Bread makers and food processors are kitchen tools that not everyone has in their home, but those who own them swear by them. If you’re thinking about adding one of these small appliances to your kitchen collection, you may be wondering which one to splurge on first.
A bread maker will allow you to turn your ingredients into freshly baked bread with just the touch of a button. On the other hand, a food processor is a multi-function kitchen tool that does a lot of the same things as a blender but can chop, slice, or grate dry ingredients and knead dough.
Need help in deciding between a bread maker and a food processor? Then read on as we take a closer look at both kitchen equipment, including the pros and cons of each, so that you can make the best decision for your next purchase.
What Is a Bread Maker?
A bread maker, also sometimes called a bread machine, is essentially an all-in-one, self-contained bread mixer and miniature oven. With a bread maker, you can take what was once a very long and tedious process and instead bake fresh bread at home with minimal effort.
This self-contained bread-making technology used to be only available for commercial or industrial use. In 1986, the Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (now known as Panasonic) released the first bread maker for home use. Over the next 10 years, it gained popularity in the United States and other English- speaking countries.
How Does a Bread Maker Work?
A typical bread machine consists of a bread pan (or bread tin) with an axle on the bottom, a metal paddle that fits into the axle, and an electric motor that operates a pulley system underneath the machine.
Other parts of the machine include:
- A tight-fitting lid that may or may not have a window for you to see the bread.
- A control panel with menu button selections and a display screen.
- Vents for steam to escape.
- A handle to pull the pan out of the machine.
Different machines have different features, depending on brand and price point. However, every machine has some basic features that are the same across the board. There’s a setting for the type of bread you’re making, how light or dark the crust should be, and the size of the finished loaf.
To use the bread maker, simply measure out the ingredients as stated in the bread recipe of your choice and select the appropriate settings on the control panel. The bread maker will then begin by agitating the paddle to knead the dough inside the pan.
After kneading, the machine will go silent for a bit, which is normal. During this part of the process, the dough is resting to allow the yeast to rise; then, at some point, the machine will do additional kneading and proofing (or proving).
The oven setting will then turn on, and the baking will begin. You’ll know it’s baking because you’ll see steam coming out of the vents.
The process takes anywhere from 2-5 hours, depending on your bread maker and the recipe. When it’s finished, you’ll have freshly baked bread without all the work that traditional bread making requires.
Pros of Bread Makers
Owning a bread maker may seem a little unnecessary to some people, but once you’ve been spoiled by fresh, homemade bread, you’ll probably wonder how you ever lived without it.
Here are some of the benefits to owning a bread maker:
- Freshly baked bread on demand.
Having a bread machine allows you to readily bake bread in a few easy steps that you can immediately use for sandwiches or enjoy with some butter or jam.
- Timer function.
Many units have the ability to set a timer to start at a specific time, allowing you to dump your ingredients into the pan and wake up in the morning to the smell of delicious, fresh bread.
- Health concerns.
If you have food allergies or just want to eat less processed foods, a bread maker can help with that. Since bread usually just takes a few simple basic ingredients, you won’t be wondering what’s inside.
- Saves you money.
Just like anything else that you can make at home instead of buying at the store, baking your bread can save you money in the long run. A one-time investment in the machine will be offset by not spending several dollars on a loaf of bread once or twice per week.
- More than just bread.
Though a bread maker isn’t the most versatile appliance, it can do more than just bake bread. You can use it to make all kinds of dough (pizza, pasta, pastries) or items that require mixing and cooking, like jams or sauces.
- Easy to use.
Making fresh bread requires no culinary skill with a bread maker. All you have to do is measure the ingredients and pour them into the pan. Anyone can do it.
Cons of Bread Makers
While there are many benefits to owning a bread maker, there are some other factors that you may want to consider if you’re thinking about purchasing one.
- Not all machines are created equal.
Depending on price point, the features vary between makes and models. Some aren’t fully programmable and require more supervision than the fancier models. Not all machines have a timer function. So, to get the full benefits and convenience, you’ll have to spend a little more.
- Kitchen clutter.
Even though bread makers are compact ovens, they’re still bigger than a toaster. Since it’s not an everyday appliance that you’ll regularly use, like a microwave or your coffee maker, it may end up being an eyesore on the counter or more junk to collect in your cabinet.
- Your bread still might not be perfect.
Even though bread makers are very simple and user-friendly, that doesn’t mean that every loaf will come out looking like it should be in a food magazine. Bread can still come out with poor texture or holes in the middle.
- Mechanical problems.
These machines are delicate inside and can have mechanical issues that take them out of commission. They require proper care and maintenance to keep them working properly for years to come.
What Is a Food Processor?
A food processor usually refers to a small electric kitchen appliance that does many functions like chopping, slicing, grating, and blending. These gadgets have been available on the consumer market since the 1940s.
Food processors are powered by a motor that turns various blade attachments that can be switched out according to what the processor is being used for. The blades sit inside a bowl with a chute that fits on the top.
The food items being processed are then dropped into the bowl from the chute as a safety precaution.
Food processors function very similarly to blenders but can do more types of cuts and can be used for wet or dry ingredients. You can also use them to make sauces or dressings, chop nuts, grate cheese, or knead the dough.
Pros of Food Processors
- Time saver.
If you do a lot of cooking, a food processor will greatly cut down on your prep time. You won’t have to manually cut and chop everything by hand.
The range of tasks that a food processor can do is amazing. It might be one of the most versatile small appliances you can buy.
Cons of Food Processors
Since food processors are typically used for prep work and processing “food” items, they don’t hold as much liquid as a blender. Depending on what you’re using it for, you may need a food processor and a blender to get the job done.
A food processor has the potential to leak from the bottom of the bowl if you’re using it for liquids.
- No heating element.
Unlike a bread maker or other appliances with the ability to heat, you can’t do any cooking inside your food processor.
Bread Maker vs. Food Processor: Which One Should You Choose?
Choosing between a bread maker and a food processor comes down to what your desired use is.
If you like the idea of making your own bread at home, you should consider getting a bread maker. If you’re more interested in the versatility of an appliance that’ll cut down on your time in the kitchen, then a food processor might be right for you.
A good idea would be to check out some of the available models and features for each appliance and decide based on what the machine can do for you.
For bread makers, I would recommend trying the Hamilton Beach Bread Maker Machine. It’s fully programmable and comes with an extra paddle. If you’re looking for a good food processor, check out the Hamilton Beach Food Processor. Both are available on Amazon.com.
Bread makers and food processors both have advantages and disadvantages. While there’s some shared functionality (like kneading dough), they’re intended to do different things, so it’s worth considering owning both.
There’s a wide range of available options for both machines, with different functions and in all different price ranges. If you spend a little time looking at the various options and features, you’re sure to find something that appeals to what you like to do in the kitchen.