Making bread from scratch can be a delicious and rewarding experience but it is also a time-consuming one. Because of the time and labor-intensive processes that go hand-in-hand with homemade bread, many home bakers opt for a bread machine, which can churn out a loaf in such a short time. Others like to stick with the old-fashioned method of baking bread in the oven.
If you’re looking for an easier way to make fresh bread at home, you may want to consider investing in a bread maker. But is a bread maker really better than an oven? Let’s take a closer look to see whether a bread maker or oven is better.
Making Bread in a Bread Machine
When it comes to making bread, a bread machine is definitely the easier option.
Arguably the single biggest reason people use a bread machine is that it’s amazingly convenient. You simply add the ingredients, set the cycle you want, and let the machine do its job.
A bread maker does not take long to make bread either. In as little as two to three hours, you can have a fresh loaf of bread without having to lift a finger. If it wasn’t for my bread machine, I would not be able to make fresh bread every day, I just simply wouldn’t have the time.
The majority of bread machines out there have lots of different settings to choose from. Not only can you make a white loaf, you can also make gluten-free bread, whole wheat bread, and pizza dough.
It doesn’t just stop there, there are other uses for your bread machine too. You can make jam, cake, rice, and even meatloaf. The possibilities are endless with a bread machine.
One of my favorite settings is the delayed timer. The delayed timer allows you to set the bread machine timer to a specific time and have the bread ready for you when you need it.
I use this feature all the time, especially if I want to have bread first thing in the morning.
Many machines also have customizable settings where you can adjust the time and temperature that the bread is baking it.
Anyone can use it
Bread is quite a tricky thing to make by hand and can be quite daunting. However, with a bread machine, everyone can be a baker.
You don’t need any prior baking experience to make bread in a machine. This makes it really accessible to everyone and you don’t need to be a bread-making pro.
While there are some great things about bread machines, there are also some drawbacks that you should be aware of.
Kneading Paddle Holes
This is the most common complaint when it comes to bread machines. If you already have your own bread maker, then you probably already know what I am talking about. If not, here’s a look at the bottom of a loaf I made in my Panasonic.
The kneading paddle is vital for mixing the ingredients together and forming the dough, however as the dough bakes, it leaves a large hole in the dough which can cause your bread to be misshapen or have a large air pocket at the bottom of the loaf.
To combat this, you can get a bread maker with a collapsible paddle. This will minimize the hole at the bottom. Another thing you can do is simply remove the kneading paddle from the bread machine yourself before the baking process starts.
Still not ideal as you will end up with some sort of hole or incision despite removing the paddle or using a bread maker with collapsible ones.
This isn’t much of an issue for me as it might be for you, but a bread machine loaf comes out somewhat rounded rather than square.
This can be particularly annoying if you make a lot of sandwich bread and you want the corners to be sharp.
Soggy top, crusty bottom
Most bread machines only have their heating element at the bottom. This means that the bottom of the loaf and the sides will have a really thick crust.
Due to the lack of a heating element at the top of the machine, the top of the loaf will turn out really soft and almost soggy-like. Some machines, like the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus, have a heating element at the top as well as the bottom to try and combat this issue.
Unlike an oven which is virtually silent, bread machines have a tendency to be a little loud.
This can be a bit of a nuisance if you set the delayed timer to make bread in the morning. The noise of the bread being kneaded might wake everyone up.
Making Bread in the Oven
Making bread in the oven is the traditional way that people have made bread for centuries. It is a bit more involved than using a bread machine but it does have its own advantages.
When you make bread in the oven, you have complete control over the process.
You can see exactly what is going on and can make changes as you go along. This allows you to make adjustments to get the perfect loaf of bread.
If your bread dough is too dense as you knead, you can add a bit more water. If it’s too moist, you can bake it with a bit more flour. Once the loaf is in the oven, you can bake it as long as it needs without having to rely on the bread machine.
Make it your own
The options are endless when making bread yourself and it really allows you to tailor the bread to your own preferences.
Baking bread in the oven also allows you to experiment with different ingredients and flavors.
You can add herbs, spices, nuts, fruit, etc. to create a unique loaf of bread that is all your own.
You can also shape the loaf any way you want. Pleated loaves, dinner rolls, baguettes, you name it.
Baking bread in the oven is much more rewarding than simply putting the ingredients in a machine and waiting for it to be done.
You put in the time and effort to make something from scratch and it really shows when you pull that beautiful loaf of bread out of the oven.
Now, onto the disadvantages of baking bread in the oven. There really aren’t that many, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
This is by far the biggest issue in the bread machine vs oven debate. It is more time-consuming to make bread in the oven, and by hand than it is to use a bread machine.
You have to be around to knead the dough, shape it, and then bake it. This can take the whole day, depending on the type of bread you are making, the amount of yeast added, and the temperature of the room.
Kneading the dough by hand can take around 15-25 minutes. Not to mention is a really strenuous and tiring job. On top of that, rising the dough can take anywhere between 1 hour to 2 hours (depending on how warm the environment is) while the second rise will take around 30 to 40 minutes. Baking the bread usually takes around 30-60 minutes too.
So, as you can see, baking bread in the oven is quite a time commitment.
Things can go wrong
Generally with a bread machine, if you add the ingredients in the correct order and measure everything out, your bread will turn out just fine.
However, with baking bread in the oven, there are a lot more things that can go wrong. If you don’t knead the dough long enough or if you don’t let it rise for long enough, your bread will be dense and heavy.
If you let it rise for too long or add too much yeast, your bread will be full of holes. There is a very small margin for error when baking bread in the oven which can make it quite frustrating, especially if you are just starting out.
Bread Maker vs Oven: Who is the winner?
So, which is better? The bread maker or the oven?
It really depends on what you are looking for. If you want convenience and speed, then a bread machine is the way to go. I personally love my bread machine and investing in one is totally worth it. However, if you want more control over the process and the end result, then baking bread in the oven is the better option, although it is very time-consuming.
If you still aren’t convinced, then take a look at this video from Marion’s Kitchen where she shows a head-to-head test of a bread maker vs oven.
If you want the best of both worlds, use the bread machine to knead the dough and do all the hard work for you, and use your oven to do all the baking.