Bread makers can save you huge amount of money – not just because the cost of the ingredients is much less than the shop-bought stuff, but because programmes such as fast-bake settings allow you to whip up a loaf in 60 minutes. That means no dashing to that (very expensive) corner shop for emergency bread when supplies run low.
They’re great for your health, too – if you’re familiar with the ingredients lists on processed bread, you’ll be shocked at how little salt you need when you make your own.
The number of programmes on a bread maker is important – it can range from around 10 to 35, and they’ll cover not just different types of bread but also pasta, jam and cakes.
Delayed timers are standard (and incredibly handy when it comes to kneading dough and baking bread overnight), while fast-bake settings are increasingly common, too. Most bread makers will have a window in the top, along with a digital readout, although the information displayed on these varies hugely – some will just display the chosen setting, while others will display real-time information.
To avoid wastage, it’s important to think about how much bread you’re likely to consume. “Consider the size of the loaves the bread maker will produce, and make sure that you’ll be able to get through the bread before it goes stale,” says Daniel Burke, owner and head baker at Charles Artisan Bread.
Daniel’s top tip? “Don’t be afraid to open up the machine during the kneading phase and have a look at your dough, and to feel it. This will give you an idea of whether the dough needs more water or flour, or whether you need to adjust the timer. The same recipe can yield different results depending on lots of different variables, so experience counts for a lot. Not every loaf will be perfect but over time, and with experience, you’ll be creating great bread in no time.”
How we tested
We baked. A lot. Since we first started using a bread maker several years ago, we’ve never looked back. In other words, we’re huge fans of homemade bread and know exactly what to look for – what features you can do without, and which features are absolutely worth investing in.
We considered a large selection of factors, ranging from size and aesthetic appeal to the range of functions and ease of use. We focused mainly on each machine’s bread-making capability, but also considered its ability to produce other items such as pasta, pizza dough and cake. The result? Ten brilliant bread makers truly worth your dough.
The best bread makers for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Tower gluten free digital bread maker with nut dispenser: £129.99, Towerhousewares.co.uk
- Best value – Lakeland white compact 1lb daily loaf bread maker: £74.99, Lakeland.co.uk
- Best for ease of use – Lakeland digital bread maker, black: £99.99, Lakeland.co.uk
- Best for multi-purpose design – Panasonic SD-YR2540HXC fully automatic breadmaker: £199, Argos.co.uk
- Best for easy cleaning – Tefal PF240E40 bread maker: £98.99, Amazon.co.uk
- Best for consistency – Gastroback automatic bread maker advanced: £129.90, Gastroback.co.uk
- Best for slick design – Sage the custom loaf bread maker: £249.95, Sageappliances.com
- Best clear controls – Judge digital bread maker: £143, Horwood.co.uk
- Best for beginners – Kalorik 2Lb bread maker: £93.99, Wayfair.co.uk
- Best for families – Panasonic SD-R2530KXC automatic bread maker: £179, Johnlewis.com
Tower gluten free digital bread maker with nut dispenser
Call us fickle, but we loved the look of this bread maker, which had a jet-black, high-gloss finish on the top and sleek metal sides which provided surprising resistance against doughy fingerprints. We’d advise against placing too much stock in the gluten-free thing (it’s not unusual for bread makers to have gluten-free settings, but it’s not always advertised), but Tower’s one of the best we’ve come across, with 17 programmes, a wallet-friendly price tag, controls which are easy to use and the ability to consistently churn out loaves of perfectly-formed bread. Tweaking the settings, whether it was changing the loaf size, crust colour or opting for an ultra-fast 60-minute bake, was easy, as was adding seeds, fruit and nuts to the dispenser. The extra-large window made it easy to check on the progress of our loaf, too.
Lakeland white compact 1lb daily loaf bread maker
Best: For value
We love this bread maker not only for its small size, but its small price tag, too. It fit effortlessly into our cramped test cupboard (and trust us, this is no mean feat), although its compact design meant we were just as happy to leave it out when not in use. It fires up incredibly quickly, and the kneading starts straight away (we’re always surprised by the lengthy warm-up times all too many bread makers require). Although there aren’t options to change the loaf size, there are plenty of bread types to choose from, including crusty loaves, gluten-free bread, wholemeal and French, along with a pizza dough option.
Panasonic SD-R2530KXC automatic bread maker
Best: For families
This bread maker was wonderfully easy to use, and it’s a great option for families – kids can get involved by picking the colour of their bread (an absolute breeze), and the larger-than-average loaves will feed a decent number of mouths. Its ease of use was especially appreciated in the light of its 30 (yes, you did read that correctly) modes, which cover everything from kneading and mixing to fermentation and resting. There are also programmes for making jams, chutneys and pasta, which brings us onto one of our top tips – as with the whole gluten-free option thing, jam-making programmes are more common than many people realise (but seldom advertised) so don’t assume the bread maker you’ve got your eye on doesn’t have one until you’ve reviewed the accompanying blurb thoroughly.
Lakeland digital bread maker
Best: For ease of use
This bread maker had one of the brightest LED screens we came across, and it was one of the largest, too. Picking the colour of the loaf (light, medium or dark), the size (700g or 900g) and using the “keep warm” and timer functions was incredibly easy, and it’s another one which is great for those short on time – there’s no warm-up period, and the kneading starts immediately. The large window made checking the bread’s progress easy, and although there isn’t the widest range of features, there were all the ones we needed to make various types of bread – including a gluten-free programme – and it could also be used to make pizza dough, too.
Tefal PF240E40 bread maker
Best: For easy cleaning
Like most people (although there’s always a chance it’s just us), we didn’t associate Tefal with bread makers, but now we’re converted. For just £119 you’ll get 20 programmes, options to make gluten-free bread and jam, and a choice of three sizes of loaf. It’s easy to clean and easy to use, and we loved how the instructions are clearly displayed next to the controls, which saved us rifling through cupboards on a flour-clouded mission to find the instruction manual. Which, let’s face it, is nobody’s idea of a good time.
Gastroback automatic bread maker advanced
Best: For consistency
This bread maker has it all – 18 programmes, a large window and an elongated handle on the lid to make dough check-ups effortless, and clear, concise controls that allowed us to keep track of the entire process. With loaf sizes of 500g, 750g and 1kg, it’s perfect for families, and the anti-stick coating (something known as sol-gel) meant we could extract our loaf without leaving most of it in the pan. We loved the presence of a defrost setting, too – something we wish we saw more of.
Sage the custom loaf bread maker
Best: For slick design
This bread maker had one of our favourite screens – a big, bright readout which contained more information than any of the other appliances we trialled, with digital symbols representing everything from bread colour to loaf size. It’s also incredibly stylish, and although we inevitably find a certain scepticism creeping in with gadgets that look as gorgeous as this one, we needn’t have worried – there’s plenty of substance as well as style here. Although there are only nine settings, the ergonomic design more than makes up for this, and we loved how various prompts – such as reminders to add seeds or nuts – appeared on the screen, rather than simply via a beep.
Although this model is currently sold out, we’ve been told it’s expected to return in the week commencing 17 March 2022.
Judge digital bread maker
Best: Clear controls
This is another example of a brand we don’t normally associate with bread makers, but which gave us a pleasant surprise. It was incredibly simple to use, and produced perfect breads every time. It’s not the most complicated of bread makers, but that’s exactly why we love it – although it’s still more than capable of churning out pizza bases, jams and gluten-free loaves. Size-wise, we could choose between 650g or 800g loaves – more than enough to feed a family for several days.
Kalorik 2Lb bread maker
Best: For beginners
No, we hadn’t heard of this brand either, and we wish it had appeared on our radar earlier. For starters, it’s fantastic value, but it’s also fabulously simple to use. Images on the front of the bread maker – for everything from croissants to cakes – provided a handy visual guide, and the large window made it easy to keep an eye on proceedings. There are 12 baking programmes, and the accompanying recipe guide will come in handy for anyone venturing into the world of bread baking for the first time.
Panasonic SD-YR2540HXC fully automatic breadmaker
Best: For multipurpose design
This is a bread maker that does it all – something which is admittedly reflected in the price tag. Is it the best option for those who value simplicity? Probably not, but it’s worth considering given that it’s still surprisingly easy to use despite the number of programmes. Its 32 settings make it easy to whip up everything from white and gluten-free bread to pizza and pasta dough. Given the mind-bogglingly huge range of options, we appreciated the clear controls, as well as the LED light which reminded us that it was time to add extra ingredients such as nuts. Our one gripe relates to the fast-bake time, which came in at 115-minutes – slightly longer than most similar options on other machines. That said, good things come to those who wait, and we’ve got no complaints about the bread it produced.
Bread maker FAQs
What should I look for when buying a bread maker?
There are a number of things to consider when buying a bread maker. Firstly, the shape and size you want your bread to be – when baking bread in the oven, you can choose your loaf tin, but when you bake it in a bread maker, all your loaves will be the same shape, so it’s important to think about how big or small you want them to be.
Secondly, consider how many settings you require. Some machines have the standard settings to make white, brown and wholemeal loaves, while others have the capabilities to make a whole range of additional foods, including ice cream.
Thirdly, a timer is a deal-breaker for some because delaying the start time can mean you can make sure there’s a loaf of bread waiting for you when you’re home from work or when you wake up in the morning. Similarly, an automatic dispenser is useful if you do want additional ingredients, such as nuts and seeds, to be incorporated midway through the bake. Finally, you may want to keep an eye out for additional accessories, for example measuring cups and spoons, to make it easier to follow recipes.
What else can I make in a bread maker?
When you think of a bread maker, you might think it only makes bread, but it can also make a range of other foods. Cakes are probably the most common item, but you can also make jam, pizza dough, rice dishes, scrambled eggs and even yoghurt and ice cream.
Is a bread maker worth it?
A bread maker is convenient, useful and a very worthy purchase – it lowers the cost of producing your bread by up to half, you can customise your recipe however you like and you can cook in batches so your household always has plenty of fresh loaves.
Is bread made in a bread maker healthier?
It’s thought that the bread makers are healthier than shop-bought bread, simply because you can choose exactly what goes into your loaf in order to suit your dietary preferences. For example, you can cut the amount of salt and your loaf won’t contain additives. Similarly, you can add seeds into your homemade bread, giving it added fibre.
The verdict: Bread makers
Tower’s gluten free digital bread maker is a brilliant bread maker with a great price tag, and it’s got a sleek, stylish look, too. Lakeland’s white compact 1lb daily loaf bread maker is another bread maker which offers brilliant value – and which is more than capable of going up against much pricier ones – and Panasonic’s SD-R2530KXC automatic bread maker is a versatile, dough-kneading mean machine thatwill bake perfect loaves time after time.
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