What We Like
Nearly flawless results
Heated top for even browning
Both fixed and customizable settings
What We Don't Like
More expensive than most models
Takes up a lot of counter space
LCD screen isn’t backlit
We fed the Zojirushi pound after pound of flour, making everything from basic white and wheat bread to pizza dough, pound cake, and even jam. Adventurous bakers will love the machine’s customizable settings while traditional bread makers will enjoy how it delivers standard-shaped loaves ideal for sandwiches. After a few weeks of baking, slicing, taste testing, and sharing our creations, we’re ready to discuss the knitty gritty details of this machine’s performance, design, and extra features.
Performance: It does everything well
This is an impressive bread machine. We started our testing with a basic recipe from the included cookbook and it came out exactly as expected. From there, we moved on to whole wheat bread using the wheat setting, and an herb bread using the European setting. Each of those emerged perfectly, with a nicely rounded top. We made jam and pizza dough, and were more than happy with the results. We attempted the pound cake recipe, but it came out a little dry. (We blame that on the recipe rather than the machine, though.)
The Zojirushi has a suggested order for adding ingredients, with water and other liquids added first and yeast added last. After making so many successful loaves of bread following those instructions, we decided to test what would happen if we added yeast the same time as water. We still got an acceptable loaf of bread, which gave us confidence to try even more interesting recipe variations.
We started our testing with a basic recipe from the included cookbook and it came out exactly as expected.
As a seasoned bread baker and recipe developer (check out my cookbook, Make Ahead Bread), I like to experiment, so I threw caution to the wind, set the recipe book aside, and started adding different flours, changing the amount of butter, and even mixing the ingredients in the “wrong” order to see what might happen. Each time, the finished loaf emerged looking good, and with a nice texture as well. The single almost-fail was a wheat bread that came out with a lumpy top after I mis-measured the flour, but it still had a nice texture and the flavor was good. Once sliced, you’d never know the top was so uneven.
After a lot of baking, the only bread that wasn’t great was a gluten-free loaf that had a concave top. Gluten-free bread can be finicky even when it’s baked in the oven, though, so we weren’t too concerned about flaws in appearance. With some tweaking and testing, we’re sure we could perfect that one that as well.
Design: It’s a big one
Make no mistake—measuring 10.5 x 18 x 12.88 inches and weighing 24 pounds, this is a large bread machine. That said, the machine necessitates its size in order to accommodate long rectangular loaves. The baking pan has two paddles for efficient kneading, and we have to admit that it’s almost hypnotizing to peek through the top window and watch the dough move from paddle to paddle. Once in a while, we ended up with a baked loaf that was higher on one side than the other, but we were amazed at how many loaves were perfectly even across the top.
The bread pan is extremely sturdy, made from metal that’s heavier than the bread pans we use in our oven. Two large, looped, heavy-duty handles make the pans easy to remove from the machine and push back back in place after washing.
The bread machine stops its kneading process when you lift the lid, so you can nudge the dough or touch it to judge the texture without worrying about the paddles spinning. However, aside from the pound cake recipe—which suggested scraping down the sides partway through the mixing process—there should be little need to lift the lid unless additional ingredients need to be added.
Along with being large, this machine is also rather heavy. If you make bread often, this may live on your counter. But if you only use it occasionally, you may get tired of moving it in and out of storage.
Features: So many settings
The Zojirushi has 13 different programs including bread, jam, and dough. There are two rapid settings: one for white bread and one for wheat bread. The salt-free, sugar-free, and vegan settings adjust the baking process to accommodate those variables. While many users won’t need special settings, they’re handy to have.
We found the control panel easy to use, save for one minor quibble. Since the LCD screen isn’t backlit, it can be hard to read in dim light. While this might not be a problem in most well-lit kitchens, you won’t want to put it in a dark corner. The setting numbers and descriptions are printed on the front of the lid for easy reference.
We found the control panel easy to use, save for one minor quibble. Since the LCD screen isn’t backlit, it can be hard to read in dim light.
The machine beeps towards the end of the kneading process so you can add extra ingredients.
The rapid settings shave about an hour off of total baking time, so instead of a little over three hours, the bread is complete in just over two (the exact time depends on the crust darkness you choose). That’s not as quick as some machines, but we’ve found that super-quick bread can be disappointing.
If you want to bake bread but have to step away from the kitchen, a delayed start feature lets you add your ingredients and then schedule a time for the bread to be finished. Since this machine has a clock, we were able to set it for an actual time rather than doing the math to figure out how many hours of a delay we needed.
The three homemade options are customizable programs where you can control the timing of every stage of the baking process and even turn off unnecessary stages. While this isn’t something that everyone will need, it comes in handy for recipes that require extra-long knead or rise times. The first rise can be set for up to 12 hours—ideal for a super-rich bread or a slow-rising sourdough. The second and third rises (after the punch downs), can be set for up to two hours. A shaping option is also available, where the machine beeps and the process pauses for up to an hour so the dough can be removed and shaped as desired.
When it was time to remove the finished bread from the pan, the paddles stayed in the bread pan every single time, so we didn’t have to go fishing in the loaf to remove them.
One of the Zojirushi’s most unique features is the initial resting time. While it seems like nothing is happening from the outside, the machine actually heats the ingredients gently before the kneading starts, so everything is at the same temperature. Because of this, you needn’t worry about bringing refrigerated ingredients (like butter) to room temperature before you start.
When it was time to remove the finished bread from the pan, the paddles stayed in the bread pan every single time, so we didn’t have to go fishing in the loaf to remove them. A few times, we had to shake the pan up and down to get the bread to release, depending on the thickness of the bottom crust, but it wasn’t difficult.
While the machine does have settings for different crust darknesses, it doesn’t have settings for different loaf sizes—just a 2-pound maximum. That didn’t seem to matter in use, though. The loaves were taller or shorter depending on how much flour we used, but all of them baked well.
Included Accessories: Measure it all
The Zojirushi comes with a liquid measuring cup, a set of dry measuring cups, and a dual measuring spoon. The spoon is marked S and L, for small and large, but in reality, it measures a teaspoon and a tablespoon. A mark halfway up in each spoon lets you estimate half-measures. The measuring cup doesn’t have standard American cup measures. Instead, it’s in milliliters. While that might not be intuitive for normal cooking, the recipes in the included cookbook use metric measures. Given they’re free, the dry measuring cups were also much nicer than we expected. They measure ¼, ⅓, ½, and 1 cup.
Price: It’s up there
At well over $300, this is one of the more expensive bread machines you’ll find. After testing it, we feel that it’s worth the price, though, as it produced consistently tasty bread—even when we got creative with recipes.
Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Bread Maker vs. Breville BBM800XL Custom Loaf Bread Maker
Both of these machines are on the higher end of the price scale and they offer 13 settings, so we’d expect them to perform similarly. The advantage of the $250 Breville BBM800XL Custom Loaf Bread Maker is that it has an automated fruit and nut dispenser so there’s no need to listen for a beep to add additional ingredients. While we like that idea, we have to give the nod to the Zojirushi because the heated top browns loaves so evenly.
Winner, winner, bread with dinner.
There’s no doubt about it, we were pleased with this machine. After working with it for a few weeks, we became confident that no matter what recipe we used, we’d end up with an attractive, edible loaf of bread. While it costs more than your typical model, we definitely recommend it to anyone interested in experimenting with at-home loaves.
- Product Name Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Bread Maker
- Product Brand Zojirushi
- MPN BB-PDC20BA
- Price $339.99
- Weight 24 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 10.5 x 18 x 12.88 in.
- Material Stainless Steel
- What’s Included One liquid measuring cup, one measuring spoon, and four nested measuring cups
- Warranty 1 year for retail purchases or 6 months for commercial