Do you need to buy a new bread machine to make gluten-free bread?
A bread machine is traditionally used to make homemade bread. It mixes up the ingredients, kneads the dough, gives it a temperature-controlled environment to rise in, and then bakes the loaf to perfection. However, according to the University of Arizona, if you have ever used your automatic bread maker for making wheat breads, you can no longer use it for making gluten-free bread. The machine will contaminate the dough.
For that reason, a bread machine is one of the several kitchen appliances that need to be replaced when starting a gluten-free diet.
The Only Way to Get Good Gluten-Free Bread is to Make it Yourself
If you haven’t used a bread maker in the past, you might want to consider buying one because bread is often the first thing that many people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity miss. While pre-made gluten-free baked goods are available in most locations, they are generally dry and taste like cardboard.
The only way to get a good loaf is to make it yourself. Some gluten-free bakers do use a KitchenAid stand mixer to beat air into the dough, but gluten-free baking requires a heavy-duty mixer that is at least 325 watts, or more. You can't use the simple Classic Model. Since going gluten free can initially be quite expensive, even a top-of-the-line Zojirushi bread machine will cost you less than a strong stand mixer will.
Is a Gluten-Free Bread Machine Necessary?
Gluten-free dough isn’t the same as traditional wheat dough. It is wetter – more like a thick cake batter – so you can't knead it. It also requires unique handling because you have to:
- beat air into the dough to help with volume and tenderness
- add additional eggs or egg whites for lightness
- use just the right amount of xanthan gum
- play with the flour-to-liquid ratio to fit your current humidity
In addition, the dough can only rise one time. This perk can be problematic if you’re looking for a bread machine that will allow you to toss in the ingredients, set the controls, and walk away. However, if you remove the paddle your specific model uses to knead the dough after the first rise, any strong machine will make adequate gluten-free bread.
If you don’t have the time to do that, or don’t want the hassle, a bread maker with a gluten-free cycle or the ability to program it for a single rise might be a better choice.
Leading Brands for Gluten-Free Bread Makers
There are many bread makers on the market today, but since machines designed to handle gluten-free dough make the job easier, the leading brands among gluten-free cooks are:
These machines differ in features, convenience, and price, so the model that will work best for you depends on your current lifestyle, what you need the machine to do, and your budget.
General Tips For All Bread Machines
All of the best-selling models come with a nonstick rectangular loaf pan, so make sure that you don’t use metal utensils to remove the bread. All brands also work best if you add your liquids before adding the dry ingredients. Sprinkle the bread-machine yeast or instant yeast over the top of the flour. That enables the paddles to pull the gluten-free flours into your liquids.
When you put the dry ingredients in first, you are more likely to end up with dough that is too thick, which can burn up the motor. If you have problems cleaning the kneading paddles, a pipe cleaner or Q-tip will work best.
Also, make sure that you set the bread type first. Most machines have a default setting for the size of the loaf and color of the crust. For gluten-free bread, that’s often a 1-1/2 pound loaf. If you set the type last, the default setting will override the controls for loaf size and color. When that happens, a 2-pound loaf won’t bake correctly.
Keep in mind that cheaper bread machines are not designed to last as long as expensive ones are. While less expensive models can be a good investment when going gluten free is new and funds are tight, expect them to only last for one to three years. In comparison, a Zojirushi at double the price will last for 10 to 20 years. Long-term, they are actually cheaper to buy.
Most gluten-free bakers believe a Zojirushi is worth saving for. In the meantime, there are several decent bread makers on the market to choose from.
Breadman TR2500BC Ultimate Bread Maker
For those who need an affordable bread machine, there’s the Breadman TR2500BC. This Breadman Ultimate Plus is a stainless steel, restaurant-quality convection bread maker that comes with:
- one paddle
- a gluten-free cycle
- 24-hour bake delay
- 300 program combinations (also programmable)
- choice between a 1 lb, 1-1/2 lb, or 2 lb horizontal loaf
Reviews are mixed, partly because most of its cycles are not useful to a gluten-free cook. The keep-warm feature causes gluten-free breads to go soggy. It’s best to avoid using that feature. The manufacturer recommends you run the machine through a cycle before using to burn off residual oils left over from the manufacturing process, but make sure you keep the lid open when you do so, or the unit might overheat.
It is also a good idea to leave the loaf in the machine for about 15 minutes after baking. This ensures the bread cooked all the way through. Generally, this model's gluten-free cycle doesn’t cook the dough long enough. In addition, the controls on this machine are a bit confusing. Unlike other models that have simple push button controls, a Breadman requires you to keep pressing the “select” buttons until the arrow stops where you want it to be. Also, controls show you the length of time it takes to run the cycle, and not the particular cycle itself.
Oster CKSTBR9050 Expressbake Bread Maker
The Oster bread maker is called Expressbake because it allows you to make a loaf of artisan, bakery-style bread in under an hour. It comes with easy push-button controls on a large LCD display, and lets you watch each stage of the process through its glass window without having to lift up the lid. It also comes with:
- a gluten-free cycle
- two paddles
- 13-hour bake delay
- a hook-shaped kneading-blade removal tool
- ability to choose 1 lb, 1-1/2 lb, and 2 lb horizontal loaf
Reviews are few, since this is a relatively new model. Plus, reviews are not always accurate for gluten-free baking. Most reviews are written by traditional bakers concerned with wheat-bread problems, so it is sometimes difficult to get an accurate assessment for gluten-free applications. Reviews written by actual gluten-free bakers say this bread machine lives up to its claims.
Cuisinart CBK-100 2-Pound Programmable Breadmaker
There are only a few bread makers with an actual gluten-free cycle, but the Cuisinart CBK-100 is another model that does. Some of its useful features are:
- low-carb cycle, as well as a gluten free one
- beeps when it’s time to remove the paddle
- has a 15 minute pause button
- makes a 1 lb, 1-1/2 lb, or 2 lb horizontal loaf
- removable lid for easy cleaning
The biggest complaint is that preprogrammed cycles cannot be canceled in mid cycle to move to the next step early. For example, if the dough rises too quickly, you can't rush the machine ahead to the baking cycle. If the loaf needs more time to rise, however, the pause button can be used every 15 minutes until the dough has reached desired size. However, gluten-free breads generally do not rise too quickly.
This bread machine also bakes hot. Recipes with a lot of sugar do not do well in this machine. Using a light to medium crust setting is best.
A Zojirushi Bread Machine is the Gold Standard
The commonly held view among almost all gluten-free bakers is that a Zojirushi bread maker is the best there is. While not everyone can afford to buy a Zojirushi right away, it is always a good idea to consider the downside to alternative models before you buy. A Zojirushi doesn’t have an actual gluten-free cycle. What it has is a Homemade Cycle that allows you to personally program the length of time you want your dough to mix, knead, rise, and bake. The Homemade Cycle can remember up to three programs at a time.
Zojirushi BBCC-X20 Home Bakery Supreme Bread Maker
At one time, the Zojirushi bread machine was considered to be the top-of-the-line when it came to automatic bread makers. Since then, Zojirushi has come out with another, updated model. Some of the major features that still set this model apart are:
- two kneading paddles, rather than one
- real programmable settings, rather than a rapid bake or gluten-free cycle
- 15-minute pause button
- the ability to add liquid during the kneading process while the machine is still running
- makes a large 2 lb, horizontal loaf so it looks like regular bread
- able to make sourdough starter
- two-hour quick baking cycle
It also comes with an instructional video that gives you more information than what is in their printed booklet. The Homemade programmable feature also gives you the ability to make meatloaf or baked casseroles. The downside to this machine is that the nonstick loaf pan only comes in one size – 2 pounds. If you try to make a smaller loaf, it can come out lopsided.
To solve the problem, simply keep an eye on the machine while it is kneading, and then smooth out the dough with a knife or the backside of a spoon after the kneading cycle has ended. Unlike traditional wheat dough, gluten-free dough does not spread out and fill up the pan as it rises. You have to make sure that the dough fits snugly into all of the corners and is as smooth across the top as possible. In addition, since the Zojirushi bakes at a lower temperature, make sure your bread has risen as high as you want your finished loaf to be.
Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker
The newest Zojirushi bread maker model comes with all of the same features as the BBCC-X20 except that the BB-PAC20 has an additional heater inside the lid, resulting in a perfectly browned crust.
Additional Zojirushi Breadmaker Facts
Both Zojirushi models work with a wide variety of recipes and bread mixes. They have a sturdy motor, so they will outlast other machines, two to three times longer, and sometimes more. Gluten-free bakers talk about how the finished bread comes out with a better texture than the exact same recipe they have made in other machines. This is probably due to the double paddles being able to mix and knead the dough better than single-paddle models.
Automatic Bread Makers are not Magic
An automatic bread maker can turn out a high-quality loaf of gluten-free bread, but they are not magic. If you are expecting them to produce a perfect loaf every single time, you might be disappointed. Unlike wheat dough, you can’t just toss in the ingredients, set the controls, and walk away. Gluten-free dough is affected by the day’s humidity, your altitude, the temperature in the room, and the relationship between your dry and wet ingredients.
While a gluten-free bread maker can solve some of these issues for you, it will still be a trial-and-error process to find the best recipes or bread mix that fits your personal taste.