There’s nothing quite like the smell and taste of freshly-baked bread. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the pain of kneading and proofing bread as one of our best bread makers will do the job for automatically. Better than shop-bought bread with no hassle? Sounds like heaven to us.
We’ve reviewed the top-selling models, putting each one through a range of recipes, so that we can bring you this list of the top bread makers. For the ultimate experience, the Panasonic SD-ZX2522 is the best choice. It can handle all types of bread, including more complicated recipes, turning out delicious results each time. If you’re on a tight budget, the Swan SB1041N Quickbake is a good choice for basic loaves.
How we pick the best bread makers
For bread makers, there’s one clear goal: producing excellent quality bread with minimum intervention. To see how the models stack up, we run each machine through a series of recipes, seeing how good they are for wholewheat and white loaves.
We test the crust (it should be firm, but not overbaked), and the quality of the inside to ensure that the bread is cooked all the way through. Where bread makers have special functions, we also test these. These can include how they cope with loose ingredients (seeds and fruits), sponge cakes and sourdough.
We evaluate the quality of the instructions, plus ease of use too, letting us separate the quality bread makers from those not up to the job.
1. Panasonic SD-ZX2522 Breadmaker
The ultimate bread maker with a huge variety of options
- Great range of programs
- Consistently excellent results
- Yeast and seed dispensers
- No viewing window
High-end bread maker, the Panasonic SD-ZX2522, is the best choice if you want to create a variety of loaves, and even tackle bakes that are traditionally more complicated and tough.
The SD-ZX2522 certainly isn’t fast, but its methodical pace means that you get the best-quality bread. With our test white loaf, we got the best bread that we’ve seen. Switching to rye, we achieved a moist, well-cooked loaf; our only issue is that there’s no blade-removal tool, so you have to handle this by hand.
All further bakes were excellent, with a panettone, sourdough and a wholewheat olive loaf all handled perfectly. For the latter, the ingredient dispenser distributed the whole pitted olives through the finished bread.
Although a little expensive, the Panasonic SD-ZX2522 is an outstanding bread maker that can handle all types of bread, consistently outputting delicious loaves.
Read our full Panasonic SD-ZX2522 review
2. Swan SB1041N Quickbake Breadmaker
A great budget model for those that only make the occasional loaf
- Simple to use
- Some programs need manual adjustment
- Instructions aren’t very thorough
- Short cable
The Swan SB1041N Quickbake proves that bread makers don’t have to be super-expensive. If you’re on a tight budget and want something that’s easy to operate, then this is a great choice.
There’s no seed-and-fruit dispenser, so anything more complicated has to be handled manually. But if you want a bread maker that can create basic loaves quickly, the Swan SB1041N is up to the task.
Testing with a simple white loaf, the finished loaf had a golden-brown crust. Cooking was a little uneven on the outside, although the inside was consistent and strong enough not to be torn by a cold buttery knife.
We’d avoid using the fast-bake option: we found that the bread was pale on top and almost burnt on the underside; the longer cook programmes do a far better job. Provided you’re not looking for anything too fancy, the low-cost Swan SB1041N Quickbake is a good choice.
Read or full Swan SB1041N Quickbake review
3. Panasonic SD-ZP2000
A great machine if you want a crusty loaf
- Great hard crust
- Produces consistently good bread
- No yeast or seed dispenser
- No sourdough or rye programs
Most bread makers tend to deliver bread with a soft crust; that’s great for many styles of loaf, but what about those times when you want something with a hard crust for that extra bite? Step forwards, the Panasonic SD-ZP2000, the first bread maker to deliver a true hard crust.
In terms of delivery, there’s little that we can fault with this machine. Both wholemeal and white loaves came out with a nice colour and hard crust, with a fluffy interior. This machine can also churn out a decent soft-crust loaf, too. The downside is that this model has fewer other programs, so you may want to look elsewhere if you want sourdough, rye and extra gluten-free options. For those that want a hard crust, this is the model to buy.
Read our full Panasonic SD-ZP2000 review
3. Panasonic SD-ZB2502BXC
A good all-rounder with integrated yeast and seed dispensers
- Bakes superb bread
- Yeast and seed dispensers
- Slow programs
- No custom program
If you want the absolute best bread maker out there and hang the cost, the Pansonic SD-ZB2502BXC is it. This advanced machine costs over £100, but it makes outstanding bread and has all the features you need to make a wide variety of bread, doughs and jams.
A few things make it stand out. First, it has a seed and dried-fruit dispenser, plus a yeast dispenser that perfectly separates the yeast and water. Second, it comes with a rye kneading blade, so you can make 100% rye loaves as well as mixed loaves.
Finally, it comes with a comprehensive recipe book of more than 100 recipes. Sure, you can find more online, but all these recipes are tuned to work perfectly with the Panasonic bread maker. It’s a great all-round package that you’ll love to use.
Read our full Pansonic SD-ZB2502BXC review
4. Cuisinart CBK250U Automatic Breadmaker
A great choice for anyone that wants big loaves
- Looks great
- Makes big loaves
- Can create your own program
- Dense loaf
If you want something a little more stylish for your kitchen then the Cuisinart CBK250U Automatic Breadmaker is a great option. Although it features a seed and dried fruit dispenser, it looks like a sleeker, more modern appliance.
It makes very good bread, too, of course – and it also makes the largest loaves of any bread maker we’ve tested. Its biggest loaf is a whopping 700g, which is a 100g more than the Panasonic can manage.
One final interesting feature no other machine has is a programmable setting. This lets you create your own recipe, setting the baking time, rest time and so forth to your own preferences. It’s a nice option if you want to fine-tune your efforts to get the perfect loaf.
Read our full Cuisinart CBK250U Automatic Breadmaker review
5. Kenwood Bread Maker BM260
A decent budget option with a few neat touches
- Nice styling touches
- Eco mode
- A bit loud
- No window in lid
If you’d rather not spend upwards of £100 on a bread maker, the Kenwood Bread Maker BM260 is a good compromise. It lacks extra features such as dispensers for seeds and yeast, but it isn’t short of a trick or two itself.
Our favourite feature is the supplied adjustable spoon. This makes it easy to measure out ingredients perfectly, so you don’t have to get the scales out. The breadmaker is also fan-assisted to help speed up the baking process.
We also rather like the provided recipe book, which includes some unusual recipes such as a caramelised onion loaf and even a chocolate loaf. Yum.
Read our full Kenwood Bread Maker BM260 review
That was our choice of the best bread makers. For more information on choosing the right model, keep reading.
Bread maker buying guide
Best bread maker – What main features do I need?
It’s worth keeping an eye out for a few key features in your hunt for a breadmaker. For instance, most machines offer three loaf sizes, but some compact models offer only one or two. Your breadmaker should also have a minimum of around a dozen programs including white, brown and wholemeal loaves.
Many bread makers offer ‘fast-bake’ programs, although make sure you keep an eye out when considering these since some only have fast recipes for white loaves – not very helpful, if you only eat wholemeal bread. Also, checkout the timings of such programs, as some machines can make a large white in less than an hour, while others take longer.
Best bread maker – What about a timer?
Avoid any bread maker that doesn’t have a timer delay. These are handy for baking bread that’s ready just in time for breakfast or your return from work. Other extra perks can include a seed dispenser to drop in seeds at just the right time, a yeast dispenser and a kneading blade for loaves that use rye flour.
Best bread maker – Do I need a seed-and-nut dispenser?
A seed-and-nut dispenser is a great way to create filled bread, with the bread maker releasing the ingredients at just the right point so that they don’t sink to the bottom of the loaf. These aren’t just for seeds and nuts, either: many models can use the same dispenser for fruit, too, which is great if you want to make something different or tackle a sweet, rather than savoury, bake.
Best bread maker – What else should I look out for?
If you’re gluten-intolerant, look out for one with a special program designed for gluten-free bread mixes. More advanced models might also have dough programs for everything from pizza to ciabatta and croissant dough.
Best bread maker – What kinds of bread can I make?
You can make loads of different breads in most bread makers, ranging from traditional loaves to those with added seeds or nuts. There are some limitations with some models, but for a better idea on what you can and can’t do, check out our guide to the best bread maker recipes. You can also find more information on getting the most out of a machine by reading our bread maker tips and solutions article.
Best bread maker – Is the bread better than shop bought?
It depends on what you mean by better. In terms of cost, when factoring in the price of a bread maker, you’ll most likely find that store-bought bread comes in a little cheaper, particularly for budget loaves. However, with your own bread maker you can decice what goes into each bake, giving you more control over the final product. This also means that you can tweak recipes to your liking, producing results that you’re happier. And, let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly-baked bread, and you just don’t get that if you pop down to your local supermarket. For more information check out our article, breadmaker vs store bought.