More than one of our tasters declared this model’s results to be “the perfect waffle.” And it truly excels at creating consistently thin, crunchy waffles. Those waffles were not quite as perfect looking as those made by the Krups GQ502D or the Chef’sChoice 840B, since the plate made a browner circle in the center of the waffle. But that was just an aesthetic issue: The waffles were just as crisp and delicious at the paler outer edge as in the center. If, however, you prefer a thick Belgian-style waffle over a thin, crisp one, you’ll want to go for our other budget pick (more on that below).
Bella's rotating waffle maker bakes one round traditional waffle in less than 3 minutes, making it one of the quickest-to-cook models we tested. It received near top performance scores amongst traditional waffle makers tested, producing perfectly tender waffles from both a mix and from scratch and evenly browned 'em, too. Little ones helping cook breakfast will love flipping the waffle maker over after you add the batter.
If you can’t find the Krups GQ502D, we recommend turning to the Chef’sChoice WafflePro Classic Belgian (840B), which makes a Belgian-style round waffle that’s somewhat thinner than the results from our top pick. This model was the top pick in our original guide, for good reason: It bakes waffles evenly to a wide range of doneness levels (with some exceptions; see below), plus it has an alarm to alert you when the plates are sufficiently heated and the waffle is ready. However, it also has a couple of minor drawbacks, and those dropped it to the number-two slot.
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.
That non-stick coating and oil combo not only results in pretty waffles on your plate, it also means cleanup is a snap because you won't have to scrub bits of stuck waffle out of the grids. Some electric waffle makers have removable plates that can be tossed in the sink or dishwasher. If you're dealing with an electric waffle maker that doesn't have removable grids, you can't dunk the whole thing for a good cleaning -- so a soft-bristle toothbrush or damp rag are your best cleaning options.
The Presto FlipSide Waffle Maker flips from side to side on a hinge, rather than with a rotary motion, like the other models we tested. It does not feature a locking handle, however, so the side-to-side flipping motion easily leads to spilled batter. The unit heats up quickly but never gets very hot, resulting in a long cook time. It features a one- or two-minute timer to indicate when to flip, but the waffles take upwards of 10 minutes to brown, so each waffle requires frequent beeping.
After narrowing the list of finalists to six waffle makers, we ordered them and put them through a series of tests in our office, all of which were designed to measure the differences between each of our finalists. We took the data we gained from our testing and factored it in alongside the features that each waffle maker offers (indictor lights, ability to flip, etc.).
The versatile four-waffle size allows you to feed large or small crowds, but this sturdy machine is still relatively compact, and it can easily store vertically or horizontally. Not only is it about the same price as our former top pick, the Proctor Silex 26016A (which is no longer being manufactured), it even feels of better quality and comes with more great features.
This machine makes two beautifully browned, Belgian-style square waffles and offers a lot of potential for customization. Choose from four pre-set waffles — Belgian, classic, chocolate or buttermilk — then pick from one of the 12 doneness settings. When batter is poured on the grates (lined with a wraparound moat to catch any excess), the LCD display timer counts down and sounds an alarm when ready. And if that (literally) wasn't enough, just press the "A Bit More" button to add time until your just-right waffle is achieved.
This did the job, but it sure wasn't streamlined. Here is a photo from a World War II era training pamphlet. The subject was "How to use electrical appliances." Many rural households were just getting electricity due to the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) and the pamphlet was intended to get folks up to speed with the rest of the country. This photo shows the Government-approved method of "seasoning" a waffle iron (you put oil on it and let is burn in, creating the organic equivalent of Teflon). Any vegetable oil will do.
The ones we definitely tend to avoid are the machines which claim to be able to make both great American and Belgian waffles. The old cliché “Jack of all trades, master of none” almost always holds true when it comes to models which supposedly are versatile enough to produce terrific waffles whether you prefer them thin or thick. The optimal construction of a waffle maker is very different for each type, and there’s no way a quality machine can do justice to both.
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.
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.
Dear reader, when you mix all of the ingredients together for waffles, you’ll realize that things aren’t as smooth as silk. We’re not going for a cake batter here. The moment there’s no visible flour, you’re ready to go. Easy peasy! Mixing everything within an inch of its life to ensure a lump-free batter means you’ll likely end up with tough waffles.
Out of all our picks, the Krups is the only one that can feed a large group efficiently, producing four 1-inch-thick, 4½-inch square waffles at a time. But its shape also works for feeding just one or two people. As Will It Waffle? author Daniel Shumski pointed out, “You can always make four at a time if you want, or you could make fewer, or you could make four, freeze two.” Neither our runner-up nor our budget picks offer that option, since they make waffles that are big enough to serve only one or two people at a time.
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.