If you want to make bread at home, your thoughts may initially fly towards buying a bread maker, but that may be an unnecessary investment.
There are a few alternatives that work (tried and tested), and they can do the job just as well as a bread maker.
If you don’t have a bread maker, you can make bread in a regular oven, a Dutch oven, an iron skillet (both in an oven and over a fire), an air fryer, or in a brick barbecue. You can also make bread in a microwave, but it isn’t as good as oven-made bread.
The time and effort it takes to make bread differs from one method to another – read on to see the breakdown of each alternative to bread makers.
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Bread Maker Alternatives and Are They Better than a Bread Maker?
The first bread maker for everyday use was invented in 1986, and since our ancestors were making bread almost 15,000 years ago, it’s safe to say there are many alternative ways to make bread without a bread maker.
The most popular alternative method is simply making bread in the oven (or a Dutch oven).
You can also make it in some microwaves, a cast iron skillet, a brick barbecue, or in an air fryer, which seems to be all the rage nowadays.
While these are all great alternatives, is a bread maker better? In my opinion, it is, and it’s definitely a good investment if you’re planning on making a lot of bread.
Firstly, bread making machines do most of the work for you. There’s no kneading – you just have to add the ingredients (according to instructions) to the bread maker, and the machine takes care of the rest.
Secondly, there’s much less cleaning up for you to do!
Making Bread in an Oven
The most common way of making homemade bread is to just bake it in an oven. After all, most people don’t have bread makers, and this is a foolproof way to make bread.
Instead of a machine doing it for you, you’ll have to mix in all the ingredients, knead the dough, let it rise, knead it again, and let it rise again.
This is, obviously, more time-consuming than working with a bread maker.
Once all that’s done, you can put the dough in the oven and relax while it bakes into bread!
If you don’t have a bread maker, this is the easiest and quickest way to make bread.
Making Bread in a Dutch Oven
Dutch ovens are a traditional way to make bread, and they’re a great option if you’re out on a camping trip. You can make the dough at home, freeze it, and bring it with you.
You can also use a Dutch oven if you just want to make bread the old-fashioned way.
This process is a bit slower than making bread in a normal oven, and it requires a bit more work from you, but there’s something special about making traditional bread.
The biggest difference between Dutch oven bread and bread made in a regular oven or a bread maker is the crust.
The crust you get when you make bread in a Dutch oven is, well…crusty. It’s much thicker than what you get when you make bread with a bread maker or a regular oven.
You can put the Dutch oven in your regular oven to bake the bread, or you can put it over a fire.
It’s important to preheat the Dutch oven to 450°F for at least 1 hour before adding the dough.
Making Bread in a Microwave
You can make bread in a microwave the same way you’d make it in an oven, but there’s going to be a noticeable difference.
Why? Because microwaves release a great amount of energy for a very short while – you only bake bread in a microwave for about 10 minutes.
You can also make tiny little loaves of bread, no larger than a hockey puck, in your microwave. It usually takes just a few minutes.
While microwaved bread isn’t unhealthy, it’s usually not as tasty as bread made by bread makers, and there’s a noticeable difference in texture.
Making Bread in a Cast Iron Skillet
If you think about it, an iron skillet is essentially a Dutch oven without a lid. You can easily put it in your oven and make bread in it.
Even more importantly, you can make bread in it over a fire, but it will take much longer than it would in an oven.
Since a cast iron skillet doesn’t have a lid, the heat created by the fire can’t be contained in the skillet, and it will take your bread an awfully long time to finish baking.
Just like a Dutch oven, a cast iron skillet will create a very thick crust.
This is a method I’d only suggest if you’re particularly curious about how our ancestors made bread hundreds of years ago, or if you’re out camping, and you can let the bread bake over a fire for a long time.
Making Bread in a Brick Barbecue (or a Masonry Oven)
If you have a brick barbecue grill, making bread is super easy. All you have to do is light a fire and keep it at a high temperature until the bread is done.
This is a traditional way to make bread, as the human race used masonry ovens long before we learned how to write.
Pizza, for example, is traditionally made in masonry ovens, just like bread. Nowadays, you can still find some restaurants making bread in barbecue grills and masonry ovens.
Once the inside of the oven has reached a high-enough temperature, the cook will put the dough close to the open flame and wait for it to bake.
Since the bread has no protection from the flame and the smoke itself (unlike with ovens and skillets), the crust is tough, and it has a bit of a smoky flavor.
Making Bread in an Air Fryer
An air fryer can bake bread as easily as a bread maker, with the only important difference being the fact that an air fryer can’t mix the dough for you.
Aside from that, though, an air fryer doesn’t require kneading the dough (most air fryer recipes require very little to no kneading of the dough).
There’s also no taste difference between this bread and bread from a bread maker.
Yes, you’re saving time, and you’ll have less cleanup afterward, but the time difference isn’t that big since you don’t have to knead the dough.
A few minutes of cleaning isn’t worth the money that bread makers go for nowadays.
To Sum Up
While bread makers are definitely the best and the cleanest way to make bread, requiring minimal participation on your part, they’re not the only way to make bread.
You can also use regular and Dutch ovens, microwaves, an air fryer, an iron skillet, or a traditional masonry oven to make bread.
As a proud bread maker owner who’s also made bread with most of these alternative methods, I wrote this article mostly from my own experience.