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.
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.).
Toppings are fabulous, but the perfectly crisp, tender, and golden brown square waffles from All-Clad's Belgian waffle maker will leave you wondering, who needs butter and syrup anyway? It was one of the top scorers in all our performance evaluations and tied for easiest to use overall. Turn the dial to your preferred doneness setting, pour in batter (it's okay if you use too much — the removable moat tray will catch any excess), and go about your business until it chimes.
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.
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.
Waffles are a tasty, popular breakfast. While you can always buy the frozen kind and pop them into the toaster, the homemade kind are so much better. Whether you choose to make them from scratch or with a boxed mix, you will need to use a waffle maker. They may look intimidating to use, but they are actually pretty easy and straightforward. Once you know how to use a waffle maker to make waffles, you can use it to make all sorts of things, including pizza!
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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.
The Krups has a relatively small footprint for a machine that can produce four waffles at a time. It takes up just about a foot of counter space, and at just 4½ inches tall, it’s much easier to store than a bulky flip-style machine. A spool on the underside allows you to wrap up and secure the power cord easily, and because the lid locks in place, you can store this machine either upright or flat. Plus, the construction of this machine is nice and sturdy, as the hinge doesn’t wobble, and the dial turns smoothly and feels reliable. Krups also covers the GQ502D with a two-year limited warranty.
Today there are many (many!) Belgian waffle makers on the market. We set out to find the best one by making hundreds of waffles and by going the extra waffle-making mile by consulting a postdoc in MIT’s mechanical engineering program to learn the basic thermodynamic principles at work in waffle irons. After a month of waffles for breakfast and for lunch, we had a solid winner—an iron that made picture-perfect Belgian waffles, two at a time, in under 5 minutes.
The 18th century is also when the word "waffle" first appeared in the English language, in a 1725 printing of Court Cookery by Robert Smith. Recipes had begun to spread throughout England and America, though essentially all were patterned after established Dutch, Belgian, German, and French versions. Waffle parties, known as 'wafel frolics', were documented as early as 1744 in New Jersey, and the Dutch had earlier established waffles in New Amsterdam (New York City).
The removable waffle grids are dishwasher safe. To clean the drip tray, rinse off excess overflowed batter with hot water. For easy cleanup and storage, wipe down the exterior with a damp, soapy cloth and fold the handle. Do not use steel wool, scouring pads, abrasive cleansers or sharp or pointed objects on any part, as this will tarnish the steel exterior.
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.
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.
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).
The important qualities of a waffle maker are pretty much the same, though, no matter which type of waffles it makes. The ability to provide even heat across all of the plates tops our list; obviously, no waffle is going to be crunchy and delicious if part of it is undercooked, or if it’s necessary to burn one side to a crisp in order to cook the other side all the way through.