Electric waffle irons are made of two plates similarly set into a hinged body, which is heated through electric coils housed in the unit behind the plates. Some of these electric waffle makers have basic plug-and-play designs, while others offer variable heat settings, timers, and indicator lights telling you when your waffle is ready. For this review, we looked only at electric waffle makers and excluded stovetop waffle irons, since success with the latter has more to do with the cook’s skill and the heat source than differences in design.
Now, because you can't toss your new electrical appliance in the sink with soapy water, here's how to clean a waffle maker: The good news is that waffle makers have drastically improved in recent years — nearly every model now comes with nonstick cooking plates, which means that (with proper upkeep) you won't be using a toothpick to dislodge burnt-on waffle bits. We recommend allowing your iron to cool first, then wiping the plates clean with a dry paper towel. If any grime remains, spot clean them with a damp cloth or let a bit of cooking oil sit on the grime for a few minutes before wiping away. And avoid using nonstick cooking spray, as this stuff will cook onto the plates and become nearly impossible to remove. The result: No more nonstick coating.
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.
There are countless styles of waffles, including the light and crisp Italian gofri, the sugar-speckled Belgian liège, and the charming, heart-shaped Scandinavian vafler. For our testing we decided to limit ourselves to the two most common waffle styles in the United States, broadly divided into the "American" and "Belgian" categories. Although there are dozens of varieties of "Belgian" waffles alone, for marketing purposes, thicker waffles with deeper wells are considered Belgian, while shallow, thinner ones are categorized as American or "regular." Both American and Belgian waffles can be made in either a circle or a square shape, so it’s up to you to decide which form is more waffle-y to you.
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.
The mechanisms of all stand-alone waffle irons are pretty much the same, and relatively unchanged from those of their stovetop predecessors. Traditional waffle makers consist of two molded cast iron plates connected by a hinge, and feature a long handle to keep your hand out of the heat. The iron is preheated over a stove before the batter is added, and the waffle is manually flipped. These traditional styles work well, but they require some coordination on the cook’s part, as well as attention to heat regulation.