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).
Flip or stationary? Once you’ve chosen between Belgian or American-style waffles, the next step is to determine if you want the assistance of a flip mechanism. Without flipping over the irons, you’re relying on the rising agent in your batter (or just over-filling your waffle maker) to quickly and evenly fill the top plate. The flip mechanism ensures even distribution for more consistent waffles. They take up more space vertically, but in the storage position they’re actually pretty manageable.
Our final round of waffles was made out of Aunt Jemima waffle mix, prepared according to the package’s instructions. These waffles use a combination of chemical leavening and steam from the added liquid to result in the rise of the waffles. The waffles made with this batter were consistently dense and cake-like in all the waffle makers, but the color came out evenly brown in all machines. Where we found variations was in the crispness of the crusts, with machines that were hotter yielding thinner and crispier crusts. With this batter, we also found no differences between flip and non-flip units. If you make waffles mostly with a boxed mix, you can definitely get away with using a cheaper iron, since the differences were closer to minimal.
The closest thing to an old-fashioned non-electric waffle iron is the pizelle maker. Pizzelle (pronounced "pit-sell") are Italian wafer cookies. The name comes from the Italian pizze for round and flat. Many different cultures have adapted this technology and re-named it accordingly. In Scandinavia they are also known as "Lukken" and in Holland as Krumcake. All use an iron similar iron to the pizzelle.
Flemish waffles, or Gaufres à la Flamande, are a specialty of northern France and portions of western Belgium. The original recipe, published in 1740 by Louis-Auguste de Bourbon in Le Cuisinier Gascon, is as follows: Take "deux litrons" (1.7 liters or 7 cups) of flour and mix it in a bowl with salt and one ounce of brewer's yeast barm. Moisten it completely with warm milk. Then whisk fifteen egg whites and add that to the mixture, stirring continuously. Incorporate "un livre" (490 grams or 1.1 pounds) of fresh butter, and let the batter rise. Once the batter has risen, take your heated iron, made expressly for these waffles, and wrap some butter in a cloth and rub both sides of the iron with it. When the iron is completely heated, make your waffles, but do so gently for fear of burning them. Cooked, take them out, put them on a platter, and serve them with both sugar and orange blossom water on top.
Optional: If you want your waffles a little crispy you can add some extra oil to this batter too. Additionally, you can experiment with adding different flavoring extracts or spices to the mix to make them taste the way you like. Sometimes we add pumpkin spice mix for a seasonal flavor, other times we may add Pecans or Lily’s Dark Chocolate Chips for some variety too.
Like most electric waffle irons, the Cuisinart WMR-CA waffle maker isn't meant to be submerged, and the waffle plates are built right into the machine, so you can't remove them for a good scrubbing. Surprisingly, removable plates are relatively rare, especially in the American/traditional waffle maker category. But the Black and Decker G48TD (Est. $40) has them, which makes it very convenient to use. Not only do the non-stick waffle plates pop out for easy cleaning, they also have a completely flat reverse side (also non-stick). Flip the plates to their flat side and open the G48TD's lid all the way, and you have yourself a mini griddle for cooking things like pancakes and bacon; or close the "floating" hinged lid and use it to toast sandwiches.