Bread makers: your questions answered
By Yvette Fletcher
We've answered your top bread maker questions, so you can decide whether a bread maker is right for you and what type you need.
Baking bread can be really satisfying - it creates a heavenly smell in your home and means you know exactly what is going into your loaf. Whether you're wondering what you can bake in a bread maker or how easy one will be to use, read on for all you need to know about bread makers.
Once you've decided, our bread maker reviews will help you to find a great bread maker that will bake bread that's light, airy, golden brown and tasty.
How long does a bread maker take to bake a loaf?
It takes between three and four hours to bake a large white loaf on a bread maker's standard program. Wholemeal bread takes longer, with most machines baking a loaf in around four hours. In our tests, we time how long bread makers take to bake different types of bread, so our reviews can tell you exactly how long you'll have to wait.
The quickest rapid-bake program will give you a loaf in less than an hour, but the results aren't always good. In our experience, the longer the 'rapid' bake setting, the better.
How long do bread maker loaves last?
Homemade bread doesn't contain added preservatives, so it’s unlikely to last as long as some shop-bought loaves. Most loaves will last around three days, but can quickly dry out.
Wrapping the bread in foil or keeping it in a sealed plastic bag will help to retain moisture.
You can also freeze bread when you've made it. Our Best Buy freezers work quickly to lock in nutrients, making sure your food is fresher for longer.
How big are bread maker loaves?
Most machines can produce an 800g loaf, which is about the same weight as a loaf bought from a shop. Bread maker loaves have a different texture and appearance from shop-bought bread, and can seem smaller. They're also not quite as long, and are more square in shape than what you may be used to.
The appearance, texture and taste of the loaves baked in the bread makers in our lab is a really key part of our tests. We look for even golden crusts that are the right thickness all around the loaf. The bread inside must be springy and light, with small air holes, not large unsightly ones.
If you want to buy a bread maker, then you need to make sure you're investing in one that will produce the best possible bread. There's no point spending good money, only to end up with disastrous loaves that have ugly crusts, and a dense and chewy bread that tastes bitter and burnt. So make sure you see our Best Buy bread makers.
What's the best toaster to use?
If you’re a fan of making your own bread, but find it doesn’t fit in your toaster, a long-slot toaster is the best option.
A single long slot can usually accommodate a bread maker slice, turned sideways, Otherwise, you’ll have to resort to cutting a slice in half before toasting.
But if you're going to the trouble of making your own bread, you don't want to have to put up with substandard toast that isn't browned evenly. So head to our toaster reviews to find a great Best Buy toaster.
Can you make bread to suit a particular diet?
Yes. Making your own bread means you know exactly what's gone into the bread you're eating.
Recipes are widely available for low-salt or gluten-free bread. Speciality flours, such as spelt or rye, are available online or in health shops - some bread makers have special settings for this use.
What about gluten-free bread?
Many bread makers have a gluten-free program and recipes. These will bake a loaf of bread using gluten-free flour, such as potato, rice or tapioca.
Gluten-free bread doesn't have the same taste or texture as a standard loaf of bread due to the flour used. Gluten strands give bread its structure, so gluten-free recipes have to compensate using alternatives.
Many bread makers have settings that allow you to make gluten-free bread
It's possible to make an acceptable gluten-free loaf of bread in a bread maker, but the results may surprise you - the loaves are much smaller and more brick-like in appearance. They also have a dense, dry texture.
For more details on the wide variety of things you can make with your bread maker, including cake, jam and pasta, take a look at our guide to bread maker features explained.
Can you use fresh yeast in a bread maker?
Fresh yeast can be used in a bread maker, but you'll need to adjust the recipes to take this into account. Fresh yeast can be hard to come by and dried yeast or easy-blend dried yeast is better to use, as it gives more predictable results.
When using dried yeast, the dry ingredients generally go into the bread pan first to keep the dried yeast away from the liquids. This avoids the yeast being activated before the dough is mixed.
If the yeast is activated too early, the bread will rise and then fall, resulting in a poor loaf. You can’t use fresh yeast with the delayed timer for the same reason.
Is bread maker bread best?
Baking your own bread is a more satisfying experience than buying your bread from the local supermarket. You can also make a variety of different types of bread and even dough, so you can make your own rolls and pizza bases. And there’s nothing like the smell of fresh bread in the morning.
But baking your own bread does require patience, as a good loaf will take at least three hours to make.
The big benefit of home-baking is that you can choose exactly what goes into your bread. This is ideal if you want to limit your intake of salt or sugar, for example, or if you suffer from coeliac disease and need to avoid gluten in your diet.
We've found bread makers that will give you knobbly and overly dark crusts or dense bread, and others that produce appetising loaves with even crusts and a light texture inside. Visit our bread maker reviews to find the best bread maker for you.
Bread mix or baking from scratch - what's better?
Using a bread maker is quick and easy, whether you're using raw ingredients or ready-prepared bread mixes from the supermarket. For convenience, using a bread mix has a slight edge – you only need to add water and sometimes butter, as everything else is supplied in the pack.
However, if you prefer to control what goes into your bread, it's better to bake a loaf from scratch. It takes only a few minutes to get the raw ingredients ready, and you can choose precisely what goes into your bread. In terms of cost, there isn't a great difference between the two methods. But using raw ingredients is typically cheaper.
Some bread makers have special dispensers to make adding fruits and nuts easier.
For expert advice and ideas on how to make bread and bread recipes, see our guide to making the most of your bread maker.
Can I wash the bread pan in my dishwasher?
Not usually. Dishwashers will damage the non-stick surface of the bread pan, and this will lead to your loaves sticking to it. Wash the pan with a warm soapy cloth and use only plastic utensils, as metal ones can scratch the surface.
If you're unsure, always read the instructions first.
Where can I buy spare parts for my bread maker?
Most manufacturers will have a section on their website where you can find out how to order spare parts for your bread maker, or you can call the customer helpline – the number is usually found in the instruction manual that comes with your machine.
We've tested bread makers from a huge range of manufacturers, including Panasonic, Kenwood, Morphy Richards, Lakeland, Argos and Russell Hobbs. Visit our bread maker reviews to find out which models are best.