Best bread makers 2021

06 May 2021

Bread maker and fresh bread

Bread makers are a quick and cost-effective way to have fresh bread whenever you want it. We researched the top performers to bring you the best bread makers to buy now.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh bread wafting through the house as you wake up in the morning to make you feel like you’re really crushing adult life. During the Covid-19 lockdown, more and more of us attempted to up our bread-making game to various degrees of success.

If you've been inspired by the handmade loaves of Instagram, but aren't keen on the idea of getting your hands dirty, a bread maker could be a great option for you.

Bread makers take all the faff out of making bread. You simply add in all the ingredients and hit go. Somewhere between one and five hours later you’ll be ready to tuck into some Instagram-worthy bread of your own.

What makes a good bread maker?

There are a few things to consider before buying a bread maker – functionality, space and price. You can buy a decent bread maker with all the functionality you’ll need for around £120, but simpler more pared-back models can be a budget-friendly option while still delivering great bread.

What is the best bread maker?

The overwhelming consensus on Mumsnet forums is that there’s no better bread maker out there than one from the Panasonic range. Yes. Panasonic. Interestingly, the brand well known for manufacturing cameras and TVs was also the first major electronics company to sell bread makers to the public.

Since the first Panasonic bread maker arrived on the scene in the late eighties, there have been several updated versions. All of them are named in such a way that it’s almost impossible to remember the difference between them. Regardless of their terrible naming strategy, Mumsnet users swear there’s no bread maker that can be more trusted to deliver deliciously fluffy bread, time and time again, than a Panasonic.

What Mumsnet users say

“A Panasonic bread maker is worth every penny! We use it all the time.”

“Same – Panasonic! We got it as a wedding pressie and it’s the best thing we ever got – haven’t bought bread from the shop in nearly a year!”

“I LOVE my Panasonic SD-257 It's about ten years old and still as good as new.”

We’ve spent ten hours scouring the Mumsnet forums, studying Which? test results and reading reviews on Amazon, Expert Review and Indy best to find the bread makers that rise (sorry) to the challenge of making delicious bread with no almost no effort.

Here is our list of the best bread makers to buy right now:

1. Best all-around bread maker: Panasonic SD- ZB2502BXC
Panasonic SD-ZB2502BXC best all-round bread maker

Panasonic SD-ZB2502BXC doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but its credentials are impressive. With 27 programs on the menu, an automatic ingredient dispenser, and a delay start programme, it could well be all you need in a bread maker. And we’re not only ones to think so. It was awarded a Which Best Buy, rated top all-around bread maker in expert reviews and has a whopping 1,105 five star reviews on Amazon.

This is a great all-around bread maker that’s sure to last for years to come. It performs just as well on white and brown bread and has a host of extra settings for more specialist recipes.

Weighing in at 7.4kg, it’s a hefty machine and not one you’d want to move too often. It’s the ideal choice if you’ve got room on your kitchen countertop and plan to use it regularly.

Apart from its size, the only other downside is that it doesn’t have a viewing window. Not a deal-breaker, but if you want to see how your bread's getting on you’ll need to open the hatch to view it. Opening the hatch risks a sunken loaf, so we'd suggest you don't do this too much.

Maximum bread size: 0.59kg | 3 adjustable crust settings | 115 mins fast bake time | Size: H38.2, W25.6, D38.9cm

What Mumsnet users say:

“I’ve got the Panasonic SD-ZB2502. Love it. I use it weekly for bread and have just started using it for dough as one of my kids enjoys shaping it for rolls.”

“I’ve got the SD-ZB too, it’s brilliant! I use it at least twice a week for bread and it also makes cakes, jams and compotes. I've found it's definitely been worth it, we spend a lot less and it's so easy to use.”

2. Best for families: Panasonic SD-2511WXC
Panasonic SD-2511WXC

This Panasonic is £50 cheaper than our top pick and weighs a little less too. Coming in at 6.7kg, it’s perhaps a little more manageable to store in a cupboard, though it’s not exactly small, so a kitchen worktop location would be better.

The SD-2511WXC comes in white and black, has 18 different bake settings and delivers great white and brown bakes consistently.

It's a little less stylish than the SD-ZB but equally consistent when it comes to baking great bread for the whole family. Again there’s no viewing window, and no super-fast option, the quickest setting takes four hours. But what you do get is consistently great bread and a workhorse kitchen gadget that should last for years to come.

Maximum bread size: 1.2kg | 3 adjustable crust settings | 115 mins fast bake time | Size: H38, W26, D39cm

What Mumsnet users say:

“Definitely get a Panasonic. I have the SD-2511 model, it's a couple of years old and I love it!”

“I've just got myself a bread maker (Panasonic SD-2511) and my first attempt at a basic white loaf was a roaring success.”

3. Best for gluten-free bread: Panasonic SD-ZX2522KXC
Best gluten-free bread maker Panasonic SD-ZX2522KXC

There’s nothing like a catchy name to pique your interest in a new must-have kitchen gadget. Billed as an upgrade to the two previous top picks (don’t make us repeat them please) this model comes with flat ‘glass-touch’ controls and extra gluten-free options. It has an impressive 37 programme settings, a 14-hour delay like the other models AND we have to say, it's a little easier on the eye.

If you’re looking for a reliable bread maker, the previous two Panasonics featured above will more than meet your requirements. But if you’re after something with more gluten-free options, it might be worth splashing out on this model.

Maximum bread size: 1kg | 3 adjustable crust settings | 115 mins fast bake time | Size: H38.2, W25.6, D38.9cm

4. Best for quick bread: Morphy Richards Fastbake
Morphy Richards Fastbake

The Morphy Richards Fastbake does what it says on the tin. Claiming to make a perfect loaf in under 50 minutes, if you need bread quickly, then this is the one for you.

With easy to use controls and a large viewing window, this compact bread maker is great if you’re new to bread making or only want to make basic brown and white loaves. There are 12 program settings to choose from, but it’s the pleasing dome-like shaped white loaves that make this bread maker stand out.

The Fastbake has a 13-hour delay timer, but no fruit and nut dispenser, so if you’re planning on making multi-grain or fruit bread you’ll have to be in the house to add the extra ingredients.

Whilst it doesn’t get the same rave reviews as the Panasonic on Mumsnet, it’s received 710 five star reviews on Amazon – which is pretty impressive.

Overall the Morphy Richards fast bake is a reasonably priced bread maker – great if you’re short on space or not ready to go the whole hog on bread making yet.

Maximum bread size: 0.9kg | 3 adjustable crust settings | 50 mins fast bake time | Size H30, W28.5, D40.5cm

What Mumsnet users say:

“I have a Morphy Richards bread maker, the instruction book had loads of recipes. I just did what it said, and got bread even my fussy kids liked!”

“I have a Morphy Richards Fastbake bread maker and it's used daily. Sometimes twice a day.”

5. Best small bread maker: Russell Hobbs Compact
 Russel Hobbs compact bread maker

While it doesn’t come as highly recommended on the Mumsnet talkboards as the Panasonic range. This Russell Hobbs breadmaker does offer a few things that the Panasonics don’t. As the name helpfully suggests (Panasonic take note) it's considerably lighter (4.3kg) and more compact than it’s rivals.

It also has a large viewing window, which we know doesn’t make any difference to the quality of the bake, but it’s quite satisfying to be able to see it do its work.

The Compact isn't a Best Buy on Which?, but it did score 72% which is still pretty good. It’s not as quiet as the Panasonic and the buttons are a little fiddly because the viewing window takes up all the space, but it does deliver a great bake – and surely that’s the most important thing. The quality of the white and brown bread was excellent – fluffy on the inside – crispy on the outside.

It has a 13-hour delay timer and 16 settings to try, covering all the essentials and a few extras too. It doesn’t have a fruit and nut dispenser so you’ll have to add those in yourself when the machine beeps, but at pretty much half the price of a Panasonic, it’s a decent machine if you’re on a budget.

Maximum bread size: 1kg | 3 adjustable crust settings | 55 mins fast bake time | Size: H29.5, W29, D31.9cm

What Mumsnet users say:

“I've recently purchased the Russell Hobbs compact bread maker, had a go at the sandwich loaf and very happy with the results!”

“I love my Russel Hobbs. It’s cheap and compact and no one else with a bread machine makes it as tasty as my machine.”

6. Best budget bread maker: Cookworks
Cookworks best budget bread maker

It’s not beautiful, but it is practical, and at £45, the humble Cookworks bread maker is worth considering if you’re new to the world of bread making. While it’s a little noisier than some of the other models we recommend, it does have a 13 hour delay time, 12 bread programs to choose from and a keep-warm setting.

Some tests have reported that the mixing paddle sometimes gets stuck in the dough which makes it hard to get the loaf out of the tin. But overall it makes a pretty tasty white loaf in under three hours.

It’s reasonably compact in size, but heavy. So if you're not planning to keep it on your worktop, you’ll need to make sure you store it somewhere you can easily access.

Like other budget models, it doesn’t have an ingredient dispenser or any gluten-free settings. If gluten-free bread is what you’re hoping to master, we’d recommend Morphy Richards as a budget-friendly alternative.

Maximum bread size: 0.68kg | 3 adjustable crust settings | 120 mins fast bake time |Size: H35.4, W28.7, D25.8cm

What Mumsnet users say

“We have a cheap Cookworks one from Argos but it’s lasted us years so it's good value for money. We chose a cheap one as we weren't sure if we would use it but we've only bought bread about once since we've had it. We use it that much.”

“I have an Argos Cookworks, I’ve had it for six months and so far it’s been fine. I only cook normal bread though.”

What to look for when buying a bread maker

How much should a bread maker cost?

As bread makers have become more popular, there are an increasing number of makes and models to choose from. You can get a really good bread maker for around £120 and sometimes you’ll find them cheaper on offer or secondhand. If you’re new to bread making, and not willing to splash out, you can buy models from £45 with fewer bells and whistles that still deliver a decent bake, though they may be a little noisier.

Storage and design

Bread makers can be on the bulky side. They’re heavy, large and, while designs are improving, a lot of them aren’t exactly beautiful. Before you order your bread maker think about where you’ll store it. If you have space, placing it on your kitchen worktop means you’re more likely to use it, but if it needs to go in a cupboard, take that into account when looking at weight and dimensions.

Bread maker features: what do you actually need?

Kneading paddle

All bread makers have a kneading paddle at the bottom of the base that mixes and kneads the bread. Usually, the kneading paddle stays in the bread as it bakes, so your loaf will have a small hole at the bottom. Some leave bigger holes than others, we’ve mentioned this in our review when it’s affected the quality of the bread baked.

If you can’t stand the idea of holes in your bread then you can look for a bread maker with a collapsible paddle, but even this doesn’t solve the problem completely.

Viewing window and ingredients dispenser

A viewing window lets you keep an eye on the progress of your bread, and while it’s fun to see what’s going on in there, it’s really not essential.

An ingredient dispenser, on the other hand, can be very useful if you want to make fruit or multi-grain loaves. Speciality bread which has extra ingredients apart from the standard, flour, water, yeast combo, usually require the extra ingredients to be added later on in the process.

An ingredient dispenser means that you can measure out what you need at the same time as the dough ingredients and the machine will add it in automatically. Bread makers without this function can still make speciality bread, you just have to be there when the machine beeps to add it in. For most people, it’s not a deal-breaker, but if you want to get adventurous with your bakes – we’d recommend buying a model that has one.

Rapid bake settings and delay-timers

It usually takes around 2-4 hours to make a normal loaf in a bread maker, but rapid settings can sometimes deliver freshly baked bread in under an hour. If you think you’ll need bread in a hurry – take a look at the rapid bake settings before you buy.

That being said, rapid baked bread usually doesn’t compare to slow dough. You might have better results by using a delay timer to get your bread ready in time. Although it requires a little more forward planning, it usually delivers better results. Most bread makers have a delay timer but double-check before you buy one.

Bread maker settings and gluten-free bread

Most bread makers will come with multiple different settings to try, as well as a decent recipe book to help you on your way. If you have your heart set on sourdough or a specific speciality bread, double-check you’re able to do it with the machine you choose before you buy.

Equally gluten-free programmes are becoming more common on bread makers but there are some which offer more gluten-free choices than others.
Before you buy check the preset programmes to make sure you’ll be able to make the bread you want.

Dough, jam, cake, pasta and yoghurt settings

A lot of machines will include a variety of extra settings. It's another way manufacturers can justify the amount of real estate that your bread maker will take up on your kitchen surface. Pizza dough and cakes made in the bread makers are often recommended on the Mumsnet forums, pasta and yoghurt – are less popular.

Cheaper models usually offer less extra functionality but to be honest, if yours can’t make jam, you’re probably not missing out on much.

How to make the most out of your bread maker

Pizzas in the oven

1. Get it out of the cupboard, for crying out loud

Store your bread maker in a place where it’s easily accessible. If you’re lucky enough to have real estate on your kitchen worktop, that’s the best place. Seeing it there will remind you to keep using it. If not, putting it in a cupboard where you’re not going to be attacked by Tupperware lids every time you open the door will mean that you’re more likely to actually use the thing.

“The trick to using them regularly is to either have it out permanently or have it instantly accessible in a cupboard. A place with nothing stacked in front of it, so you can just pull it out immediately.”

2. Packet mixes are absolutely fine

Let’s just get this straight from the get-go, it’s fine to use a packet bread mix in your bread maker. The end result is still freshly baked bread, so what’s the issue?

“I buy the Sainsbury's 75p bread mixes – the seeded one is lovely, and so is the basic wholemeal one. I always have them in the house for a 'rapid loaf'.”

3. Keep 'em small

Bread makers tend to make slightly smaller loaves than the shop-bought alternatives, but that’s not a bad thing. Make use of the small loaf function on your bread maker if you have one, as you’ll find that freshly made bread won’t last as long as shop-bought loaves.

“Fresh bread goes stale faster than shop-bought packet bread, so make smaller loaves more often.”

4. Get one with a built-in 'bit for adding things'

If you want to make multi-seed bread or fruit loaf, it’s worth investing in a bread maker that has the functionality to automatically add things to the mix. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for the beeper to go off and do it yourself.

“That's how you make multi-seed bread…And the cheese and bacon loaves (cries into Slimming World points calculator)”

5. Timer function = fresh warm morning loaf

Most bread makers come with a time function these days, and there's a good reason for that. There’s nothing quite like waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread.

“A bread maker will have a lovely loaf baked ready for breakfast. I'm sure as hell not going to get out of bed to start mixing dough in the middle of the night.”

6. Pizza (because pizza)

One actually useful additional program setting that a lot of bread makers offer is the ability to make pizza dough. You use the bread maker to mix and knead the dough, and then you roll it out by hand to make the pizza bases.

“Another staple of ours is 'pizza parties' with the kids. If they have a chum coming, I'll set off the dough cycle (again with a bread mix. I know some people think it defeats the point – but it makes it literally effortless – and tastes good). Then kids roll and top pizzas.”

7. Invest in a decent knife or bread slicer

You’ve invested in a bread maker, now, do yourself a favour and invest in a decent bread knife or slicer too. We promise it’s worth it.

“One piece of advice: buy a decent slicer. We bought one for £100 but it makes slicing so simple. Otherwise, the kids were slicing off random chunks and the loaf was gone, so I just slice it first.”

Best bread knife
Mercer Culinary Bread Knife, £13.66 from Amazon

Best plastic bread storage and slicer
KitchenCraft Bread Storage and Manual Slicer, £17.79 from Amazon

Best non-plastic slicer
Foldable Bamboo Bread Slicer, £22.99 from Amazon

Best electric bread slicer
Venga! Electric Food Slicer, £76.31 from Amazon

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