We were looking for an iron that consistently produced tall, evenly browned waffles with crisp shells and moist crumbs without any trial and error on our part. We focused on the newer, more prevalent flip- and rotary-style models, which either turn on a hinge or spin 180 degrees on a stand, but we also included several conventional stationary models. We set a price cap of $100 and tested 13 irons, making batches of both Belgian-style yeasted waffles and our everyday Cook’s Illustrated Best Buttermilk Waffles in each machine.
Here are two ads that show the Manning Bowman Smokeless Table Broiler in direct competition with the Farberware Broiler Robot. These ads came from facing pages in the September 18, 1941 issue of LIFE magazine, and are a very rare example of head-to-head competition. The Farber item was priced $2 less than the M-B appliance. They were still both expensive! $7.95 and $9.95 in 1941 would be approximately equal to $168 and $210 in terms of 2005 purchasing power. We note that the Manning-Bowman folks were practically "giving away" a very nice serving platter (for an extra $2) if you bought their broiler.
Essentially, waffles are a form of griddle-cake based on flour, milk, eggs, butter, oil and leavening that are cooked on both sides simultaneously in a mold that takes the form of a gridded surface. Because of the "teeth and gaps" of the waffle mold or "iron", considerably more of the surface area is heated and caramelized relative to the "pancake" -- thus, the waffle has more taste and a crispness that enables it to serve as a support for other foods. Waffles serve many of the same roles in sweets as toast serves in savories.
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.
Because waffle irons are more of a kitchen extravagance than an absolute necessity, we decided to test out a few non-waffle items in the machines just for kicks—the more versatile these tools can be, the better. We waffled up some grilled cheese and sage stuffing to see how the machines would do. As we’ve seen in the past, a waffle iron may be the best tool to make things like grilled cheese: The divots become extra crisp, with cheese oozing out and forming a crackling frico, while the peaks remain soft and chewy. The nonstick surface ensures no bits of stuffing or bread are left behind. The results of this test followed the trend of the previous ones, with our high-end picks edging out the rest.
Toppings are fabulous, but the perfectly crisp, tender, and golden brown square waffles from All-Clad's Belgian waffle maker will leave you wondering, who needs butter and syrup anyway? It was one of the top scorers in all our performance evaluations and tied for easiest to use overall. Turn the dial to your preferred doneness setting, pour in batter (it's okay if you use too much — the removable moat tray will catch any excess), and go about your business until it chimes.
There are millions of recipes for waffles, but most batters fall into two distinct categories: yeast-raised (more commonly used for thicker Belgian-style waffles) and baking powder-leavened (also called "American"; think Bisquick and the like). That said, you can use yeast-raised batter in American-style waffle makers and American-style batter in Belgian-style waffle makers—the results will just be a little different than usual due to the differing shapes and sizes. Our lineup of contenders included both Belgian- and American-style machines, though for the sake of simplicity we eliminated "flip-style" models. (They tend to take up more space than other waffle irons and a perusal of anecdotal reviews indicated that they didn't perform any better.) We tested all of the machines using this crispy waffle recipe, minus the caramel coulis.
The important qualities of a waffle maker are pretty much the same, though, no matter which type of waffles it makes. The ability to provide even heat across all of the plates tops our list; obviously, no waffle is going to be crunchy and delicious if part of it is undercooked, or if it’s necessary to burn one side to a crisp in order to cook the other side all the way through.