How to buy the best bread maker
By Yvette Fletcher
At Which?, we know what makes a great bread maker and what to look for to avoid the worst. Here, we explain how to buy the best bread maker for you.
A bread maker takes the hard work and hassle out of making homemade bread, and in some cases it can be cheaper than buying a supermarket loaf. You'll also know exactly what's in each loaf, your home will smell amazing and you'll get to wake up to gorgeous freshly baked bread.
But not every bread maker is capable of making a great-tasting loaf. In our tests, we've uncovered bread makers that produce loaves with hard, knobbly crusts and a dense, heavy texture.
There are several bread maker brands to choose from, including Kenwood, Morphy Richards, Panasonic and Russell Hobbs. You can also find own-brand bread makers at big chains such as Argos and Lakeland.
Our tough independent tests allow us to rate and review bread makers so you can buy the best. So to help you pick the best bread maker for your needs and budget, make sure you read our bread maker reviews.
How much should I expect to pay for a bread maker?
We've found Best Buy bread makers for £60 or less, but spending nearer to £100 will get you a more stylish bread maker packed full of programs and features. The bread makers that really outshine the rest in our tests generally cost more than £100.
The most reliable bread maker brands, and those that bake the best bread, will also cost more than £100. So, if you’re serious about baking bread, then a decent, reliable bread maker is a good investment.
Keep an eye out for promotions and online deals for bread makers, because it’s possible to find the best bread makers on sale.
If you’re new to bread making and want to try it out before shelling out a lot of dough for a top-of-the-range bread maker, it’s possible to buy a decent bread maker for around £40. But it'll be a lot more basic and the results won’t be as good as a Best Buy bread maker.
Visit our Best Buy bread maker reviews to see what getting a top-scoring model means for you and to find one to suit your budget.
Best Buy bread makers
There's no point in getting a bread maker if it's not going to actually bake bread well, and we have seen some big differences and mixed results between models.
A Best Buy bread maker will bake white and wholemeal loaves that have evenly thick, golden crusts that look good enough to eat, and inside the bread will be light and airy and taste delicious.
But we've also seen a lot of bread makers that make dense loaves with large holes, sunken tops, knobbly, thick and burnt crusts and leave ingredients unmixed.
So before you buy, take a look to see which bread makers have scored highly enough to become Best Buy bread makers.
Bread maker size and weight
It's likely that you'll want your bread maker to be out on your work surface all of the time, as it'll be easy to access whenever you want to bake a loaf. So make sure you check the size, which can vary a lot, and whether you will have space for it where you want it keep it.
Think about the weight as well. Will you need to pull it out from where it normally sits or move it around a lot? If so, look for a lighter model - some weigh less than 5kg, while others weigh more than 6kg.
Bread maker features: what to look for
Features can add to the price of a bread maker, so here we look at which features are worth paying more for.
All bread makers have a non-stick pan with a kneading paddle to bake your loaf in. With a lot of bread makers, the kneading paddle will stay in the bread when it cooks. This means your bread will be left with a small hole.
In our tests, we've found that with some bread makers the paddle sticks to the bread far more often than with others, leaving a larger and more unsightly hole than is necessary. We rate each bread maker we test for this - so look for a bread maker with four stars or more for the 'kneading paddle' rating.
If you hate the thought of holes in your bread, you can look for a bread maker with a collapsible paddle. But even this won't totally solve the issue.
Viewing window and control panel
If you're an inquisitive baker, go for a bread maker with a viewing window so you can keep an eye on the progress of your loaf. Also, some bread makers make a sound when the bread is baked, or even when it's time to add more ingredients. This is worth looking for this feature if you want to be notified when the bread is ready or when you need to do add to the recipe.
Control panels vary from model to model, but it's worth looking for a clear one that's easy to read so programming it doesn't become a chore. When we test bread makers, we factor ease of use and cleaning into our scores - there's no point in a bread maker baking great bread if using it is such a pain you end up relegating it to the back of the cupboard.
Bread maker accessories
Most bread makers will come with accessories, such as a measuring cup and spoon. If the bread maker you buy doesn't come with this, it's worth buying some as bread makers require exact measurements to avoid disaster loaves.
Bread baking time and rapid bake
Bread makers often state the time it will take to bake different types of loaves, so think about this when buying by considering how much time you'll actually have to use your bread maker. We also test the time taken to bake a loaf in our lab, so our bread maker reviews can tell you whether a model's baking time is about average or slower than expected.
If you're always short on time, it's worth looking for a rapid-bake setting as this can create a white loaf in less than an hour. But across the board, these loaves are never as good as one baked on the standard setting.
Bread maker baking settings
Bread makers can make basic white, brown and wholemeal loaves, although not always equally well. In our tests, we get each bread maker to bake three white and three wholemeal loaves. Some struggle with one type and shine when it comes to baking the other. If you want to predominantly make one type of bread, then check our reviews before buying.
Most bread makers will include options for changing the size of the loaf, the type of flour you use and the thickness and darkness of the crust. Although sometimes these features only apply to baking white bread, so check if you want to make other types of bread.
Many bread makers also have a delay time setting, which means you can set the bread maker up to bake for you ahead of time. So you can have fresh bread ready for you in the morning or when you get home after a day out.
In our tests, we challenge each bread maker to bake three white loaves using the delay setting.
Not all bread makers make a successful loaf on delay, compared to the standard setting
It's also worth noting that the kneading and mixing process can be noisy, so check our reviews to find out whether a bread maker will be irritatingly loud.
Some bread makers also come with a setting for making rye or other types of bread. If you’re a fan of adventurous bread baking, then a model with an automatic dispenser will be a good choice. This is because saves you from having to wait around to manually add any extra ingredients, such as dried fruit or nuts, as it does it for you.
Gluten-free and wheat-free bread
A lot of bread makers come with a gluten-free setting, allowing you to make gluten-free bread using special bread mixes or the recipes provided. Many also include other recipes, such as for wheat-free breads. Look out for this if you have particular dietary requirements.
Making dough, cakes, pasta or jam
It’s not just bread you can make in a bread maker. Most come with extra settings to knead pasta and regular dough ready to roll out, shape and cook, turn fruit and the other raw ingredients into jam, and bake pre-mixed ingredients into a (rectangular) cake using a 'bake-only' setting.
Most bread makers are versatile enough to produce a variety of products, but do your research before you buy - our bread maker reviews detail what abilities each bread maker has.
Keep in mind that the bread maker won't do everything for you - for example, you'll need to mix the cake ingredients first. You can click to find out more about the various bread maker features.