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Prior to last year, I don’t think my parents ever made bread. And if they had, it was definitely a quick bread — nothing yeasted. Which is why I was gobsmacked when my mom called me and told me about a small, virtually brand-new Zojirushi bread maker she’d found on Craigslist for $100 (a bargain considering it retails for double that price).

“Should I get it?” she asked.

“Um, will you use it?” I replied.

She picked up her bread maker the next day. Truthfully, I’m a professional gear tester and I was anti-bread maker. They seemed like the sort of appliance you’d use once, then relegate to a closet never to be seen again. A lot of them are behemoths, too — eaters of counter space. Plus, why buy a machine to make bread when I can do so with my own hands (or with the assistance of a stand mixer)?

However, I’m glad to have been wrong. Because my parents use their bread maker every day. It helped that they got it right before quarantine started, when we had a surplus of flour and yeast (thank you, Costco!) and no desire to make extra grocery trips, even for essentials like bread. And so, they (and, really, “we,” as I’ve been living with them throughout COVID), relied on their Zojirushi mini breadmaker.

My dad likes to load the bread maker with ingredients at night and have a fresh loaf ready when everyone wakes up in the morning. He almost exclusively uses a recipe from the Zojirushi’s instruction manual, although sometimes he dabbles with those from bread maker blogs.

The machine itself is super straightforward to operate, with a simple interface that’s not inundated with presets. My parents always just opt for regular bread with a regular crust and press start. There are options for cookie/pasta dough, cake, and jam, but they’re not bothered with these: For my parents, the Zojirushi is for bread and bread alone. It makes loaves on the small side (one pound), but this is kind of to its advantage, as my family of six has no problem eating a whole loaf in one day, making room for a fresh one. The bread maker itself is smaller, too, and doesn’t take up too much space, unlike other models.

However, I think one of the best things about this bread maker isn’t the bread itself. It seems to have sparked a love for cooking that’s splayed into non-bread areas. My parents have been trying new recipes, ordering cookbooks, and making more and more family dinners (a task that usually fell on my shoulders).

What do I think about bread makers now? Well, I love that my parents love theirs. After all, the best appliances are the ones that help you cook and enjoy doing so.

Do you have a bread maker? If so, which one? Tell us about it in the comments!

Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Lifestyle Editor, Tools

Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm is the Tools Editor at The Kitchn. A professional kitchen equipment tester, she’s worked for America’s Test Kitchen, EatingWell, and Food52. Her goal: to find the best gear for your kitchen so you don’t waste time or money on anything else. She lives in Boston, MA with her two dogs.

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