenly baked crust, and the added programming settings, like a delay timer.

What we didn’t like: There’s no getting around it: this machine is big, heavy, and expensive.

Price at time of publish: $319.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 20 pounds
  • Materials: Plastic, stainless steel 
  • Dimensions: 18 x 101/2 x 127/8 inches
  • Capacity: 2-pound loaf
  • Settings: 10 bread, 3 crust, dough, sourdough starter, cake, jam, homemade
  • Number of kneading paddles: 2
  • Bread pan shape: Rectangular
  • Care instructions: Hand wash bread pan with warm water and soap; to clean interior, unplug, then wipe down inside and outside with damp cloth before drying thoroughly
water is being poured into the pan of the Zojurushi Home Virtuoso Plus
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

Also Great: Cuisinart Compact Automatic Bread Maker

What we liked: For a relatively inexpensive, fairly small machine, the Cuisinart Compact Automatic Bread Maker delivered great results. It was easy to use, baked consistent bread, and handled both a default recipe and a universal recipe well. We particularly appreciated the mixing and kneading programming in this machine, which brought all the ingredients together swiftly and developed great dough strength through a series of rests between kneading cycles. 

What we didn’t like: Even though this machine advertises a 2-pound capacity, we found that larger loaves were very tall, which made them harder to slice and more awkward to eat. We thought the white bread it baked was a little dry, but that could likely be tweaked with slightly more water. 

Price at time of publish: $128.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 12 pounds
  • Materials: Stainless steel 
  • Dimensions: 10.2  x 13.25 x 11.25 inches
  • Capacity: 2-pound loaf
  • Settings: 7 bread, 3 crust, dough, jam, packaged mix, cake, bake-only
  • Number of kneading paddles:
  • Bread pan shape: Square
  • Care instructions: Hand wash bread pan with warm water and soap; to clean interior, unplug, then wipe down inside and outside with damp cloth before drying thoroughly
dry ingredients lined up in front of a bread machine
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

The Best Compact Bread Machine: Zojirushi Home Bakery Mini Breadmaker

What we liked: As the smallest bread machine we tested, we really appreciated how lightweight and portable it was without sacrificing any bread quality. The white bread and rye loaves it baked were well-proofed and had a soft, tender crumb, and we appreciated its simple display and how easy it was to navigate the menu. 

What we didn’t like: This was the only machine tested that produced a lumpy, under-risen loaf, but after retesting the recipe, we found the next batch turned out great. It did take longer to fully incorporate all of the dry ingredients, but not as long as other models tested. 

Price at time of publish: $194.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 12 pounds
  • Materials: Plastic body
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 11.25 x 12.25 inches
  • Capacity: 1-pound loaf
  • Settings: 5 bread, 2 crust, cookie/pasta dough, jam setting, cake setting
  • Number of kneading paddles: 1
  • Bread pan shape: Square
  • Care instructions: Hand-wash bread pan with warm, soapy water; to clean interior, unplug, then wipe down inside and outside with damp cloth before drying thoroughly
a loaf of bread next to the Zojirushi Home Mini bread machine
Serious Eats / Will Dickey

The Competition


Is it cheaper to buy bread or to make it in a bread machine?

While a bread machine has an initial investment that might be hard to offset by just buying loaves at the store, making your own bread at home can be a cost saver, eventually. The bigger advantage of a bread machine is having fresh baked bread at home with minimal effort.

Do you need special flour for a bread machine?

Most bread machines use regular, all-purpose flour in their recipes, though some models do offer premixed packets that include all of the dry ingredients. We recommend using the default recipes that come with your bread machine to better learn how they function, and most of those recipes will ask for standard all-purpose or bread flour.

Do you need special bread machine yeast?

Some manufacturers recommend using bread machine yeast, which is a type of instant yeast designed for bread machines, but every model we tested called for either instant yeast or active dry yeast. While any of these yeasts will work in a bread machine, be sure to read your instructions closely to see which type your recipe calls for, as they have different rise times.

Why is bread machine bread dense?

Bread that’s made in a bread machine is mixed, kneaded, proofed, and baked all in the same pan, so there are a number of reasons why the bread might be dense. Adding a little more water helps the yeast ferment more, which can create a more open crumb, or adjusting the machine’s programming to knead the dough slightly less can help the gluten from becoming overly worked. Unfortunately, there’s no single answer to why bread from a bread machine is dense, but many models have a troubleshooting guide to help you adjust recipes.