American-style waffle irons are used to make traditional waffles, which are thin and crispy with relatively shallow pockets. This means they cook fairly quickly, too. The savory batter used for this type of waffle makes it particularly well-suited to making special shapes like hearts, or for use in place of bread for things like breakfast sandwiches.
Out of all our picks, the Krups is the only one that can feed a large group efficiently, producing four 1-inch-thick, 4½-inch square waffles at a time. But its shape also works for feeding just one or two people. As Will It Waffle? author Daniel Shumski pointed out, “You can always make four at a time if you want, or you could make fewer, or you could make four, freeze two.” Neither our runner-up nor our budget picks offer that option, since they make waffles that are big enough to serve only one or two people at a time.
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.
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.
Some of the models we tested come fully loaded with features, while others are more bare-bones. The question is which of these bonus features, if any, are worth having. Almost all the waffle makers come equipped with adjustable heat settings, a feature we found mostly useless, since there’s almost never a situation in which you’d want anything less than maximum heat. It’s a feature that’s even more vexing on the losing low-end models, which, even at their highest settings, were not very hot. (There were some exceptions to this: Our winning flip waffle maker got so hot that we appreciated being able to turn the heat down.)
The waffle maker has seven different browning settings to accommodate all tastes. Regardless of which setting you pick, the advanced heating technology ensures consistent cooking straight through the waffle. A special steam-release system prevents condensation from building up, too, thus ensuring that your waffle comes out crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
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.