We have decided to retire our existing bread machine that is at least 15 years old, after Andrea discovered that there was some light corrosion on the inside of the baking apparatus. It is underneath the structure that actually holds the baking pan, nowhere near the food, but it is still “in” the machine, so safer to jettison for health and safety reasons. I knew that everyone went crazy on bread early during the pandemic, and stores are still low on yeast. But I hadn’t anticipated a complete lack of any bread makers being left. Sure, I’d thought there would be some scarcity, but not a complete absence of options. So let me tell you how that went.
My first reaction was to go to the internet, and I must say, bread machines have come a long way from the model we have. My first stop was Consumer Reports which is free to access if I use my Ottawa Public Library card but the search for “bread machine” gave me only two options — a hand mixer and a washing machine. Umm…I don’t think either of those is going to be very helpful. (But it did get me thinking about a new hand mixer too. Andrea agrees we need a new one, so something else to add to my research list for another day!) I tried bread “maker” instead of machine but I got the same result.
Okay, okay, on to the regular internet sites.
Features to consider
People recommended finding one with a gluten-free option, which is simple enough to consider. Not a high priority for me, but sure, why not?
Capacity is a factor although I was more concerned about the overall footprint. I don’t want something that takes up a huge amount of space on the counter or in our pantry where it will be stored. On the other hand, a 1.5-pound option might be too small for our family of three that eats a lot of bread. I’m not sure we could commit to making all of our bread, we’re not THAT crazy, but a loaf here or there would be good. Ideally ones we could use for sandwiches that I could slice thin enough and would be a bit lighter. But apparently some have multiple size options which would be nice.
The material for the pan defaults to aluminum and the sites suggest going with thin aluminum unless you want heavy thick crusts. I don’t, so thin is fine.
Oooh, there are horizontal loaf options now. That would be nice, although apparently I need two kneading blades and the cheaper models aren’t great. Hmmm.
Timers? Sure. Kneading blades? Sure, two please. Crust browning setting? Sure. Different types of breads? Of course. But I think my eyes were starting to glaze over.
Oh, good, they think I should consider price. Really? Ya think? Boneheads.
Oh, wait, another good point. Auto-dispensing options for ingredients, such as yeast, fruit and nuts, etc. Things you normally add part-way through but you have to stop the machine, open the lid, insert stuff, blah blah blah. The auto-dispensers remove the requirement to intervene — just fill it up in advance, and away you go, letting the machine insert the ingredients at the appropriate time. I like that option. Particularly if I was to set it up before going to bed to have fresh bread in the morning.
The top contenders
I narrowed my “reviews” down to about nine different sources, which left me with a long list of breadmakers to consider. Sure, some of them overlap, but even after allowing for that, there were at least 30 or so to consider. One major factor for me is the ability to find it easily in Canada since many of the review sites are American. And I am obviously going to weed for price. An $800 bread machine might be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but at that price, it better slice and butter my bread for me! With the huge uptick in home baking caused by Covid, many models appeared out of stock too, so I thought, naively, that would “help” narrow the field a little.
Zojirushi is a very popular brand, with its Virtuoso Plus model getting high marks from just about everyone. In Canada, Walmart has it tracked at around $400, which is on the high side, but it is sold out everywhere. Despite the price, I would have considered it — everyone rates it high, the reviews are solid, and it has all the features I could want except variably-sized loaves. Impressive but not viable.
Sunbeam models show up on a lot of lists with a 2-lb option in a compact footprint. Their “2lb Breadmaker” is programmable, handles different kinds of bread, only does vertical, etc., a nice functional model. And only $129. Which is why it too is also out of stock everywhere. But it also appears to have a durability issue according to user reviews and it vibrates while baking, in some cases actually enough to slide off a counter if it was too close. Yikes. Pass, even if I could get one.
I was doubtful of T-Fal for quality, but many of the reviews loved the outputs, even if they were a bit darker than normal. I started down a rabbit-hole, though, almost immediately looking at one-pot cookers that double as bread makers. Wait…what am I looking at? Oh right, I’m supposed to be looking at bread makers. This one is supposed to be really good for gluten-free but it doesn’t matter, it’s not available anywhere. Noticing a trend here?
I was trying to avoid going by “just what was available”, but clearly that wasn’t going to work in a Covid world. So let’s back up for other sites besides Amazon.
- Canadian Tire only has 3 models — Sunbeam, Black and Decker, and Master Chef, and none are in stock.
- Bed Bath and Beyond carries Cuisinart, but none left in stock.
- Walmart lists Hamilton Beach, Breadman and Zojirushi, but there are none available.
- Best Buy carries Breadman models, Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart, Breville, and Zojirushi, but there are none in stock.
Well, that will certainly narrow down my choices more than I expected. I had options to consider for Breadman, Panasonic, West Bend, Oster, Cuisinart, Breville, Hamilton Beach, Aicok, Cook’s Essential, Panasonic, Rosewill, and SKG but now I’m down to one vendor.
What’s left on Amazon.ca
Okay, let’s start my search again:
- Searching for bread maker — over 10,000 hits
- Kitchen and dining gets rid of a lot of books – still over 10,000 hits
- Small appliances – 6,000 hits
- Bread machines – 2,000 hits
- Three stars and up – 16 options
16 is not encouraging. If I included “out of stock”, the list would go to 42, much more reasonable. But that doesn’t help me. Of the 16, half are actually replacement paddles for the interior of a bread machine. Another 1 is some sort of iPhone case with weird tags on it. 2 more are either bread slicers or bread rollers. There are sponsored links for pasta makers and toasters, which are not much help.
For breadmakers that are supposedly “in stock”, there are only four options.
The first is a Hamilton Beach model that is discontinued but is listed by a 3rd party seller for almost $500. Sorry, not interested.
There is a Panasonic Home Bakery model that gets okay reviews here and there. Sold by a Japanese import 3rd party seller, they want $1200 for a $200 item. Riiight.
There is a legitimate Panasonic Home Bakery model that is similar to the one above, and it says there is one left in stock for $750. I’m sure it’s a perfectly good vendor, I’m not at all suspicious that the description says:
In French and pan de look at things , ” the contents of the pan .” Crust of bread , a so-called skin against Enlightenment French bread , to find the taste to crumb to be a content
East odor can enjoy a less wheat original flavor and taste , more full-fledged pan
By mounting the inverter motor , while fermented by warming the dough , It will be able to sleep at high speed , can make bread in just 80 minutes
Compared to the regular ” bread ” course , swelling of bread hot from the oven is reduced.
Don’t get me wrong, normally anything that promises to sleep at high-speed attracts my wallet quickly, if only I could be sure of that vague potentially-racist “east odor” reference.
And last but not least, there’s a silicone bread maker. It’s basically a flexible pot that you can put all your ingredients in to mix and knead (or use no knead dough), and then tie the top together to let the dough rise before putting it right in the oven. When you take it out, it can cool in the same container. One pot / container from start to finish, can take temperatures up to 425F, and will go right in the dishwasher. It’s only $25, and since I can’t make it in a non-existent bread machine, I guess I would have to go this route. Or just use the bread pans we already have and never use for bread.
Well, that wasn’t a great use of my time tonight.