Cheap cookware usually comes with a small Dutch oven, so we sought out five larger, better options under $80, from enameled cast iron to a stainless stockpot.
Bread Maker Reviews
Regardless what a bread machine costs, if it doesn't deliver a product worth eating, it's not worth anything at all. Bread maker reviews for our top picks roundly assert that these models are quite satisfactory, so much so that many consumers have deleted commercially baked bread from their weekly shopping lists.
Breads.Bread maker reviews for our top picks often include words such as "delicious," "yummy," "flavorful," and "heavenly" when describing the baked goodies and accompanying aromas. Many consumers indicate they use their bread machines at least once a week, mostly for loaves but also for pizza dough, rolls, quick breads, and the like. Most often they seem to rely on the manual/recipe book as a guide and stress the importance of following the instructions to a T; other reviews, however, allow that some experimentation with the rising agent (active dry yeast vs. bread machine yeast), the proportions, and the crust settings may be necessary. For more ideas and trouble-shooting tips on your way to bread nirvana, turn to the Internet. King Arthur Flour, for example, offers dozens of bread machine recipes, helpful hints, and FAQs; many manufacturers post helpful information, as well.
The West Bend Hi-Rise 41300 (starting at $79) is a favored appliance in many households, according to bread maker reviews at sites such as Target. Scores of consumers praise the light and airy loaves -- including a whole wheat specimen -- and one post at Bed Bath & Beyond tells of grinding wheat at home for the ultimate in perfection. Another clear winner with consumers is the Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29881 (starting at $50), a model that reviews at Walmart insist produces excellent results, be it a loaf of white, buttermilk oatmeal (user tip: toast the oatmeal first), one of the gluten-free varieties, or a simple pizza dough.
The tall and wide shape of the loaves produced by the Oster Expressbake CKSTBRTW20 (starting at $59) gives some consumers pause, according to reviews, but the taste and texture of the bread easily compensates. One veteran bread machine user declares at Amazon that the Oster Expressbake beats out other models and is the proximate cause of newly-added poundage, while another reports turning out nearly three dozen loaves over the course of two months. The consensus among reviews of the Breadman TR520 (starting at $59) is likewise positive. Again at Amazon consumers write that the loaves are consistent and tasty, with gluten-free and quick breads hitting the near-perfect mark.
Another bread machine we researched, the Cuisinart CBK-100 (starting at $100), merits consideration if a price point at the very top of the Cheapism range isn't a deterrent. This model finds favor with reviewers at Overstock and Zappos where bread maker reviews say it mixes the ingredients thoroughly and yields beautifully shaped loaves, excellent pizza dough, and appropriately soft challah (egg bread). One consumer writes of making bread daily for a hungry family of five and another reports that unsuccessful attempts at using yeast are now relegated to history.
Experience with the Breadman BK1050S (starting at $88) is mixed. Some bread maker reviews describe regular and gluten-free loaves as moist with a crispy crust, but others gripe about poorly mixed dough and hard and misshapen loaves. The greatest source of displeasure, though, and the reason this model falls flat, concerns what seems to be a design flaw. Comments posted at Amazon and Target rail about a mixing/kneading paddle that scrapes the bottom of the pan and incorporates bits of nonstick coating into the dough.
Ease of Use.The best bread makers are user friendly, especially compared to the do-it-by-hand alternative. Just add the ingredients in the order specified, choose the appropriate setting, and walk away until the bread is done. (User tip: It's a good idea to check in while the dough is mixing -- scraping down the sides is sometimes necessary.) Some models let you pause the cycle to add fruit or nuts and some users prefer to remove the dough after the last rising for shaping and a spin in the oven.
Best bread makers like the West Bend Hi-Rise 41300 is "idiot-proof," as one review notes at Bed Bath & Beyond. Although we came across an occasional comment about confusing or misleading instructions in owners' manuals, the general consensus seems to be that these small appliances are effort-saving marvels.
One irritant that frequently popped up in reviews of the Breadman TR520 is the control panel's white-on-yellow labeling, which users note is difficult to read; one consumer resolved the problem by overwriting the letters with a Sharpie. The small black-on-grey menu bar on the Breadman BK1050s poses a similar challenge for those with diminished eyesight, according to a post at Target. On the other hand, the Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29881 boasts a large back-lit display that users say is easy to see at a glance.
Clean up is a relatively quick affair with these bread machines. All the models we researched come with nonstick loaf pans, although we read several reports about struggling to remove the baked loaves and residue left on the sides. The pan and paddle on the Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29881 and Cuisinart CBK-100 are dishwasher safe.
One problem common among even the best bread makers, at least in this price range, is the paddle that remains in the loaf through the baking cycle. Numerous reviews decry the need to dig out the paddle and the unsightly gash that mars an otherwise flawless slice of bread. (User tip: Grease the paddle with a spot of oil before starting.) An innovative collapsible paddle on the Breadman BK1050S was designed to forestall this predicament, but reviews report a number of functional failures; e.g., the paddle doesn't mix the dough properly, it collapses during mixing and/or kneading, it doesn't retract when it should, and it scrapes the bottom of the pan. The Cuisinart CBK-100 short-circuits the paddle dilemma with an alert to remove it from the dough before the last rise; some reviewers, however, insist this is easier said than done. (User reminder: Bread dough is sticky.)
Bread Makers Size.Both small and large households can make use of a bread machine. Worthy contenders offer at least two options for loaf size, with three (1, 1.5, and 2 pounds) being most typical. Among the best bread makers we researched, only the Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29881 limits the choice to just two sizes (1.5 and 2 pounds) while the West Bend Hi-Rise adds a fourth, a 2.5 pounder, to the mix.
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. For example, the West Bend 41300 extends almost 16 inches from front to back, 10.3 inches across, and 12 inches up; the Oster Expressbake CKSTBRTW20 measures about 12 inches long and 12 inches wide and stands nearly 14 inches tall. Families big on sandwiches might be most satisfied with a horizontal bread maker such as the West Bend 41300, which happens to boast a sandwich cycle that some consumers on Amazon say yields a softer and thinner crust.
Bread Makers Durability.Not surprisingly, most reviews of the best bread makers are posted for units that are relatively new. A noticeable number happen to contain paeans to the best bread makers of yore, attesting to a life span that sometimes surpassed 10 years. For the current crop, we found few reports of an early demise. A handful of reviewers, however, insist that the new machines seem flimsy compared to their predecessors. Back to top »
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