scorecardI used to make my own bread but this $340 machine has saved me so much time - it only takes me 15 minutes to prep a loaf
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I used to make my own bread but this $340 machine has saved me so much time - it only takes me 15 minutes to prep a loaf

I used to make my own bread but this $340 machine has saved me so much time - it only takes me 15 minutes to prep a loaf
LifeThelife7 min read

  • A high-quality bread machine should be easy to use, produce scrumptious loaves with a nice crust, and packed full of features that allow you to make a variety of baked goods too.
  • I like the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker because it has 14 pre-programmed courses for dozens of different breads and baked goods. It also has dual heating elements for an even bake, and it was easy to use - my five-year-old son was able to help me bake delicious bread.
  • Though it's one of the most expensive bread makers on the market (currently $339.95 on Amazon), you'll save on buying baked goods - and your house will regularly smell like a bakery.

Years ago, when money was tight, I decided to put The Joy of Cooking and my KitchenAid Stand Mixer to good use and started making bread. This was a fun and relaxing activity that produced exquisite results. However, it was time intensive.

Now that I'm busier, I still like to make my own bread, but I find that a bread machine is an excellent tool for getting the job done - and it's more efficient. It still allows me to customize my loaves, but I don't have to keep setting reminders to knead the dough, punch it down, put it in the oven, and take it out of the oven.

The best bread machine I've ever come across is the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker (currently $339.95 on Amazon). The Osaka, Japan-based company with more than a century of history has really developed a reputation for high-quality kitchen appliances.

Below, we'll explore what makes the Virtuoso Plus so incredible - and why it's worth the price.


The Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus is unique because it has two kneading blades, instead of just one. I found this did a superior job of kneading the dough.

There are also two heaters installed in the unit - one at the bottom of the main compartment and one in the lid - for even heating and baking.

The large LCD display is easy to read, and there is a viewing window in the lid so you can track the progress of your loaf without taking off the lid and disrupting the rise or bake temperatures.

Here are some important specs:

  • Dimensions: 18-inches wide by 10.5-inches deep by about 13-inches high
  • Weight: 24 pounds
  • Electricity consumption: 100W motor, 600W main heater, 40W lid heater
  • Cord length: 1 meter
  • Comes with a large liquid measuring cup, four nested measuring cups, a measuring spoon, and a recipe book featuring 50 easy-to-follow recipes.
  • Makes two-pound loaves
  • Crust control: light, medium, and dark
  • 13-hour delay timer
  • 1-year warranty

Set-up process

Zojirushi BB-PDC20BA Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker

Set up is incredibly simple.

First, you rinse out and dry the bread pan. Then, fill it with ingredients, plug in the Virtuoso Plus, and select the course depending on the recipe you're using. The directions are intuitive, and there are dozens of recipes that spell out exactly what to do with step-by-step directions. The whole process from the moment I opened the box until we had the ingredients for white bread in the machine took about 15 minutes, and most of that time was spent carefully measuring the ingredients.

The reason I say "we" is because my five-year-old son Bucky helped - he was as excited about the bread machine as I was.

We chose to start with a simple white bread as a baseline test. I measured out the ingredients using a kitchen scale - a must for precise baking - and Bucky dumped them in the pan. When the ingredients were all set, I let him press the course button to set the machine for white bread.

Then, the machine just sat there - idle. This perplexed me. Did we do something wrong? After about 40 minutes of idling, it started kneading the mixture. I had always let my bread rest when I was baking it manually in the oven, but somehow didn't assume I had to do the same with a machine too. I mention this so you can plan accordingly for a long rest period, which is meant to stabilize the temperature of the ingredients.

Once you set the course on the Virtuoso Plus, it will tell you precisely when your loaf will be ready. And when it's done, just remove the bread pan carefully by the handles using oven mitts.

What makes the bread machine stand out

There are 14 different courses to choose from, like gluten-free and sugar-free bread, and even other baked goods like cake. You can also create your own custom course, for which there are several recipes in the accompanying book. For instance, with the dough course, you can make doughnuts, butter rolls, breadsticks, bagels, and more.

Following the recipe book, I made basic white, rapid white, Italian herb, honey, chocolate, and light sourdough breads, as well as pizza dough and pound cake. The flavors for each were relatively subtle, but they all tasted great.

No matter what recipe I use, once the bread enters the baking stage, the scent will set off a frenzy in my house.

"Is the bread done yet?" "When will the bread be done?" My wife and two sons can't wait to get a slice of the latest loaf. Typically, I'll let it cool on a rack for an hour after it's done so that it slices easier. But they can't wait that long, so when I go to slice the bread, I'll often find that someone has absconded with an end piece.

The 2-pound loaves produced by the Virtuoso Plus are quite large, and because you're slicing it by hand as opposed to a machine, the slices will usually be much larger than what you'd expect from a store-bought loaf too. My teenager takes this as his cue to make massive sandwiches. The rest of the family prefers to just cut the bread in half widthwise and make sandwiches from one slice. I tried halving a recipe to make more reasonably-sized loaves, but the bread didn't come out as delicious and was a little too small.

As a pizza aficionado, I usually make my own dough by hand with recipes that require a day or two for long fermentation. Still, sometimes, I just don't have the time. When that happens, the pizza dough made by the Virtuoso Plus is a passable substitute for my fancy fermentations.

I like that I never have trouble getting the bread to come out of the pan. Thanks to the nonstick coating, it slides right out after a couple of bumps on the countertop. The blades and pan are also easy to clean, though you'll want to scrub the blade shafts to get the last bits of bread off.

Cons to consider

On our first attempt making bread with the Virtuoso Plus, we learned the hard way that you need to be careful that you keep the yeast away from moisture - or at least remind your kids that.

We added the ingredients in order according to the recipe, but Bucky was kind of making a game out of getting all of the ingredients wet, so this messed with the yeast and made for a dough-y bread in the end. The directions clearly say to be careful about getting the yeast wet, so if you're careful and your child doesn't play with his food, this shouldn't be a problem.

The bottom line

I've used a few bread machines in my time - mostly secondhand units - but the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus blows these bread machines away. It's so easy to make a wide range of baked goods, and the results come out consistent and yummy. Clean-up is also a snap.

Should you buy it?

Due to the $339.95 price, I'd only recommend the Virtuoso Plus if you plan on using it at least once or twice per week.

It's going to take a while to get your money's worth from no longer buying store-bought baked goods, but it does allow you to get creative and make treats you won't find anywhere else. If you want the best bread machine around, this is the one to buy.

Which model should you get?

The Virtuoso Plus is an updated version of the popular Virtuoso, which costs $360 on Amazon.

The main differences between the two units are that the Virtuoso Plus has four more courses - and thus can make more recipes - and all the recipe times are slightly shorter.

I like the clean look of the Virtuoso Plus more, as the control panel is black as opposed to silver. Oddly enough, the Virtuoso currently costs $20 more than the Plus on Amazon, so I'd definitely go with the Virtuoso Plus if you're choosing between the two.

What are your alternatives?

In our guide to the best bread machines, the older Virtuoso came out on top. However, it does cost much more than the other options on our list. For more affordable solutions:

  • Sunbeam Programmable Bread Maker ($55.69): The least expensive alternative in our guide, the Sunbeam machine has an intuitive interface and 12 pre-programmed settings. Unfortunately, the recipe book leaves you guessing, and the unit runs quite loudly.
  • Oster Expressbake Bread Maker ($69.50): Another inexpensive option, the Oster bread maker is versatile and user friendly. However, there are several reports of the machine "walking" across countertops when kneading large loaves.
  • Breville BBM800XL Custom Loaf Bread Maker ($243.95): We think this is the best machine for making unique loaves. There's an automatic fruit and nut dispenser, 13 pre-programmed settings, and four loaf sizes. But, there are durability concerns, and this unit is loud.

Or, you could just do it the old-fashioned way.

In its review of the best bread machines, "Cook's Illustrated" recommends making your loaves by hand and popping them in the oven. I did this for years, and the bread does come out delicious. However, when it comes to simplicity, I much prefer a bread machine. If there's a difference in quality, I haven't noticed it.

Overall, the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus is your best option if you want homemade bread with minimal hassle.

Pros: 14 pre-programmed bread courses, comes with 50 recipes, dual kneading blades, heated lid and pan for even heating, see-through lid window, easy-to-read LCD display

Cons: Expensive, must be careful to follow directions closely to get the best results

Buy the Zojirushi BB-PDC20BA Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker on Amazon for $339.95

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