Bread is a glorious food stuff. It can be eaten anywhere and is consumed by nearly every culture on earth. It’s even more popular than rice as a source of carbohydrates globally. While mass-produced factory bread may not be very healthy, making your own bread gives you complete control over the ingredients and you can create great-tasting healthy products for your family really easily.
With a bread maker, it’s even easier still. Kitchen Authority readers that own a bread maker will never go back to not owning one. It’s that simple.
Our complete guide to bread makers includes everything that you need to know to make an informed choice when choosing your first bread maker. We cover the history of bread and bread makers. How to choose the right bread. How to pick a good bread maker for you and your family.
We also recommend the 5 best bread makers of 2019 and offer some helpful care instructions to help you get the most out of your investment in a bread maker. Enjoy!
Too long, don’t want to read? Well, we can help you out and cut to the chase – our favorite model of them all is the Hamilton Beach Stainless Steel Bread Maker, but we admit it’s pricier than some of the other great products out there. So, our alternative recommendation is the budget model from ZENY, the ZENY programmable bread maker which packs a mighty punch for very little money, indeed.
However, we really recommend you read the whole guide and find the perfect bread maker for your family – it’s not as long as it looks, we promise.
So, our alternative recommendation is the budget model from ZENY, the ZENY programmable bread maker which packs a mighty punch for very little money, indeed.
However, we really recommend you read the whole guide and find the perfect bread maker for your family – it’s not as long as it looks, we promise.
- A Brief History of Bread
- The Origins Of The Bread Maker
- Choosing The Best Bread For You
- How To Choose The Right Bread Maker
- Our Five Favorite Bread Makers In 2019
- Best Budget Bread Maker: ZENY Programmable Bread Maker
- Best Beginner’s Bread Maker: The MasterChef Bread Maker
- Best Artisan Bread Maker: Sunbeam Bread Maker
- Best Bread Maker In Black: Hamilton Beach Home Baker
- Best Pro-Quality Bread Maker: The Hamilton Beach Stainless Steel Bread Maker
- How To Care For Your Bread Maker
- Our Final Thoughts on Bread Makers
A Brief History of Bread
Bread is the world’s most popular food, though it comes in a million different forms not all of which might be instantly recognizable as bread by everyone. It appears that we’ve been eating bread for about 30,000 years though the first distinct form of bread acknowledged by history is that created by a “quern” (a specialist grinding tool) which was popular in Egypt at about 8,000 years B.C.
If you want to try that kind of bread today, it doesn’t exist, but the Mexican tortilla or Indian chapati would be a reasonably close match.
The Romans embraced white bread which they believed was healthier than the traditional brown bread; which goes to show that the Romans certainly didn’t know everything even as they conquered most of the world.
The gluten intolerant, however, didn’t get a bread they could eat until 1834 when the Swiss designed a roller system that broke the grains used to cook with rather than crushing them.
The United States loved bread until the 1970s when consumption started to drop off. Then in the 1980s bakers became serious about bread and started making artisan, healthier breads and moved away from the factory produced, additive stuffed bread that had been turning off consumers.
Today, bread is back and it’s once again the world’s most popular form of carbohydrate and rightfully so, there’s so much taste and variety that everyone can find the perfect bread for them.
- Humans have eaten bread for 30,000 years
- The first known specific type of bread was Egyptian from about 8,000 B.C.
- Gluten-free bread was invented in 1834
The Origins Of The Bread Maker
The bread maker was originally a “bread making machine” but that was a bit of a mouthful and really added no extra information. So, today it’s a bread maker. It is the most convenient way of taking a bunch of raw ingredients and turning them into bread.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with making bread the old-fashioned way in bread pans in the oven but it’s not as easy to get right and it requires that you keep a careful eye on the timing of things – this isn’t always a simple thing to pull off in the busy world of today – so most households are going to do better with a bread maker.
You may be surprised to learn that whilst bread is ancient, the bread maker is not. The first was invented back in 1986 by the Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. of Japan. You may not have heard of the company by that name but you’ve certainly heard of them in the form of their, now famous, Panasonic brand.
The original bread maker had only one flaw – you had to take the bread out as soon as it stopped cooking, or the bread would burn. The Funai Electric Company, also of Japan, added a fan to their models in 1987 and now you had a fully automatic machine that would cook bread without being watched at all.
It wasn’t until the late 1990’s, however, that bread makers caught on in Western markets. This may be because they’re not very useful in mass production environments even though they’re perfect for home baking.
- The bread maker was invented in Japan in 1986 by Panasonic
- They added a fan in 1989 to stop the bread from burning
- Bread makers are awesome for home use but not for industrial use
Choosing The Best Bread For You
Bread comes in many varieties, flavors and even shapes. There is no “best bread” for everyone. However, when it comes to choosing the best bread for you – it can help to know some of the basics about bread.
Let’s begin by acknowledging the basic fact that you only need 4 ingredients to make most types of bread and they are: flour, yeast, salt and water. Yet, take a look at the side of the loaf that most people pick up in a supermarket and you’re going to see 2 dozen or more ingredients.
That’s because your average shop bought loaf is stuffed full of things you don’t need but the vendors and producers do. The chemicals they add tend to do three things:
- Speed up production. Why cook things properly if you can force them to cook faster with chemicals?
- Change the flavors during cooking. Chemically enhanced cooking processes often interfere with the taste of the bread. Why not fix that with more chemicals?
- Extend the shelf-life of your loaf. Supermarkets might not be able to sell all the bread they buy today, so to make sure that somebody takes it home – all you need is even more chemicals.
Not yummy, right?
So, before we even get started on making your own bread. Let’s try to stick to as few ingredients as possible. This is a good way to see that your bread is as healthy as possible. It’s true that all the things you eat in shop bought bread have been approved by the FDA as OK for human consumption.
But the FDA has also approved rodent hairs in pasta as OK for human consumption as long as there aren’t too many of them. So, let’s not make them the arbiters of human health for our own sakes.
The next step is to look at the one ingredient that makes the most difference when it comes to our health – the flour.
Water is water, it doesn’t matter whether it comes from the faucet or from a bottle. It’s all the same. Salt is Sodium Chloride, you can insist on sea salt or Himalayan Salt and get a few extra minerals but probably not enough to make a significant difference in your life. And yeast, is yeast and it just helps the bread rise.
Flour, on the other hand, is 99% of the bread and you want to focus your efforts on the right flour to make the perfect loaf.
The basic rule of thumb is this – whole wheat or whole grain flour is going to be the healthiest choice. It contains less carbohydrate, more fiber and nutrition than white flour or wheat-grain flour.
There are a plenty of these to chose from including: barley, rye and spelt. If you want gluten-free you can also choose amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, corn, millet and quinoa.
Whole wheat flour is not quite as good as wholegrain because it still contains some of the bran from the grain. However, it is possible to track down wholegrain whole wheat flour, but you can expect to pay a fairly substantial premium for it. It’s worth trying though as it’s particularly tasty.
Then, it all boils down to experimentation with different flours, recipes and your bread maker until you find the perfect taste for you and your family.
- Bread requires four ingredients yeast, salt, water and flour anything else is not necessary
- Whole grains and whole wheat are your healthiest bread choices
- There are plenty of gluten-free options if needed
- Experiment to find the perfect bread for you and your family
How To Choose The Right Bread Maker
We live in a fantastic world where nearly every bread maker you buy will make a decent loaf of bread. But that’s not the only concern when it comes to picking equipment for the family kitchen and these are the factors we think that are important when it comes to choosing the right bread maker for your family:
- How much bread do you need? A young couple needs less bread than a family of 6 with frequent visitors. Make sure the bread maker makes enough bread and not too much bread.
- Where will your bread maker live? Measure up the space that you intend your bread maker to live in. What will fit in that space and what’s going to be too much? We’ve all bought kitchen goods that we didn’t have space for and regretted it – it’s best to get this out the way before you buy.
- What style do you want? You’ll find most bread makers come in black or white but there are stainless models out there too and even some brightly colored models (at a price, mind you).
- What shape of loaf would you like? OK, this doesn’t matter too much to most people, but it might matter to you and it’s your bread machine. Standard machines make rectangular loaves but there are other options available.
- What’s the warranty like? We find that bread makers are built to last and any choice ought to see you right for years but… things can go wrong, and a good warranty can save on out of pocket expenses.
- Check for a removable bread pan. Let’s get practical – bread makers with a removable bread pan are much, much easier to clean. We think this is fairly standard as designs go and you shouldn’t pay a premium for this convenience.
- Keep an eye on
the features on offer:
- Timed start. If you like to come home to fresh hot bread – a timer can make a huge difference to the joy of a bread machine. Avoid bread recipes with milk and eggs, though if you want to let the mix sit all day.
- Warming option. It’s nice for fresh bread to be warm. Selecting a bread maker with a warming option is a good idea.
- Extra bread types including gluten free. If you want to make pizza dough, cinnamon rolls or gluten free recipes make sure that the bread machine supports these things.
- A viewing window. It’s not essential but it’s nice to be able to see the progress of your loaf, right?
- Additional ingredients instructions. If you’re going to make fruit loaves or chocolate chip breads – you want to pick a model that reminds you when to add the additional ingredients to the mix as they often need to be added during cooking and not at the start.
- Dual kneading paddles. The kneading paddles mix the bread dough and while one is probably enough, two does a better job in general.
- Removable kneading paddles. If you can’t remove the paddles – you end up with a hole in the loaf where the paddle was. It’s a cosmetic injustice and doesn’t hurt the flavor of the finished product but if you don’t want that – make sure it has removable paddles.
Choosing the right bread machine is all about:
- Understanding what you want from the machine – amount of bread, where it will sit, the style of machine, the shape of loaf you like and a decent warranty
- The features you want – removable bread pan, removable paddles, dual paddles, a viewing window, additional recipe support, etc.
Our Five Favorite Bread Makers In 2019
There are a lot of bread makers out there, but we wanted to keep our top 5 choices affordable without compromising on the quality of the finished product. So, we tested a ton of different models and whittle them down to these: the best of 2019.
Best Budget Bread Maker: ZENY Programmable Bread Maker
Bread makers are, generally, not cheap. The ZENY, however, is a bargain buy. It also cuts very few corners to get to the lowest price tag out there for a bread maker. It makes a 2lb loaf, which is substantial and has 19 different baking functions. The baking pan is easily removable too. Our only complaint is that it’s not the prettiest of models but at half the price of its nearest competitor? Who cares.
Best Beginner’s Bread Maker: The MasterChef Bread Maker
This is a solid beginner’s bread maker. It comes with a great recipe guide which gives you plenty of ideas to put the 19 settings inside to good use. This bread maker even makes jam! Seriously. There’s a nice viewing window and it makes up to a 2lb loaf which is great for most family’s needs. It also comes with measuring equipment to get the ingredients together.
Best Artisan Bread Maker: Sunbeam Bread Maker
The Sunbeam bread maker is an odd duck and we picked it because we loved the shape of the loaves that it makes. It offers a choice of 12 functions, which is a little less than our budget pick, but we liked the open window design and the LCD display is brilliant (particularly if you’re long-sighted like me). The programmable function means you can always come home to a perfectly baked loaf of bread and we’re happy to recommend this as a great bread maker.
Best Bread Maker In Black: Hamilton Beach Home Baker
The Hamilton Beach HomeBaker is one of the few bread maker designs that comes in a sleek eye catching black. We could look at it all day, to be honest, the styling is great. It has 2 kneading paddles, and the paddles remove easily and one acts as a spare too. You can cook up to a 2lb loaf inside on this without a problem and gluten-free is easy too. You can’t go wrong with this solid bread maker.
Best Pro-Quality Bread Maker: The Hamilton Beach Stainless Steel Bread Maker
Hamilton Beach scores its second entry in our top 5. It’s fair to say that while bread makers cannot be used on an industrial scale, if they could – they’d probably use a machine like this. It’s a very strong, well-built machine which looks the part of the professional in a shiny stainless finish. The paddles can be removed easily and the whole thing is non-stick and beautifully easy to clean. It’s our favorite of them all but it does come at a slightly higher price than the others.
How To Care For Your Bread Maker
Caring for a bread maker is a relatively straight forward process. You don’t need anything more than some soap and water and clean cloth to care for a bread maker. With the right care, your investment ought to last for years as they’re very durable machines. There is one, slight, caveat to this, however, as we’ll see.
We’ve tested the dishwasher proof claims of bread maker components and while we’re convinced, they’re OK in the dishwasher – we think they’ll last longer if you just wash the parts with soapy water and then wipe clean with a cloth.
Always unplug the machine before you start cleaning it and make sure that it has cooled down to warm (not cold or things start to stick to surfaces) before you touch any surface.
Try to ensure that everything is bone dry before you pack it away as this will help prevent rusting of surfaces.
The only fragile/delicate component of the bread machine is the kneading mechanism. It will, eventually, wear out and ideally, you should try and buy a bread machine with a spare (or two) to get the most life out of your investment. Also, if the kneading elements can be removed prior to cooking the bread; you should remove them as this will reduce the wear and tear on them.
Our Final Thoughts on Bread Makers
When we started this guide, we promised completeness and we think we hit the high points for you here. This is what we covered:
- The history of bread and acknowledge its importance as the world’s number one source of carbohydrates
- The history of the bread maker and how it’s a relatively recent invention best suited for home use
- A quick guide to choosing the right bread for you focusing on 4 ingredients and wholegrains
- A quick guide to selecting the perfect bread maker for you based on your family’s usage
- A selection of 5 super bread makers for 2019
- Care instructions to make sure you get the most out of your brand new bread maker
We hope that you have enjoyed this guide to bread makers and have found it helpful. If there are or were other things that you’d have found useful for us to have included, please let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page so that when we revisit this – we can be even more helpful! We really want you to be able to choose the perfect bread maker with this resource.
For now, though, we wish you and, hopefully, your new bread maker all the best. We hope that you and your family really enjoy the taste of freshly baked bread every day. It really can’t be beaten.