If you are someone who loves homemade bread but has never tried to bake your own because you could not find the time or put in the effort to make one, then I suggest you get yourself a bread maker.
You just have to put the ingredients in, click few buttons to program and wait for 90 minutes or even less, to bake your own wonderful home-made bread, free from any added preservatives.
What is a Bread Maker?
At most basic level a bread maker consists of a pan (mostly non-stick), with inbuilt paddles for kneading of the dough, mounted in the center of a special oven.
You don’t have to end up with aching arms to make your bread because the bread maker would mix the ingredients, knead it regularly for the yeast to rise and when the dough is raised properly, it would also bake the bread to perfection (based on models one has).
Once the baking is done, the loaf just slips out of the pan, ready to be sliced and served.
Things You Need To Know About Bread Makers
We have seen some of the features that are common for the best bread makers; now let’s delve into the things one need to know before buying a bread maker.
What types of Bread Makers are available?
Currently, there are two types of bread makers available in the market.
Vertical Bread Makers: These bread makers bake bread which is tall with brick like shape, unlike the conventional bread shape. Vertical bread makers are affordable, occupy less space and give a loaf of bread with a fluffy top.
They bake good loaves of bread if you use good ingredients, instead of using all-purpose flour use bread flour, and recent, active yeast.
Horizontal Bread Makers: If you are someone who is particular about how your loaf looks like, then I would suggest you go for horizontal bread makers. The bread baked in these look like the conventional store bought ones.
These bread makers are provided with two mixers instead of one like vertical bread makers. Horizontal bread bakers bake all-purpose flour loaves well and gluten-free bread can also be prepared.
What are the available sizes?
There are bread makers of different sizes and capacity and below is a general classification depending on their sizes.
- Small Bread Machines – 1 lb
- Medium Bread Machines – 2 lb
- Large Bread Machines – 2.5 lb – 3 lb
- Flexible sixe Bread Machines – 1 lb, 1.5 lb or 2 lb
Tip — Usually 1 lb loaf gives you 8 slices; a 1.5 lb loaf gives 12, and a 2 lb gives 16.
Pricing: How much do I have to pay?
Well, you don’t have to pay much if you need a basic bread maker as a very basic bread maker machine’s costs you only 50$ (cheap! right?).
But if you want a machine that offers a high degree of programmability and high quality of bread then get ready to spend $200 or even more. One of the benefits of owning a bread maker is that in the long run, you will save a lot of money as it pays for itself over time.
How much time does it take to bake a single loaf?
One of the main concerns of any average buyer would be the time taken to make one loaf of bread. Nobody likes longer cooking time, especially when you are in a hurry.
A regular white bread cycle with a mix/knead, rise, punch down, rise and bake take about 3 to 4 hours. Depending on the type of bread the bake time would vary, whole meal bread takes longer time than the white bread.
Some machines with an express cycle option would bake a loaf of bread in just 58 minutes.
What all can a Bread Maker do? (Apart from just a simple loaf of bread)
Even a simple bread maker gives some control over the program. Some of the most common controls include the color of crust (whether you want it light or dark), only kneading or only baking the dough.
Other complex or extra control allows you to bake different types of bread like whole wheat bread, gluten-free bread, French bread, artisan bread and sweet bread. There are other machines which have programs that allow you to make jams, cakes, pizza dough, and pasta dough apart from making bread.
You can also find machines with delay-start times, a feature that which allow you to pre-program your own recipes.
If you want to have nuts or fruit added to your bread, then you have machines with indicators that will tell you that best time to add them and few are even provided with a separate compartment with trap door so that you wouldn’t have to bother to add them.
Finally, there are machines which offer convection mode of cooking which will result in the even coloring of the bread and some even have little racks to make baguettes.
How messy can it be? (Absolutely, none)
No one wants to deal with a huge mess, so it is good to choose a machine with a decent pan, especially a non-stick one as the baked bread would slide out clean.
Buy the one with wire handles as they would help in removing the bread easily without any damage. It is always suggested to buy a bread maker with removable pan and kneading paddle as they are easier to clean.
How to Find the Best Bread Maker?
With so many options in the market, one can easily be misled and be spoilt with choices. All you have to do is withhold yourself from making hasty decisions and carefully write down your requirements and features that you want in your bread maker.
Consider the following points and ask yourself what you are looking for to get your ideal bread maker.
How much should I be paying? $50 or $200
You don’t want to waste your money to buying something which will cost you more than what you get. If you are an initial buyer, it is better to take a cheap one with the basic settings to see if you are comfortable with its use and the bread it makes.
In this way, you don’t have waste your money buying something expensive and then not using it again because you aren’t comfortable with its usage. As I already mentioned that high degree of programmability means a higher price tag, so choose options wisely depending on how often you would use those features.
Keep in mind that a high priced bread makers don’t always mean better bread, your bread quality also depends on the quality of the ingredients used. Check out various online stores like Amazon and EBay to get the best deals as few of them offer a great discount (don’t forget our beloved Wal-Mart).
Which size should I be buying?
Another main concern would be the size and capacity of the bread maker. Typically in the market, we have bread makers with a capacity to bake bread from 1 lb to 3 lbs. 1-1.5 lbs loaf size would be ideal for couples and small families.
If you are someone, who bakes bread very often and for a large number of people then choose a bread maker with bigger capacity. There are bread makers which give multiple size options, so depending on the occasion and number of people you can bake bread of different sizes.
Keep the size of your kitchen and space you can provide in mind while choosing the bread maker. Choose the one which fits in your kitchen, if you have cabinets think about the height clearance. If you are tight on space, then go for the compact ones.
How good is the quality of the material?
Overall quality of the product is very important as it determines the quality of the bread baked. Look for bread makers with a good quality heating element and non-stick pan which are essential to make good loaves of bread for many years to come.
Some of the buyers have complained about an oil leak which is caused due to a defective pan, so make sure you check the quality of the entire product.
How long will it last?
Any appliance which isn’t made of durable materials would not last long and you do not want to spend your money on something which isn’t going to last for a while.
Check the non-stick pan carefully, the surface coating of it, whether it will be able to withstand the regular usage without ruining the coating and posing any health risk in future or not.
Also, go for the ones which offer at least a year warranty and service options.
Will I be using all the automated features?
These days, bread makers are being manufactured with various automatic features which make its usage quite easy. Think whether you will be using all of these features often if you don’t then you might want to go for a model which has the features you would be using.
You don’t want to pay for things which you would never use as extra features mean a higher price.
For example, depending on the climate you live, the time to bake bread might vary so a feature like remote timers might not work well. So, it is always wise to choose a machine with automatic features that would really work for you.
Can I get a good loaf every time I bake?
After few uses your loaf may not be baked the same as your delicious first loaf. In order to have your bread maker make consistently good loaves of bread invest in a high-quality bread maker that bakes loafs of good shape and size, with a perfect crust, light and fluffy crumb along with right taste and flavor every time.
Also, a horizontal bread maker gives a better bread product consistently when compared its vertical counterpart.
How easy is it to operate?
The display control should be very easy to read, making the user comfortable to operate and use different settings without any hassle.
Confused about how to use? A user-friendly instruction manual is all you need
The instruction manual should clear, concise and user-friendly in its description. It should give clear idea of how to go about explaining time-cycles and its features, directions on how to clean and maintain, contact information of the repair service providers and a few basic bread recipes.
Does it make a lot of noise?
You don’t want to be disturbed by the rattling and ringing noises of a bread maker early in the morning if you use the delay timer. A quiet operation with moderate sound indicators is always appreciated.
Even though most of the bread makers operate quietly, they have been complaints from customers regarding few bread makers which make noise during mix cycle.
How many cycles should I look for?
A good bread baker will always provide a basic cycle and a dough cycle. A basic cycle involves kneading and baking, while dough cycle only kneads the dough which can be, then made into buns or pizzas to, separately bake in the oven.
You can also enjoy your dinner rolls even after a really rough day with the dough cycle to your rescue.
What are some must-have settings and features?
Here are some of the useful settings and features that you would want in your bread machine:
- Delay-timer: You can place your ingredients in the machine, start a delay timer depending on when you want the bread and voila! You can have your bread served freshly right out from the machine.
- Dough setting: This allows you to knead any kind of dough which can be used to make pizza or pasta or buns to bake in your oven. Some much less work for hands especially during those really tiring days.
- Quick-Bake or Express Cycle: If you are in a hurry most of the time then you should definitely buy a bread maker with express bake cycle. So that you can bake your bread faster, say in an hour or in just 58 minutes (express I say!).
- Pre-programmed bread cycles: If you want to make a variety of bread then this feature would come really handy. You can bake anything from whole wheat bread to artisan bread and some bread makers also have features to control the crust color.
- Microprocessors: Few of them are provided with microprocessors that make slight changes accordingly while the bread is baking producing consistent bread quality.
- A viewing window: Some of us like to see their bread baking if you are one of them you might want to purchase a bread maker with this feature.
- Non-stick paddle and baking pan with wire handles: You don’t have to worry whether you would be able to de-mold your bread without any damage or not. With the non-stick ones, the lovely loaf would just glide out smoothly out of the pan.
- Automated addition of nuts, yeast, etc: You don’t have to worry about the optimum time to add the yeast or nuts. Just put them in the compartment provided and let the bread maker figure out the rest.
So many brands! Which one should I pick?
With so many brands offering bread makers, choosing the right one can get difficult. Go for the brand which is best known for its bread machines or other programmable appliances.
It is seen that the companies that make the best- quality rice cookers have good bread makers, for example, Panasonic and Zojirushi, as the technology used in both the appliances are similar.
There would be other brands that offer one or two types of bread maker machines just to round up their range of kitchen appliances, it is best to stay away from such brands. Read the expert and customer reviews before jumping to a conclusion.
By taking the above-mentioned points and your preferences into consideration, finding a good bread maker is not a Herculean task.
Remember — Great Bread maker + Good recipe = Delicious fresh bread
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