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Bread Maker Shopping Guide
Although bread contains only a few simple ingredients, it has been at the center of family meals worldwide for centuries. There are not many things more symbolic to hearth and home. While store-bought bread has its conveniences, there is nothing quite like a batch of homemade bread for flavor and freshness that simply can’t be beaten.
If you love homemade bread, but don't enjoy the effort that goes into making it, a bread maker might be your new best friend. Bread makers make the ancient art of bread making so approachable anyone can do it.
How Bread Makers Work
The design and functionality of most bread makers are similar; basic ingredients (for example, water, yeast, and wheat) are loaded into a bread pan in a specified order. The pan is then placed into the bread maker, and the desired setting is chosen. The bread maker takes care of the rest—it kneads the dough (that’s right, no floury mess to clean up) and bakes the bread to a perfect golden brown, presenting you with a beautifully made loaf when the baking cycle is complete.
Bread Maker Shapes & Sizes
In general, bread makers are found in the following shapes and sizes:
Vertical — These bread makers generally feature one paddle and create square bread loaves with somewhat puffy tops.
Horizontal — Horizontal bread makers produce the type of bread most similar to what you would find at the grocery store.
Small — Smaller capacity bread makers are perfect for small apartments or for those who will be using their bread makers less often.
Large — Have a large family hungry for bread with every meal? With capacities of up to three pounds, larger bread makers can accommodate that!
Programs & Timers
The price difference between a cheaper bread maker and a higher-end model often comes down to its variety of preset programs. Older bread makers featured a "one setting fits all approach" but newer bread makers can adapt to all kinds of baking tasks.
Wheat, rye, even barley--did you just throw in a handful of cranberries? Walnuts? Bread makers can adapt to that, ensuring that your bread is neither under-baked (leaving that ubiquitous doughy center) or over-baked (leaving your loaf dry). Don't be put off by the extra cost--this is one place where innovation can help you.
Timers work in tandem with programs, but add the option of customizing when your baking cycle begins. Want your bread to be deliciously warm and ready to eat when you get home? There's a setting for that.
Number & Type Of Paddles
Paddles can be key to a good bread maker. Dual paddles work similarly to human hands and can yield the best results. Some bread makers feature retractable paddles, while others boast the ability to remove the paddles just before the baking point (an alarm will alert you when it is time to do so). Either way, your bread is left without rather unattractive holes. Removable paddles can be placed in the dishwasher, making for easier cleanup.
While most bread makers use non-stick pans, several manufacturers are using alternative materials such as stainless steel or even ceramic. These alternatives appeal to users who might be concerned about the possible carcinogenic risks that come with non-stick pans, as well as their sometimes problematic peeling. There's a trade-off, however: with stainless steel, it might be more difficult to remove the bread from the pan.
Special Accessories and Features
Bread makers sometimes feature special programs, accessories, and settings that can allow you to perform food preparation tasks beyond baking basic loaves of bread.
Gluten-free bread makers designed toward gluten-free lifestyles make the process easier by incorporating longer cycles (often a must with gluten-free bread). Additionally, their kneading paddles are specially designed to make gluten-free dough turn into springy, light, bread.
Some bread makers do double duty as jam makers —you simply add in your ingredients and hit the appropriate setting. Say goodbye to laboring over a hot stove to make your grandmother's perfectly tart apple jam recipe!
Other bread maker accessories you might find helpful include:
A fruit and nut dispenser that adds ingredients at the proper time.
Windows that allow you to keep track of the beautiful golden color of your bread, helping to ensure it is baked to perfection.
Ice cream settings— that’s right, some bread makers are even including the ability to make homemade ice cream!
Trusting Our Top Pick
Navigating the many choices for every consumer purchase can be challenging. Our team spends hours doing research, combing through forums, and reading consumer reviews on even the most basic of household items, and we summarize that information in clear, precise comparisons.
Join the millions that have trusted BuyersGuide.org to help them make smarter buying decisions. We help our readers spend their money wisely and find the right product to suit their specific needs. Our independent expert reviews and data-driven shopping recommendations empower you find the bread maker that's right for you.
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