For folks who have many demands on their time, a bread machine can be an invaluable piece of equipment. The advantages of using a bread machine are nearly endless, with the top ones being:
- Ease of use
- Less guess-work
- Consistent results
- All of which lead to more frequent baking
There are some disadvantages to using a bread machine, such as:
- Less control over the dough
- An inability to learn the texture of dough for different recipes
- Sometimes uneven browning of the crust
- Unsightly holes in the bottom of the bread from the kneading hooks
The Zojirushi Bread Machine
By far, my favorite bread machine is the Zojirushi bread maker. I have the 2 lb. loaf machine, and it makes baking bread as easy as pie. Actually, it’s a fair bit easier than pie. The pros and cons of this fantastic machine include:
- The ability to use the bread machine to just knead the dough and take it through its first rise. After this, you can shape it however you want. This particular feature works great for artisan loaves. The second perk of this being that you save the wear and tear on your stand mixer, if you have one, or the time and frustration of hand-kneading the dough.
- This bread machine also comes with a great recipe book that takes you through simple recipes and instructions for basic, whole-wheat, sweet doughs, and miscellaneous recipes, like meatloaf, jams, and easy bread machine cake. This saves you a bit of money you might have spent buying a bread machine recipe book.
- The countdown timer lets you know exactly how long it’s going to be before your loaf of bread is ready to eat, so you can plan your meal ahead of time.
- The delay start function is one of my favorite features. It allows me a lot of flexibility, and with a hectic life, flexibility is key. Simply put all of your ingredients into the machine and tell it when you want your loaf to be done. It delays starting until the appropriate time. This feature allows you to prepare 24 hours in advance, as long as your recipe doesn’t use ingredients that will spoil at room temperature. Don’t use this feature with fresh milk or egg products. (Dry milk and dry eggs are fine).
- Another really nice feature is the beep to let you know when to add mix-ins, like nuts or berries. These ingredients should not be added until the dough is fairly well-kneaded, and the machine beeps to let you know when to add them.
- While you may feel you don’t have quite as much control over kneading with the bread machine, you can easily open the lid of the Zojirushi and check on the consistency of the dough as it is kneading. You can add more water or flour depending on your results.
- You don’t have to worry about kneading or shaping the loaf of bread. If you are a novice bread baker, these two techniques can be frustrating to learn and may result in failed loaves. The Zojirushi does it for you.
- Along that same line, the Zojirushi gives you consistent results. Read my articles about my first time baking yeast rolls and rye bread for some ideas about the pitfalls of baking bread at home.
- My loaves bake up much taller in the Zojirushi than when I do it manually. This is perfect for sandwich loaves. No more annoying sandwich fillings hanging over the edges of the bread.
- Like many other bread machines, the Zojirushi has different crust settings, so if you like your crust extra brown or crunchy, you can set it that way.
- The keep-warm feature also adds another touch of flexibility. If you want a fresh-out-of-the-oven loaf of bread for dinner, the Zojirushi will keep your loaf warm for an hour after it finishes the baking cycle. No need to buy a bread warmer or transfer the loaf to the oven before dinner is finished.
- The Zojirushi also saves money on a proofing box. Proofing boxes keep your dough the perfect temperature for rising and many home bakers swear by them. The Zojirushi has this feature built in, so it saves money and counter space. With counter space being a high commodity in my home, I find this feature invaluable.
- The Zojirushi does not heat up your whole kitchen and house like a conventional oven does. If you live in a hot, humid climate, you may find yourself not baking bread in the summer. With the Zojirushi bread machine, you can keep on baking bread for picnic lunches all summer long.
- There is so much less mess with the Zojirushi bread machine compared to manual baking. I take the loaf pan out of the machine, set it on my kitchen scale and add the ingredients to the loaf pan. Literally, the only thing I dirty in this process is the loaf pan and measuring spoons. With so many great features, it is hard to pick a favorite, but I think this is it. I detest having a sink full of dirty dishes!
- It is a bit expensive. The 2 lb. Zojirushi bread machine retails for about $250. If you want the 1 lb. Zojirushi bread machine, you can save some cash. It retails for about $190. (Prices quoted from Amazon.com on 4/9/2013). However, I have not used the 1 lb. machine, so I cannot vouch for its functionality.
- I have found that if I use the machine to bake my loaves, it sometimes produces a slightly uneven browning of the crust. It is not a problem for me and my family, but if you are planning on gifting your loaves to others, you may not like the uneven appearance. It is not terrible, but I can see it and you will too.
- If you leave the kneading hooks in the machine, which will happen if you use the delay start feature and go to work or run errands, there will be holes in the bottom of the loaf from the hooks. Again, this isn’t a problem for me, but it might be for you.
- If you are baking anything other than a standard loaf, such as yeast rolls or an artisan loaf, you will need to take the risen dough out of the machine after the first rise, shape it and allow it to complete the second rise outside of the machine. It is a great bread machine, but it can’t shape yeast rolls for you. I do not know of any machines that do this, so it’s not a con of this particular machine, but a con of bread machines in general.
- If you use the Zojirushi bread machine solely and do not do any recipes by hand, you will not learn what dough should feel like at its various stages of beating, kneading, and rising. If you eventually want to do other loaves, you may feel a bit unprepared. Again, this is not the Zojirushi’s fault, but bread machines in general.
Overall, I strongly recommend this particular machine if you can afford it. The ease of use, versatility, and intuitive design make it, in my opinion, the best bread machine on the market for home bakers. Best of luck to you in all your home baking forays!
© 2013 Leah Wells-Marshburn
Leah Wells-Marshburn (author) from West Virginia on August 07, 2013:
Thank you, Heather! I wasn't really sure about getting a bread machine, but went ahead and did it. I'm very glad I did. I definitely make more bread and it's much less of a hassle now.
Heather from Arizona on August 06, 2013:
This is a great review. I've always wondered about bread machines and have considered getting one someday. I really liked your pro and con list because some of those factors are things I would have never even imagined. This has given me some great info to mull over. Great job!