I am planning to bake bread often. So I am wondering about the various types of ovens or whether I should get a bread machine instead. What are the characteristics of the various types so that I can decide what is best for me?
It depends on what you want.
A bread maker is great if you want to measure out the ingredients, press go, and come back later to a predictable fresh loaf. Mine also makes good pizza dough. I have quite a cool house much of the year (and no good warm spots), so proving bread is slow without it.
If you want to experiment, or to make sourdough or unusual bread, an oven of some form is more useful. There are advantages and disadvantages of different types of oven, but basically you need one that's got a reliable thermostat and is big enough for anything you want to cook in it.
If you've already got an oven, a breadmaker can be used to make dough, then you can bake rolls or loaves in the oven. Any given breadmaker will have a small range of sizes it can do, so if you occasionally want a lot of bread in one go, but normally only a little, you'll end up making it by hand after all. Another option is a stand mixer combined with an oven - that's flexible and saves effort, but you have to be there at the right time, just as if you're kneading by hand
I’ve used all three rather extensively. And a regular (non convection) oven.
Bread machine pros:
- Throw in the ingredients, push the “go” button, come back in a few hours and there’s bread.
- You can make some really delicious bread with very little effort.
- You can make just the dough, then bake it in a regular oven.
Bread machine cons:
- You can only make one shape of bread – the shape of the machine’s pan.
- There’s a hole in the bottom of your loaf from the machine’s paddle.
- It takes up a fair amount of real estate on your countertop and only does one thing – make bread.
I have a rather large, good quality countertop oven.
Countertop oven pros:
- It does way more than bake bread. The wife and I live in a tiny one bedroom apartment. Even though our kitchen has a full sized convection oven, we still dedicate fully half of our countertop to the oven. It easily gets as much or more use than the full sized oven. If you do a lot of cooking, or there’s just one or two of you, I highly recommend a countertop oven even if not baking bread.
- You can make some really delicious bread.
Countertop oven cons:
- It takes up a lot of real estate.
- Even if it’s a big one, it’s still pretty small. One of my go tos is a no knead pain de boule in a standard cast iron Dutch oven. It won’t fit. I have to make a smaller recipe and bake it in a ceramic, lidded casserole dish. Many, if not most, regular loaf pan recipes are for two loaves of bread. I don’t think I can fit two loaf pans in mine. My larger pain de mie pan will not fit. I don’t think my baguette pan would fit. I don’t think a full sized muffin tin would fit.
Regular, full sized oven – convection or not pros:
- You probably already have one.
- You can make pretty much whatever shape and size loaves you want.
- You can cook other things in it – not just bread.
Regular, full sized oven – convection or not cons:
- Can’t think of any.
Conclusion: If you already have a full sized oven, use it unless you dislike kneading bread and don’t have a stand mixer. Otherwise, use a bread machine. I would only use a countertop oven if no other options were available.
Your fan forced oven is likely best, but no doubt there are bread makers out there that are better than some ovens. Baking/pizza steel can help a lot with the challenges of bread in a consumer oven, and cast iron combination cooker or dutch oven can give you something similar while additionally mcgyvering some steam.