Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Review: Best Bread Maker Under $400

Isn’t it great that one manufacturer has designed a model that makes the process so easy – and the results so tasty – that anyone who enjoys fresh bread can now share the effort?

The Zojirushi BB-PAC20 is also known as the “Home Bakery Virtuoso”. It’s well named. While it is simple to operate, you would struggle long and hard to find a homemade bread recipe you could not execute with this bread making machine.

Basic Design and Specs

The size is the first of many reasons the BB-PAC20 can tackle any bread making chore. At 18″ wide x 10 1/2″ deep by 12 7/8″ high you can produce a full-sized 2-lb loaf with ease.

The shape is another. I generally prefer a bread maker that can create a loaf in the traditional way: long-crust, oriented horizontally. Sure, slices usually taste the same either way but – important as that is – presentation counts, too. And, I just find them easier to slice.

At 700 watt, it’s got plenty of power to do the job. That helps make it relatively fast, producing a loaf in just over two hours. Also speeding the process, while ensuring you get a nice even loaf, are the dual-kneading blades. Those really make a difference in certain recipes, such as a whole grain. And thanks to excellent design and materials, they stay in the pan – not in your bread – when you lift out the loaf. Well done, Zojirushi.

That even loaf is even more surely ensured by an additional heater in the lid, which helps keep things baking evenly despite the nice large viewing window in the top. Another very welcome addition is a second handle. You can grab and empty the pan even more easily than before.

All that, wrapped by a stylish case and functional pad put “the Virtuoso” near the top of my “must have” list for bread makers. But the goodness on display here goes far beyond the basics. When I see the features this beauty has, that’s when I get really excited.

10 Pre-Programmed + 3 Custom Menu Settings

There are tons of menu settings – basic, wheat, even gluten free. That includes three options for crust: light, medium or dark. That also includes a setting for cake, sourdough starter, and more. You can even make cinnamon rolls with this model and jam to go on top of them. But, really, many of those are pretty standard on any quality bread makers these days. It’s the touches that go beyond the norm that make me smile.

Technically, “tons” is actually 10 pre-programmed settings. But when you add in the new special options on the BB-PAC20 you can see it’s not an exaggeration. First and foremost are three custom menu settings you can create and select. Once I’ve wracked my brain (or scoured the Internet) to produce a recipe that works perfectly for my family, I want it saved. It’s so much easier to just tap it in once then select it the next time.

Those homemade settings cover a lot of ground. You can set the time for a rest cycle to stabilize the temperature of your ingredients. Some recipes just work better if you let the ingredients come up to a warmer stage prior to baking. But if you don’t want a rest cycle, just turn it off and save yourself time when making pastries, then go on to tailor your knead cycle.

If you want to adjust the time for a hand-shaping session you can do that, too. That’s a nice feature not found on many models. It lets you remove the dough after kneading to add a little custom sculpting – very nice for birthdays – or just to pull out the paddles to eliminate any holes in the bottom from baking.

You can also determine the length of the rise cycle and the baking time. You can even adjust the “keep warm” time. There’s also a new Auto Pause feature that temporarily stops (or continues) the kneading blades when the lid opens. Very useful when you want to check the consistency of the dough during your Homemade Menu Setting-designed knead cycle.

That kind of flexibility is simply indispensable if you’re a virtuoso bread chef. It’s so flexible that Zojirushi claims you can even make meat loaf with this model. Can’t wait to test out that claim!

13-hour Delay Timer

If you want to prepare your recipe well in advance there’s a 13-hour timer you can set in 10 minute increments. This new model introduces a clock in the LCD to make using that feature even easier.

Instead of specifying the number of hours you can select a specific time of day you want to start. Hallelujah! No more confusing arithmetic when it’s 8:25 p.m. and you want to start things going at 7:15 a.m. the next day. You can do it the old way, too, if you wish.

Manual and DVD

I started off the review by saying this model was so easy to operate even a man could use it(haha!).

That doesn’t seem to square with all these complex and wonderful options. The resolution to that paradox is simple, really. The menu is so easy to use that any novice can get started on the basics right away – without even reading the manual.

If you want or need some extra guidance, you will be happy to discover that this one is written with unusual clarity. The illustrations alone would allow anyone to speed through to find the desired information.

If you want to get the easiest possible instruction, the DVD is simple enough for even children to follow. Use both and you’ll have more information than many experienced home bread making chefs. There are over 50 pages of text, illustrations, and photos. And there are enough recipe variations here to keep even old hands busy for months.

Conclusion

It would be hard to single out one single bread making machine as THE best on the market. But if forced to select just one, the Zojirushi BB-PAC20 – the Home Bakery Virtuoso – would definitely be on my short list of candidates.

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