Criteria for what makes an ideal waffle are somewhat subjective: I happen to like mine crunchy on the outside but fluffy in the center, but maybe you like yours golden and crispy? Still, some technical standards are pretty universally accepted, and those were what we focused on during our test. A good waffle iron should heat evenly and cook batter consistently from top to bottom and side to side without burnt spots or raw patches. It should allow enough steam to escape during the cooking process as to produce waffles that are structurally firm and not soggy. It should also be reliable, repeating the same results batch after batch, and easy to clean.
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.
The Black+Decker Removable Plate Waffle Maker (WM700R) is a new model for 2016. You can take the plates out for washing, which is a huge plus, but unfortunately this machine fell short in several other ways during our testing. The indicator lights don’t tell you when a waffle is done, and it has no browning control. Plus, our waffles came out bready rather than crisp, and after a few rounds of baking, the handle got uncomfortably hot.
I don’t think that the geometry of the waffle iron (shape, or depth of indentations) has any effect on the taste. Grease older waffle irons with some oil or melted butter before you begin to bake. I have had some success with spraying the hot iron with aerosol cooking oil like PAM. If waffles get to stick to the iron, dig out the mess and re-grease the iron. Modern teflon waffle-makers do not need any surface treatment. However, with some practice and seasoning, nothing ever really sticks to a well-cared for waffle iron.
Finally, be aware that if you're getting so-so results from a waffle maker that usually draws rave reviews, the problem might be your batter instead of the machine. Users who substitute pancake batter for waffle batter quickly find out that there is, indeed, a difference between the two. Pancake batter in a waffle iron generally produces a heavy, dense mess that'll stick to the waffle iron like glue, and users warn that some "waffle recipes" found on the back of pancake mix boxes don't do much better. If you're into creative pancake making, you'll do better cooking them on a stovetop skillet or electric skillet, both of which we cover in separate reports.
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The All-Clad 99011GT 2-Square Belgian Waffle Maker makes two Belgian waffles at once. Each waffle plate creates a one-inch thick Belgian waffle with a crispy exterior (thanks, in large part, to the All-Clad's "steam-release" system) and a fluffy interior. If you like deep waffle pockets to catch your syrup and butter, you're likely to enjoy this product. A few owners we surveyed told us that they occasionally get a "limp" or "damp" waffle out of their All-Clad. However, this could very well be the result of anxious consumers who don't wait long enough for their waffle to thoroughly cook.
What we liked: The Cuisinart waffle maker was the hottest of all the irons we tested, making waffles in just over three minutes. The waffles it produced were light and fluffy on the inside, with a delicate and crisp crust. They had deep divots for holding lots of syrup and butter, and a traditional round shape. Because the iron gets so hot, the adjustable temperature is actually a useful feature, unlike on most of the other waffle irons we tested.
A Sunday morning spent in a sunny kitchen, surrounded by fairytale-like wisps of steam slowly fluttering from the Belgian waffle iron, is oddly reassuring— no matter what time of the year. You don’t need earsplitting machinery or a workout to mix up delectable waffles, which is one of the many reasons why you’ll adore this recipe. Everything practically comes together in a few stirs. That’s it. Oh, happy day!