Bread machines were popular in the 1990s, but there's no denying they've made a comeback in recent years. That said, if you already own a stand mixer, you may think there's no reason to buy one. There are a number of differences between bread machines and stand mixers—beyond the obvious fact that stand mixers can’t physically bake anything inside them—but is one better than the other?
A closed, sealed vessel
Mixes and bakes bread directly in it
An electric motor kneads
Isn't very versatile
Select from assorted bread programs
Does not require a loaf pan
An open vessel
Mixes, but does not bake
An electric motor kneads
Has varied uses
Display is generally not digital
Usually no programs to select from
Requires a loaf pan to bake bread
As you can see, these two appliances have some major differences. Should you own both or choose one over the other? This ultimately depends on personal preference: Are you looking for convenience? Versatility? Keep reading for a full rundown of what you can accomplish with each and what these machines function best for—your next best loaf awaits you.
The biggest difference between a bread machine and a mixer is that a bread machine has a heating element. Because of that, it’s more akin to a countertop pressure cooker or toaster oven than it is to a mixer. However, unlike those appliances, a bread machine also has a mixer that sits within the bread pan. That means that you can use it to knead dough before baking it, all in one place.
A stand mixer can perform many functions, depending on the attachment you use: Paddles are for kneading, whereas whisks are for whipping. Because mixers have various attachment options, they can be used for many different whisking tasks and even making non-bread items, including pasta. A bread machine only has a paddle, so you can’t use it for other applications like whipping egg whites to stiff peaks for meringue.
Winner: Bread machine
If you’re looking to bake bread, but you’ve found the endless instructions and tips online overwhelming to digest, you’re the prime candidate for a bread machine. The process couldn’t be simpler: Choose a program from the machine’s settings, follow the instructions to add ingredients, and let the whole thing happen on its own. You don’t need to worry about proofing times, kneading too much or too little, choosing the right loaf pan (or coating it with flour or oiling it, either), or when exactly it’s done. The bread maker does it all for you.
Baking a Cake
Though you can’t bake a cake in a mixer, you can use it to make the batter, and you’ll be better served using it because cakes that involve beaten butter or whipped egg whites just won’t be the same in a bread maker. To bake a cake with a mixer, you’ll also need an oven, but it’s a fair bet that if you’re in a kitchen with a stand mixer, there’s an oven there too. It won’t be as easy a process in a mixer, and we tip our hats to bread makers for even being able to bake cakes, but it’s a much more customizable one. You’ll have better control over every step of the batter, and we think that’s more likely to yield a delicate, soft crumb to a cake.
Winner: Bread machine
There just isn’t anything about making jam that you would have the need to involve a mixer for. It has no heating element, so it can’t cook jam, and nothing about the jam-making process requires kneading or whipping. Provided you cut your fruit into bite-size pieces or use a variety that breaks down as it cooks, such as raspberries, you won’t even need to take an immersion blender to it once finished. Simply add the ingredients to the bread machine, select the jam setting, and walk away.
Winner: Bread machine
Similar to making jam, a mixer is basically useless when it comes to creating yogurt. People buy yogurt makers, a single-purpose appliance, because it’s too touchy a food product to easily make on the stove. Involving probiotic cultures, yogurt must be kept at very specific temperatures throughout its culturing or it won’t coagulate properly. If heated too high, the good bacteria will be killed, as well. You can take all the stress out of making yogurt and toss that yogurt maker, thanks to the bread machine. Similar to how it makes jam or bread, you just add the ingredients, set the program, and let it do its thing.
Whipping Egg Whites
Inasmuch as a mixer can’t make jam, a bread machine can’t whip egg whites. Stiff peaks are vital to dishes like meringue, and you can wear out your hand whipping whites with a portable mixer. A bread machine only has paddles, so you could use it to emulsify egg whites and yolks, but that’s about as close as you could get, which isn’t very close at all. In a stand mixer, you add the whites and a pinch of cream of tartar, then gradually turn up the whisking speed. In about five minutes, you’ll have egg whites that are firm, opaque, and ready for anything from placing in a piping bag to scooping onto a pie.
Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker
What It’s Best For: Bread and other dough or batter-based goods, jam, yogurt
This large bread machine from Zojirushi features 15 programs, including a wide variety of bread, each with a choice of light, medium, or dark crust; an LCD screen; two paddles in its baking pan to ensure that kneading is efficient and thorough; and a 13-hour delay timer, so you can wake up to the smell of fresh bread in the morning.
Customize your recipes or use the included cookbook to make everything from whole wheat bread to jam—expect perfect results every time, too. We followed recipes closely, but we also went a little rogue, changing everything from the order of ingredients placed in the machine to the proportions, and it yielded excellent results every time regardless. The loaves were taller or shorter depending on how much flour we used, but all of them baked well. Because of the way this machine works, you can bake a loaf of bread in just two hours instead of the usual three.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, we suggest the Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 2-Pound BreadMaker; it’s as easy to use as it is to clean.
KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer
What It’s Best For: Mixing large quantities of ingredients, including lots of non-bread items, like cake, egg whites, cream
KitchenAid is the gold standard of stand mixers, and this 5-quart model will get nearly any mixing job done quickly. Additionally, there are a variety of attachments available so that you can use it for other purposes, from pasta to ice cream. We found this 10-speed mixer easy to use, and while it isn’t a professional model, it’s a beast of a machine for home cooks with its powerful and efficient 325-watt motor. Beyond using it for bread dough, you can whip cream, make cake batter, or beat egg whites—and that’s without any of the attachments. This attractive and durable appliance is expensive but worth the investment, as it should last you for many years of mixing to come.
For a cheaper alternative, we recommend the Hamilton Beach 6-Speed Stand Mixer. It’s lightweight and comes with dishwasher-safe attachments.
Should you buy a bread maker or a mixer?
The problem with this question is that even though we’ve shown how useful a bread machine can be, and even though it’s clear that it can make life a lot easier, it just doesn’t hit the ranks of a needed appliance. On the other hand, life without a mixer is a tough one if you love to cook and bake. Portable mixers only go so far, and you can ruin them quickly on tasks like cookie dough, so a stand mixer is a staple in nearly every home of a culinary expert or strong home cook.
A bread machine is a wise choice to add to your collection of small appliances if you think you’ll use it regularly. It’s a wonderful way to branch out into new territory like making yogurt, and it makes bread baking an absolute breeze. It’s a good idea to buy if you already own a mixer, but if you have to choose one or the other, we vote for a mixer because it will be more needed in the long run.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Ariane Resnick is a special diet private chef, bestselling author of five books, and certified nutritionist. She’s a huge fan of fresh baked bread, and no matter what vessel you bake it in, she’ll be happy to try a slice.