There's no easy way to say this: the real revelation of this test was just how mediocre most waffle irons are. But at least they were consistent in the ways in which they were mediocre! Far and away, the most common problem was one of uneven cooking, or what I like to call the "two-face" effect: waffles that emerged from the iron evenly browned on one side but pale and doughy on the other. It is not a good look.
Brussels waffles are prepared with an egg-white-leavened or yeast-leavened batter, traditionally an ale yeast; occasionally both types of leavening are used together. They are lighter, crisper and have larger pockets compared to other European waffle varieties, and are easy to differentiate from Liège Waffles by their rectangular sides. In Belgium, most waffles are served warm by street vendors and dusted with confectioner's sugar, though in tourist areas they might be topped with whipped cream, soft fruit or chocolate spread. Variants of the Brussels waffles – with whipped and folded egg whites cooked in large rectangular forms – date from the 18th century. However, the oldest recognized reference to "Gaufres de Bruxelles" (Brussels Waffles) by name is attributed from 1842/43 to Florian Dacher, a Swiss baker in Ghent, Belgium, who had previously worked under pastry chefs in central Brussels. Philippe Cauderlier would later publish Dacher's recipe in the 1874 edition of his recipe book "La Pâtisserie et la Confiture". Maximilien Consael, another Ghent chef, had claimed to have invented the waffles in 1839, though there's no written record of him either naming or selling the waffles until his participation in the 1856 Brussels Fair. Neither man created the recipe; they simply popularized and formalized an existing recipe as the Brussels waffle.
Space-saving small appliances, like a food processor or vertical waffle maker free up space on the counter while getting the cooking task at hand finished. The upright design of a vertical waffle iron means the batter gets poured into a spout, so the appliance cannot be over- or under-filled and the resulting waffles are even in thickness. Aluminum plates provide even heating, so waffles come out evenly browned with no flipping required. If you are cooking for picky eaters, five browning settings make it easy to create waffles that are perfectly browned based on personal preferences. An indicator light and alert sound tell you when the waffle maker is ready to use and when the pastry is ready to eat.
Before beginning these tests, I'd heard buzz that the All-Clad Belgian Waffle Iron was the Cadillac of waffle makers—a hulking, shiny, stainless steel behemoth capable of turning out batch after batch of five-star hotel-buffet-quality waffles. I was intrigued, but given that it came with a gulp-inducing price tag of $200, also very skeptical. Could the waffles it made really be five times better than those from its lower-priced competitors?
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“For getting the waffles out,” Maichel said, “a wooden chopstick is good because you can get it under there. Don’t use any metal … if [the plate] gets scratched, it’ll turn into a sticky spot.” In testing, we found that chopsticks were also useful for scraping out burned bits that got stuck in the Presto FlipSide, and tongs with silicone or nylon heads worked well for removing waffles, too.
The Cuisinart Round Classic Waffle Maker wins this category by a landslide, not because of fancy bells and whistles but because of the one thing it does very well: Turning out thin, crunchy American-style waffles. Cooking time is quick -- about three minutes per waffle -- and as long as you apply a little oil to the grid, its non-stick coating releases those waffles quickly and cleanly. The three-year warranty is impressive in this price range.
“I have no bad things to say about this. It’s completely nonstick — not like a little bit nonstick — it’s COMPLETELY nonstick. Don’t spray it or oil it or butter it. It’s nonstick. It heats incredibly fast and cooks fast, too. I’d play with the timing because it often says cook a waffle for four minutes, and I can get a nice fluffy waffle that’s not too crisp in way less. It depends on your preference. You can store it upright. I can tuck it out of the way much easier than stacking it in a cabinet somewhere. And lastly, I have made protein waffles and regular waffles and no matter the batter type or consistency, I had great results. My insane toddler keeps asking for waffles and I can’t deny him because they are just too easy to make.”
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.
This waffle iron was the priciest of the units we tested, but the waffles that it produced were so evenly browned, so delicately crisp on the outside while fluffy on the inside, that we believe it's the best option for Belgian waffles. This All-Clad model features extra-deep divots, for Belgian-style waffles with maximum butter and syrup capacity. It makes two waffles at a time and contains a drip tray for minimizing spills and messes. The heavy stainless steel body and die-cast plates heat up fast and evenly for consistent browning.
However, we found the absolute best value to come from the BELLA – 13591 Classic Rotating Belgian Waffle Maker. With just a slightly larger footprint than the Cuisinart, this will give you the tastiest, most consistent, and most evenly cooked waffles. Best of all, the BELLA is even quicker than our old top pick, so you can grab a cup of coffee and start enjoying those delicious waffles as quickly as possible.