Sunbeam 5891 Review

From $69 Best

Pros:

  • Dependable results and life span.
  • 12 settings, including dough, jam, and cake.
  • Front-mounted LED display for easy access.
  • Nonstick pan.
  • Bargain price.

Cons:

  • Large and heavy; no handles.

Takeaway: A user-friendly machine and a hard-to-beat value, this Sunbeam bread maker thrills reviewers with its durability and performance. They report that this little machine has lasted years, even with frequent use, and produced consistently delicious results.

Panasonic SD-YD250 Review

From $95 Best

Pros:

  • Tasty, high-quality loaves up to 2.5 pounds.
  • Relatively small footprint.
  • Automatic yeast dispenser.
  • 6 bread settings and 4 bake modes.
  • Nonstick baking pan.

Cons:

  • No viewing window.
  • Can be hard to reset if you choose the wrong program, some users say.

Takeaway: Well-liked by experts and consumers, this Panasonic bread maker delivers loaves that are evenly textured and baked through. The yeast dispenser ensures that the rising agent is added at the optimal moment. Some reviewers were won over despite initial skepticism and others consider it a good value despite a perch at the higher end of the budget price range.

Where to buy

Cuisinart CBK-100 Review

From $100 Best

Pros:

  • Well-shaped, horizontal loaves with excellent texture.
  • Signal to remove the paddle before baking.
  • 12 settings, including gluten-free, dough, pasta, jam, and bake only.
  • 13-hour delay start timer.
  • 2 stay-cool handles.
  • Measuring cup and spoon included.
  • 3-year warranty exceeds the norm.

Cons:

  • Heavy, at 22 pounds.
  • LCD display is reportedly hard to read.

Takeaway: This Cuisinart bread maker is a large, sturdy, and versatile machine that bakes bread with a good crust and crumb (the soft inside of the loaf) and turns out other tasty delights. The ability to remove the paddle from the rising dough and reshape the loaf is a big draw.

Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29882 Review

From $54 Good

Pros:

  • Excellent results with a variety of recipes.
  • 12 settings, including gluten-free and dough.
  • Easy to use and a breeze to clean.
  • Dishwasher-safe pan and paddles (comes with 2).

Cons:

  • End-of-cycle beep is too loud for some users.
  • Dances off the counter, some reviews report.

Takeaway: Tagged at a true bargain price, the Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29882 comes with all the important features and, according to users, performs above its grade. Beginners and skilled bakers alike talk up its virtues, most notably the tasty and tempting end product.

Oster Expressbake CKSTBRTW20 Review

From $60 Good

Pros:

  • Good results with no hassles, reviewers say.
  • 12 settings, including keep warm, dough, and jam.
  • Nonstick aluminum pan.
  • Relatively compact size.
  • More or less horizontal loaves, although some users describe an awkward square-ish shape.

Cons:

  • Sometimes wobbles, according to reviews.
  • Some reports of poor mixing.

Takeaway: This Oster bread maker wins praise from hundreds of reviewers for the taste and texture of the breads it produces. A top-selling model on retail sites, it's basic and uncomplicated without any loss of functionality. Many users say it has performed admirably for years.

Kuissential BMC-001 Review

From $80 Good

Pros:

  • Produces loaves with appealing crumb and crust.
  • 13 settings, including gluten-free, sandwich, and customizable.
  • Automatic dispenser for add-ins such as fruit and nuts.

Cons:

  • No recipe book.
  • Some auto dispensers don't work, according to reviews.

Takeaway: Reviewers admire the performance of the Kuissential BMC-001 for the price. Bearing the label of a lesser-known brand, it stands on near equal footing with models from the big-league players.

Breadman BK1050S Review

From $84 Think Twice

Pros:

  • Satisfactory, tasty results, according to reviews.
  • 14 settings, including gluten-free, artisan, and low-carb.
  • Collapsible kneading paddle.
  • Comparatively long 15-hour delay and keep-warm mode.
  • Nonstick pan.
  • Automatic dispenser for add-ins.

Cons:

  • Reviewers observe that the paddle scrapes the bottom of the pan and may fail to mix and knead properly.
  • Machine oil and flaking bits from the pan's coating may be incorporated into the dough, some users warn.

Takeaway: Mixed reviews for the Breadman BK1050S might make consumers think twice about this bread maker. The appeal of the collapsible paddle, which ideally means no gash in the bread post-baking, is marred by malfunctions. Consumers also report that the inside of the nonstick pan flakes and oil seeps into the pan.

Buying Guide

Choosing a Bread Maker

Home-baked bread is more than just delicious; it's also frugal and healthy. The price of a high-quality store-bought loaf easily tops $4, but you can take the DIY approach for about $1 and avoid ingesting the refined flours, sugars, and preservatives that show up in the commercial product. What keeps many a home cook from baking bread, however, is the time-consuming and arm-wearying process and the fear of yeast failure. Cue cheap bread makers. Cheapism.com sifted through expert and consumer reviews of these nifty countertop appliances and found several models that provide all the benefits of fresh-baked loaves without the hassle and anxiety -- for $100 or less.

Bread Maker Brands.

The usual array of consumer brands, including Sunbeam, Panasonic, Oster, Hamilton Beach, and West End, dominate the budget zone. Breadman, a corporate cousin of Black & Decker, makes an appearance in this segment, as does Cuisinart. Lesser-known labels, such as Kuissential and Rosewill, round out the entry-level offerings. Many of these manufacturers also offer upscale models alongside the likes of T-Fal, Breville, and Zojirushi. The latter earns particular accolades from expert and consumer reviewers for features, performance, and durability.

Expensive vs. Cheap Bread Makers.

Prices in this product category run the gamut from a low of about $40 to a high of about $400. Cost aside, all bread machines function pretty much the same way: Add ingredients and push a few buttons, and the machine does the rest. Paying for a high-end bread maker buys a finished loaf with superior crust and texture, the ability to customize steps throughout the process, and better build quality.

Based on the reviews we read, however, frugal consumers are hearty defenders of entry-level models, often contending that inexpensive bread machines can hold their own in any bread-making matchup. And folks who follow a gluten-free diet revel in the opportunity to turn out satisfying loaves without forking over too much "dough."

The best cheap bread makers, according to our research, are the Cuisinart CBK-100 (starting around $100), for its versatility and top-quality loaves; the Sunbeam 5891 (starting around $69), for its dependability and overall value; and the Panasonic SD-YD250 (starting around $95, although often closer to $125), for its delectable output and extra-large loaf option.

Three other good bread machines under $100: the Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29882 (starting around $50), for strong performance coupled with a bargain price; the Kuissential BMC-001 (starting around $80), for value, features, and results; and the Oster Expressbake CKSTBRTW20 (starting around $60), which is now near the end of its run with a proven track record as its legacy. Stretching the budget just a bit, the Cuisinart CBK-200 (starting around $112) features more settings than the CBK-100 and convection heat for an even, golden crust.

One cheap bread machine we researched, the Breadman BK1050S (starting around $84), comes with features such as a collapsible kneading paddle, which eliminates the hole in the bottom of a baked loaf, but is tarred by performance snafus.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

(from $100.00)
Settings 12
Loaf Sizes 3 (up to 2 lbs.)
Loaf Shape Horizontal
Delay Start Timer Up to 13 hours
Warranty 3 years
(from $69.00)
Settings 12
Loaf Sizes 2 (up to 2 lbs.)
Loaf Shape Vertical
Delay Start Timer Up to 13 hours
Warranty 1 year
(from $95.00)
Settings 10
Loaf Sizes 3 (up to 2.5 lbs.)
Loaf Shape Vertical
Delay Start Timer Up to 13 hours
Warranty 1 year
(from $54.00)
Settings 12
Loaf Sizes 2 (up to 2 lbs.)
Loaf Shape Vertical
Delay Start Timer Up to 13 hours
Warranty 1 year
(from $80.00)
Settings 13
Loaf Sizes 2 (up to 2 lbs.)
Loaf Shape Vertical
Delay Start Timer Up to 13 hours
Warranty 2 years
(from $60.00)
Settings 12
Loaf Sizes 2 (up to 2 lbs.)
Loaf Shape Horizontal
Delay Start Timer Up to 13 hours
Warranty 1 year
(from $112.00)
Settings 16
Loaf Sizes 3 (up to 2 lbs.)
Loaf Shape Horizontal
Delay Start Timer Up to 12 hours
Warranty 3 years
(from $113.00)
Settings 15
Loaf Sizes 3 (up to 2 lbs.)
Loaf Shape Vertical
Delay Start Timer Up to 15 hours
Warranty 1 year
(from $177.00)
Settings 9
Loaf Sizes 1 (1 lb.)
Loaf Shape Vertical
Delay Start Timer Up to 13 hours
Warranty 1 year
(from $84.00)
Settings 14
Loaf Sizes 3 (up to 2 lbs.)
Loaf Shape Vertical
Delay Start Timer Up to 15 hours
Warranty 2 years

Bread Machine Reviews: What We Considered

Our picks are based on data gathered from reviews posted by experts and consumers, and from manufacturers' product specifications. Research sources include Wirecutter, TopTenReviews, and Better Homes & Gardens, which test products, as well as Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot, Best Buy, Target, Newegg, and Bed Bath & Beyond, which host reviews written by people who use these machines in their own kitchens.

Bottom line: Bread maker reviews roundly declare the models on our list quite satisfactory. Reviewers say they enjoy the process and the finished product, so much so that many have deleted commercially baked bread from their weekly shopping lists. They consider these machines user-friendly, easy to clean, and reliable, and they like the array of features. Although we came across reviews that report problems -- e.g., dough doesn't rise, loaves are tough or misshapen, nonstick coating peels, components give out after minimal use -- the vast majority crow about the good value and good eating that our preferred choices provide.

Overall Performance.

Reviews often use words such as "delicious," "yummy," "flavorful," and "heavenly" to describe the baked goodies and accompanying aromas from the bread makers we picked. Many consumers say they use their machines at least once a week, mostly for bread but also for pizza dough, rolls, quick breads, and the like. Most often they seem to rely on the included manual/recipe book as a guide and stress the importance of following the instructions to a T. Other reviews allow that some experimentation with the rising agent (active dry yeast vs. bread machine yeast), the flour, the proportions, and the crust settings may be necessary.

Settings.

The bread makers on our list are more than one-trick ponies. They can bake a range of bread types -- basic, French, wheat, multigrain, quick, and sweet are common -- and also turn out dough for shaping and a spin in the oven. Some add jams, sauces, and cakes to the mix. The number of preprogrammed settings depends on the model. Standard settings include an express cycle, which hastens a process that can take more than three hours, and multiple options for crust shade (light, medium, dark) and loaf size (1.5 and 2 pounds are most common; some offer a 1- or 2.5-pound option). We also looked for bread machines with a delay-start timer, a welcome setting that lets users add the ingredients and set the machine to turn on later (usually up to 13 hours). An increasing number of cheap bread machines come with a special gluten-free option. The T-Fal ActiBread Gluten Free PF311E (starting around $113) goes even further, with three settings for gluten-free bread and cake.

Ease of Use.

The best bread makers are a breeze to use. Just add the ingredients in the order specified, choose the appropriate setting, and walk away until the bread is done. (Still, it's a good idea to check in while the dough is mixing -- scraping down the sides is sometimes necessary. Most models have a viewing window.) Some machines offer an audible reminder to add fruit or nuts mid-cycle, and some dispense mix-ins automatically.

Cleanup is a relatively quick affair with our favorite bread machines. Several models we researched come with nonstick loaf pans and paddles, although we read a number of reports about struggling to remove baked loaves and residue left on the sides. The pan and paddle on a couple of models are dishwasher safe.

One minor irritant common among even the best bread makers -- at least in this price range -- is that the paddle remains in the loaf through the baking cycle. Numerous reviews decry the need to dig it out and the unsightly gash that mars an otherwise flawless slice of bread. (Tip: Grease the paddle with a spot of oil or cooking spray before starting.) Some models do come with a hook that helps remove the paddle. Some reviewers say they open the machine and pull out the paddle part way through the proofing, but read the instructions closely to be sure this will work; some users report that the dough deflates if the paddle is pulled out. Rare in the budget range is the model that short-circuits the paddle dilemma with an alert to dislodge it from the dough before the last rise.

Dimensions.

One thing these small appliances are not is small. Whether square or rectangular -- or, in bread maker parlance, vertical or horizontal -- the best bread makers take up lots of space on the counter. Some are as long as 19 inches and as deep as 14 inches and weigh more than 20 pounds. For a more compact machine, look to the more expensive but highly rated Zojirushi Mini BB-HAC10 (starting at $177), which measures just 11.25 by 8.5 by 12.25 inches.

One frequent complaint about bread machines with vertical loaf pans: The odd-shaped slices often don't fit in a toaster. Choose a model that makes horizontal loaves for bread shaped like a loaf you would buy at a supermarket.

Durability.

Most reviews pertain to products that are relatively new. But a noticeable number contain paeans to the best bread makers of yore, attesting to a life span that sometimes surpassed 10 years and a decision to buy another machine bearing the same brand name. That said, we found a not insignificant number of reports of an early demise for the current crop of bread machines. A handful insist that new models seem flimsy compared with their predecessors. Most cheap bread makers have one-year warranties, although we found a few that are covered for two or three years.

Additional Products We Considered

Cuisinart CBK-200 Review

From $112

Pros:

  • Convection technology for better air circulation.
  • Multiple types of breads turn out as they should, users report.
  • 16 settings, including gluten-free, low-carb, and options for longer and cooler rises.
  • Alert to remove the paddle before baking.
  • Nonstick pan.
  • Horizontal loaf shape.
  • 3-year limited warranty exceeds the category norm.

Cons:

  • Fan noise irritates some users.
  • Crust reportedly comes out dark and thick, even on the "light" setting.
  • Baking pan rattles inside the housing, some reviewers say.

Takeaway: A winning kitchen appliance from Cuisinart, the CBK-200 has proved easy to use and reliable. It's a big, rectangular machine with handles on the ends and more than the usual bread-making options. It also costs more than our top picks, but the stretch might be worth it to users who want convection heat and more functions.

T-Fal ActiBread Gluten Free PF311E Review

From $113

Pros:

  • Excellent results, even with gluten-free recipes.
  • 15 programmable settings, including salt-free and 3 for gluten-free bread and cake.
  • Intuitive and user-friendly, reviewers say.
  • Nonstick pan.
  • Keep-warm mode.
  • Comparatively long 15-hour delay timer.
  • Wirecutter's runner-up for best bread machine.

Cons:

  • Awkwardly shaped loaves -- the height exceeds the width.

Takeaway: The T-Fal PF311E deserves a close look by consumers with dietary restrictions. Although other bread machines feature a special setting for gluten-free bread, this model goes further with more targeted settings and arguably tastier and more consistent results.

Zojirushi Mini BB-HAC10 Review

From $177

Pros:

  • Excellent results.
  • Compact size; 1-pound loaf.
  • Quiet and stable.
  • Carrying handle.

Cons:

  • Pan coating may flake, a few users report.

Takeaway: It's pricey, yes, but this Zojirushi bread maker is an excellent choice for small households and kitchens. The Zojirushi BB-HAC10 is a dependable, user-friendly bread maker that scores for performance, versatility, features, and slices that fit in a toaster. It comes with an instructional DVD, as well as a manual.