Even if you’re not a star baker, a decent bread-making machine can make you appear like one – and all with remarkably little effort.

Meanwhile, the more whizzy machines enable you to experiment with ingredients and flavours galore.

First, work out what kind of bread you want to make – gluten free, artisan, experimental or everyday white or wholemeal?

Make sure your machine includes those programs. Do you want to feel part of the bread-making process or have it fully automated, with – for instance – an automatic dispenser for yeast, nuts and fruit?

Or do you want to delve beyond the likes of bread – some machines can make pasta and cakes, even yoghurt and jams? Check it has enough of the extra features you’d find handy, such as a keep-warm function.

Also consider how much space you have in your kitchen – some bread makers are more compact, others are huge.

We took all these criteria into account during testing, but ultimately we judged the bread makers on the final result and how easy it was to achieve.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Morphy Richards homebake bread maker 502001: £60, Amazon

Bread maker instructions often leave a lot to be desired, but this one comes with a dummy’s guide and as such, had us au fait with all the 14 pre-set programs in no time. Results are reasonably fast and just as you’d hope – flavoursome, well risen, nice crust etc – even when using the delay timer. The viewing window means you can check progress at any time, the kneading paddle stays put in the machine not the bread (less usual than you might think) and you won’t be short of options that stray beyond bread such as cake, pizza dough, yoghurt and jams. We liked the 24 recipes, which are all spot on, and that you can keep your bread ready in the morning if you’re not ready when it is. Be warned it’s noisy and there’s no automatic yeast, fruit and nut dispenser, but for an everyday option this is a fabulous all-rounder.

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Tower gluten-free digital bread maker: £87.99, Tower

Rare is the cafe that doesn’t cater for the gluten-free these days, and supermarket shelves are stacked with options. But that shouldn’t stop you having a go at your very own homemade gluten-free delights and here’s a machine that has a program dedicated to just that. It’s an affordable and intuitive machine and the results are impressive. You can delay the loaf if you want to make it overnight and you can keep the loaf warm if you’re not quite ready for it. You get three loaf sizes and crust finishes, and all the usual settings, including for everything from whole-wheat to French loaf, and even a rapid loaf in under an hour, but it makes some pretty weird noises and the paddle can get stuck sometimes.

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Panasonic stainless steel sourdough bread maker: £249.99, Lakeland

Definitely not one for those who only want the basics, this all-singing, all-dancing machine has a whopping 37 programs including options for sourdough, rye bread, brioche, gluten free bread and artisan loaves – all in different sizes. And it doesn’t stop at bread, also excelling at pasta and cakes. We weren’t disappointed with any of the results and despite the number of bells and whistles, it’s intuitive, quick to use and has plenty of practical features to work your bread making around your lifestyle, including delay-timer and keep-warm. The automatic yeast and fruit and nut dispensing features mean you don’t have to work out when to drop them in, the paddle doesn’t get stuck and it’s quiet. But it’s big and heavy so you’ll need to sacrifice a fair bit of your workspace and it’s not the fastest, with brown bread, for example, taking five hours.

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Cuisinart automatic bread maker CBK250U: £114.99, Amazon

Although there’s no special program for gluten-free bread with this modern-looking machine, there is a decent recipe and it works well. There’s lot of other settings too so you can make everything from fluffy white bread using a packet mix to multi-seeded browns – and you can even set your own programs too if you’re feeling experimental.

The paddle doesn’t stick and it’s easy to use, with nice, simple controls and illumination, and it comes with a spoon and a beaker to help measure out ingredients for the recipes. It’s on the big side, which some might mind, but that means it can make large loaves. Niggles include the brushed stainless steel finish being difficult (but not impossible) to keep clean, and it’s quite loud too.

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Russell Hobbs compact bread maker: £55, John Lewis & Partners

A great option for beginner bread makers who want to kick off with simple white and brown loaves (the bog standard white comes out baked to perfection, actually). As its name suggests, it doesn’t take up much room, making it good for smaller kitchens, and we like the viewing window for sneaky peeks during proceedings. It’s lightweight and couldn’t be simpler to use, and you can bung everything in the dishwasher afterwards. Despite the low price tag, it has some handy features including gluten-free program, keep warm and the ability to make jam and cakes. Plus – joy of joys – the paddle doesn’t seem to get stuck in the loaf as much as with some machines. But with 12 programs, it’s not as comprehensive as most and we found it rattled a bit during certain stages. We don’t think the delayed start is much cop either – somehow the bread just didn’t turn out quite as nice.

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Kenwood bread machine BM450: £144.87, Amazon

This top-of-the-range bread-maker has a convection fan for a controlled temperature, resulting in an even bake. There’s a handy rapid bake too, which takes just under an hour from start to finish, as well as an all-important dispenser and impressive 15 settings. It comes with a recipe booklet to get you started and it’s all displayed in a reasonably quiet, slick, silver box, with easy to use touchscreen controls.

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Panasonic bread maker SD-ZP2000KXC croustina: £129, Amazon

This isn’t as versatile as most bread makers despite coming in at more than £100, but it’s just the ticket for those who fancy themselves as artisan bread makers, creating hard-crust loaves with you feeling at the very heart of the process. In fact, seven of the 18 programs create crispy crusts that you’ll find in the best bakers, thanks to an innovative kneading process, oval pan and oven-like heating. We weren’t just impressed with most of the results, but positive excited, although the gluten-free and brioche loaves weren’t quite up to scratch. You can make cake and jam too. As with most Panasonic machines, it’s on the slow side, but that said the rapid-bake speeds things up and it does its job silently and is easy to clean afterwards. The delay timer works well, but because there’s no dispenser, you’ll need to add in the likes of yeast, fruit and nuts yourself. However, as we said, this keeps you in the driving seat more than most machines, which will suit many down to the ground.

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Lakeland bread maker and scales: £134.99, Lakeland

One for the keen baker, this model took up the most space in our kitchen, but does come with a couple of extra handy gadgets.

Firstly the stand allows you to get creative with mini-baguettes or rolls instead of your standard loaf, while the detachable scales fit neatly on top and allow for extra precision. There’s a recipe book included if you’re looking for guidance and an automatic dispenser for a more experimental loaf – we tried sundried tomatoes, which worked a treat. There are 12 pre-set programs to choose from including an ultra-quick setting – a 700g loaf will cook in 1 hour and 28 minutes. Or if you have longer, there’s the option of a creating a larger 1kg loaf.

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Sage the custom loaf: £196, John Lewis & Partners

This clever little machine can make 500g, 750g, 1kg and 1.25kg loaves – the widest choice from any of the machines we put to the test. The large LCD interface was easy to use, with a turn-dial to make your selection with. Like some of the other premium models, this comes with a chute for adding extra ingredients at the most appropriate time. There is also the widest variety of crust settings – from light to crunchy. We were very happy with our simple loaf and the kneading paddle didn’t get stuck once.

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Judge digital bread baker: £54.93, Amazon

This basic bread-maker has the ability to make either a 700g or 1kg loaf with a choice of light, medium or dark crusts. There are 15 pre-set programs, including gluten-free but unfortunately no recipe booklet. Instead it suggests using a bread mix, which felt like cheating but did result in a beautifully golden loaf without any fuss With a soft middle and chewy crust, the bread slid out of the non-stick pan easily and the large buttons were easy to understand and program.

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The verdict: Bread makers

There are whizzier bread makers than the Morphy Richards homebake breadmaker 502001, but for delicious, great looking fresh everyday bread – made by an intuitive machine – we reckon this has the edge. For those who want to experiment, we’d recommend the Panasonic bread maker SD-ZP2000KXC croustina – you’ll have hours of fun creating all kinds of less conventional loaves. Yum.

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