One feature of the Classic Round Waffle Maker which we loved was the browning dial with seven settings, allowing you to choose the exact crispness you prefer. Another was a “ready-to-eat” alert – when waffles are ready, the machine beeps to let you know. That’s a lot better than interfering with the cooking process by continually opening the lid to check on progress.
By the mid-16th century, there were signs of waffles' mounting French popularity. Francois I, king from 1494–1547, of whom it was said les aimait beacoup (loved them a lot), had a set of waffle irons cast in pure silver. His successor, Charles IX enacted the first waffle legislation in 1560, in response to a series of quarrels and fights that had been breaking out between the oublieurs. They were required "d'être au moins à la distance de deux toises l'un de l'autre. " (to be no less than 4 yards from one to the other).
The Swedish tradition dates at least to the 15th century, and there is even a particular day for the purpose, Våffeldagen (waffle day), which sounds like Vårfrudagen ("Our Lady's Day"), and is therefore used for the purpose. This is March 25 (nine months before Christmas), the Christian holiday of Annunciation. They are usually topped with strawberry jam, bilberry jam, cloudberry jam, raspberry jam, bilberry and raspberry jam, sugar and butter, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Other, savory, toppings include salmon roe, cold-smoked salmon and cream fraiche.
By the early 20th century, waffle recipes became rare in recipe books, and only 29 professional waffle craftsmen, the oublieurs, remained in Paris. Waffles were shifting from a predominately street-vendor-based product to an increasingly homemade product, aided by the 1918 introduction of GE's first electric commercial waffle maker. By the mid-1930s, dry pancake/waffle mix had been marketed by a number of companies, including Aunt Jemima, Bisquick, and a team of three brothers from San Jose, Calif. – the Dorsas. It is the Dorsas who would go on to innovate commercial production of frozen waffles, which they began selling under the name "Eggo" in 1953. Manufacturers are now testing the production of waffles with potato starch, which increase the stability of the waffle and protect them from sticking to the iron.
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.
“My 40-year quest to find the perfect waffle-maker ended when I purchased this double-flip model. Over the decades, I had bought and used a number of different non-flip models. All suffered from the same problem of requiring more precise filling than I was capable of — too much batter and it oozed out the sides and made a big mess, but too little and the waffles ended up with bald spots. Then I started paying attention to the waffle-makers that hotels use for brunch. From Frankfurt to Burlington to Savannah, they all used flip-style waffle-makers. So I hunted down and tried this model. It works great! The flip action distributes the batter evenly. No oozing, and no bald spots. And the thermometer/timer works very well — I set it around 4, and when the beeper sounds, I have perfectly golden-brown waffles every time. The waffles release easily, and there’s minimal cleanup. Best. Waffle. Maker. Ever.”
While the Oster and Cuisinart were the two top waffle makers among our finalists in initial testing, there are four other strong choices as well. Ultimately, we went with the two that stood out during testing. None of these really stood out as a drop-in replacement for the Oster when it was discontinued, so we went looking for something with power to match our old pick and settled on the BELLA. However, if you’re looking for something different, we encourage you to read about the other four finalists (and the additional seventh non-finalist) as well.
“Incredible waffle-maker for a great price. I’ve been making Belgian waffles for 20 years and this is by far my favorite maker. This maker makes two nice and thick Belgian waffles. The material of the plates is excellent and the waffles don’t tend to stick. By the time I’m done loading the batter for the second waffle, the first one is just about done. I can make waffles for my family of five and we can all eat together. Previously, with a single waffle-maker, I would either have to serve one at a time and then everyone eats at different times, of I would put the waffles in the toaster oven on warm and then they would get a little soggy. I don’t know why anyone would need to pay twice the price for a ‘higher-quality brand.’ It’s unnecessary!”
We also tested the flip model from Hamilton Beach, the Hamilton Beach Flip Belgian Waffle Maker. It has a drip tray and removable plates for easy cleanup, and, although this unit is larger, the handle folds in for easier storage. Similar to the other Hamilton Beach model, though, this unit did not heat up well, which led to sticking and dense waffles.
Unlike most flip waffle makers, the Presto FlipSide Belgian Waffle Maker doesn’t take up a lot of space when it’s not baking waffles. Its slim and sits low on the counter and it can easily be locked into place so it can stand up for storage. However, you do need to make sure you have room on the countertop to flip it completely over on its side after you fill it with batter. Rather than settings, the Presto has a timer which you set by pushing a tiny button. It is designed to beep with only two minutes remaining, but often, at that point, it didn’t beep and stopped counting down. Nonetheless, it produced evenly browned, crispy waffles one after another and it is among the less expensive Belgian waffles.
Although stovetop waffle makers are a little harder to use than electric because you have to regulate the waffle iron's temperature and cooking time, they're also more versatile. They can be used for tailgating, camping trips, or during a power outage (if you have a gas stove). Stovetop waffle irons are usually much smaller and thinner than countertop models, too; so they're the ideal choice for small kitchens with limited storage, camping or tailgating, off-the-grid living, or anyone who enjoys the challenge of learning to create the perfect waffle by hand.