Among the slaves, whose cuisine was based almost entirely on the scraps left behind by landowners and plantation families, poultry was a rare delicacy. Similarly, waffles were unusual, expensive and time-consuming, and hence exotic. As a result, chicken and waffles came to be a special-occasion meal in African American families, often supplying a hearty Sunday morning meal before a long day in church.
American-style waffle irons are used to make traditional waffles, which are thin and crispy with relatively shallow pockets. This means they cook fairly quickly, too. The savory batter used for this type of waffle makes it particularly well-suited to making special shapes like hearts, or for use in place of bread for things like breakfast sandwiches.
This batter also benefited the most from the flip mechanism found in some of the irons we tested, likely due to the fact that it's a thinner batter that flows flat into the iron. (The flip design delivers even heating by making sure that a thin batter receives equal contact with the plates on both the top and the bottom.) The waffles resulting from this batter browned more evenly in the flip models than in the stationary ones, with the exception of our high-end picks, the Breville and All-Clad, both of which performed excellently. Ultimately, though, aside from our top-rated flip model, we’d steer you toward our other top picks, including the budget ones, even though they’re stationary: They produced better waffles overall due to higher heat and shorter cook time, despite their uneven browning.
There are two other key subjects to consider, both related to the cooking process. First, you shouldn’t have to wrestle with your waffles (or have to pry them out with a sharp knife) when they’re ready to come out of the machine. That doesn’t mean a waffle maker must have non-stick surfaces, but we’ve found that non-stick coatings usually make all the difference. A good alternative can be a cast-iron waffle maker, but continually seasoning a cast-iron appliance calls for another level of care and work.
Overall, the Krups was as easy to use as any machine we tested—though no machine is particularly tricky to figure out, as long as you read the instructions. Still, the GQ502D’s intuitive, set-it-and-forget-it system made the process particularly simple. Like all waffle makers, it does get hot in places: The steam vent at the back heated up quickly for us, and the top of the machine was too hot to touch after a couple of rounds of waffles. But the heatproof handle stayed cool, even after multiple uses, something that couldn’t be said of competitors like the Black+Decker Removable Plate Waffle Maker (WM700R), where built-up steam around the handle made the machine uncomfortable and risky to use.
Most modern waffle makers run on electricity and can be adjusted to produce lighter or darker waffles. Many, but not all, have indicator lights and audible beeps to cue you through the preheating, battering and cooking stages. Even more important, the waffle maker should maintain consistent, even heat to make sure your waffle isn't overcooked on the outside and mushy on the inside, or cooked in some places but not in others.
Our second budget pick, the Hamilton Beach Belgian Style Waffle Maker (26009), is another compact, good-for-small-apartments machine that makes consistently excellent waffles. It produces waffles more like those of our winner: thick, Belgian-style, with a crisp crust and a tender interior. Like the Cuisinart WMR-CA, however, this Hamilton Beach model tends to cost less than $30 but also feels somewhat cheaply made.
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The mold that is used to cook waffles is a heavy, heat-retaining device with a top and bottom compartment. The mold is gridded in a rectangular fashion such that protrusions on the top portion are complemented by depressions in the bottom (and vice versa). Because waffle molds were historically made out of cast iron, the device has come to be known as a "Waffle Iron". Today, aluminum and steel are the principal metals used to manufacture waffle "irons".
We’re still happy with our top pick from a few years ago, the Oster-Flip, but Oster doesn’t sell it anymore. They’ve switched their entire line to a new “DuraCeramic” coating, and while the wattage and temperature specs haven’t changed the new waffle iron just doesn’t brown waffles evenly. (We ordered a replacement model just to be sure something wasn’t broken.)
In 1926, Mr. Charles M. Cole of Oakland, California came up with a novel idea for cooking two waffles at once. He devised a three-part mold with each segment heated by electric current. This device allowed couples to have their waffle at the same time (contributing to happy and harmonious breakfasts) and also was fairly economical in use of electric current. (In the 1920s, electricity was VERY expensive, perhaps 25 cents/Kwh in 1926 dollars. This would be about $7.50/kwh in today's dollars compared with an actual cost of about 7 cents/Kwh.)
That said, quite a few users say that this waffle maker isn't as sturdily built as previous versions of the same model, and that if you don't get the top heating plate aligned just right, it can fall off -- an injury hazard if the plate is hot. The top of the G48TD also gets very hot. Some use pliers to bend the metal clips that hold the heating plates in place, which helps them line up better -- or you can just use an oven mitt to protect your hands.