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Bread machines are great. Most people buy them because they’re tired of store-bought bread. They want fresh bread and they want to be able to control their ingredients – lots of people follow a gluten-free diet and have a hard time finding gluten-free products. Plus, with the right bread machine, you can save lots of money over the long run. But how do you know which bread machine is the best for you? How do you know what features you will need? Read the following bread machine buying guide to find out what to look for in a bread machine and how to find one that will suit your budget and needs.
We’ve already talked a bit about size on the Bread Machine Pros homepage and generally speaking, size doesn’t influence the price of bread machines as compared to other kitchen appliances. When it comes to pricing, the more programmable options and features there are in a bread machine, the more expenive it tends to be. The higher priced models also tend to produce a prettier, more even loaf of bread than the lower end models, so you get what you pay for when buying bread machines. Bread machines usually range from $60 to $300 so there are plenty to suit all budget needs. If you’re going to use your bread machine daily and want something that lasts, a less than $100 machine won’t cut it. We recommend buying a good quality brand like Zojirushi, Panasonic, or Breville.
Kneading paddles come in different shapes. Some machines also have one specifically for dough and a replacement specifically for pasta. Most machines should come with at least one paddle, but two is recommended to knead the bread well. Dual kneading paddles work almost as well as kneading by hand or with a stand mixer. Machines with single kneading paddles may include a spare paddle too. Also, you may want to look at whether you can remove the paddles after the kneading cycle. This is important if you do not want bread that will bake with the paddle and leave a hole at the bottom of your loaf. Some bread machines will notify you to remove the paddles before it enters the baking cycle.
A really nice feature to look for when buying a bread machine is the delayed timer. The delayed timer function allows you to select when you want your bread to start baking. For example, you can add the ingredients to your bread machine just before going to bed and set the timer to start baking at 4 a.m. in the morning. As soon as you wake up, you will have freshly baked bread. How awesome is that?
Since bread machines mix and knead dough, you will be hardpressed not to find one that makes noise. However, the noise level differs between machines. Flimsier ones will make lots of noise. Besides, they will potentially move around your counter and even drop to the floor! Higher end models tend to use better materials and are sturdier, so they make less noise and don’t move around. When buying a machine, make sure you find one that is known to make little noise.
If you plan to bake bread with fruits and nuts, make sure your bread maker will sound an alarm to let you know when to add these ingredients. If you add them at the beginning with the other ingredients, they will be crushed by the mixing cycle. So that’s why you need to add them later and that’s why some machines will “beep” to let you know it’s time to add them.
Want to make more than basic bread? Some machines have settings to make specialty items easily. These are things like pizza dough, cake, jam, noodles, gluten-free bread, wheat bread, sour dough bread, or bread with nuts and seeds where the machine tells you when to add them in. If you want a machine that makes more than simple bread, look for these options in your model.
We found that bread machines don’t differ that much in pricing between the brands or based on the size of bread it bakes, but when it comes to programmable options, the more your machine has the more you tend to pay for it. Programmable options are useful if you want to control, for example, how dark or light you want your crust to be, if you want to knead the dough without baking it, or if you want to bake the dough without kneading it, or how long you want it to rise, knead, or bake. As you can tell, programmable options give you full control. Machines also come with pre-programmed settings such as gluten-free, whole wheat, French, and sweet. So you’d want to choose a bread machine that has the programs you want to easily make the types of bread you want. Higher end models also give you the option to program your own cycle if the machine doesn’t already come with a cycle that suits your needs.