If looks matter to you most, consider a rotating waffle maker. Because you flip the iron over as it bakes, the batter can become more evenly distributed over the grates. That being said, if you really want picture-perfect waffles, try our Lab's even-heating hack: After pouring waffle batter over the hot grates, use a rubber spatula to gently (and quickly) distribute the batter evenly across the surface before closing the waffle maker's lid. You'll never have to eat a waffle with absent, sorry-looking edges again!
The Proctor Silex Mess Free Belgian Style Waffle Maker (26044A) has features in common with our top pick, such as browning controls and indicator lights, but we had a much tougher time getting it to produce a decent waffle. We deemed the first batch soggy, and one tester said, “It’s not enough of a step up from Eggo—I’d rather have Eggo.” In a subsequent batch, half the waffle cooked much faster than the other, which meant that the former was overly brown while the latter remained pale and limp.
“Leslie Knope is my spirit animal, as I am completely obsessed with waffles, and I am a little bit crazy just like her. She would love this waffle iron, but then she would probably trash it after one use because she would be scared of putting JJ’s Diner out of business. Thankfully, I don’t have a JJ’s Diner near me, and I like to make my own waffles. I can see Jerry/Larry/Garry Gengurch buying this waffle iron for Leslie Knope, and the mockery that would follow the next day as Leslie and the entire office would blame Jerry/Larry/Garry for putting JJ’s Diner in danger.
What we liked: This compact and lightweight model from Black+Decker is a great multitasker for any small kitchen. It makes thin waffles with shallow wells, crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside. On average, it makes waffles in about eight minutes—longer than ideal, but still respectable compared with other affordable options. The large surface makes four square four-inch waffles at a time, but it still has a low profile, making it a good fit in tight spaces. The plates on this unit are reversible, revealing a flat griddle, which opens up into a large cooking surface for eggs and pancakes and can accommodate large sandwiches with its adjustable hinge. The plates are removable and dishwasher-safe.
One of the most important attributes of a waffle maker is how well its nonstick coating works—there’s nothing worse than trying to clean stuck-on waffle from those narrow cracks. Luckily, waffles popped out easily from the Krups GQ502D with the aid of silicone tongs or chopsticks, even on the one or two occasions when opening the lid took a little prying. The manual recommends oiling the plates just once each time you use the machine, and we found that this step was more than enough to keep waffles from sticking, even through many rounds of batter. Best of all, the waffle plates detach from the machine, so once they’re cool you can pop them in the sink and wash them with soap and water, or, according to the manufacturer, even run them through the dishwasher. This is so much easier than cleaning most of the other machines we tried, including our former top pick, which requires you to wipe down the plates still in the machine with first a soapy cloth and then a damp one; inevitably, some soap seems to cling stubbornly in the cracks. But only two other machines we tested—the Nordic Ware stovetop model and Black+Decker’s brand-new (as of 2016) Removable Plate Waffle Maker, model WM700R—featured removable plates, and both fell far short of the Krups in ease of use and quality of waffles.
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.