Some waffle makers are equipped with nothing but an on-off light and a "ready indicator," but even an increasing amount of budget-friendly models have extra features like numbered dials to adjust the preferred degrees of doneness, beeps or buzzers that indicate when the cook time is finished, and removable plates that can be popped into the dishwasher for easy cleaning.
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.
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.
The Chef's Choice Pro Express Waffle Maker is the most advanced waffle maker in our guide. It's full of patented technology like the "Quad" baking system that lets you customize the flavor, texture, and color of your round Belgian waffle. But the big selling point here is that it will bake your waffle in less than 90 seconds. Yep, a minute and a half folks. That transforms this sturdy unit from a weekend warrior to an everyday appliance.
Recipes for both Waffles and Fried Chicken appear in What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, (Abby Fisher, 1881). Mrs. Fisher was a former slave and her book is generally considered the first cookbook written by an African-American. Apparently, white people were eating waffles and fried chicken as well as recipes for the two appear in Mrs. Porter's Southern Cookery Book published in 1871.
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.)
If you love waffles, it’s worth giving the large Cuisinart Double Belgian Waffle Maker some of your precious counter real estate. It makes the waffles dreams are made of thick, fluffy, and tender on the inside, and crunchy on the outside. Plus, it bakes two at a time. After you add batter to one chamber, you rotate it in its frame, fill the other side, and rotate it again. Lights and tones signal when each one is done. Unlike less expensive flip machines, this one feels solid and well built. It also comes with a ¾ cup measure for batter.
A stovetop waffle maker is essentially a hinged pair of cooking plates that fasten together. To cook waffles, you put the batter inside the waffle maker and put it on the stove, flipping it over to cook both sides. This was how people cooked waffles before electric waffle makers existed, and some people who grew up making them this way may prefer a stovetop model.
Salton’s rotary waffle maker bakes an authentic Belgian style waffle with deep pockets to catch all the delicious toppings you decorate your waffle with. The 180° rotary ensures consistent baking and even browning. For those who like their waffle extra crisp, use the adjustable browning control to set your desired level. Precook your waffles the night before? No problem. Indicator lights will let you know when the device is ready to pour the batter and will also let you know when the cooking...
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.
Unless you lead a life of leisure (or run a bed and breakfast) chances are your waffle iron is not going to be a daily-use appliance, so ideally you shouldn't have to allocate much of your kitchen real estate to store it. Since most waffle irons are pretty bulky, we paid special attention to the design—does the size of the machine make sense? Is the space well-used? Does it feel solidly built? Does seem like it will hold up well to cleaning and other wear and tear?
Most modern waffle makers run on electricity and can be adjusted to produce lighter or darker waffles. Many, but not all, have indicator lights and audible beeps to cue you through the preheating, battering and cooking stages. Even more important, the waffle maker should maintain consistent, even heat to make sure your waffle isn't overcooked on the outside and mushy on the inside, or cooked in some places but not in others.
While this Cuisinart is undoubtedly a top performer at a great price point, it does only cook one waffle at a time, and the Wirecutter editors point out that it's not as sturdily built as some of the competition -- a point echoed by many users. That may make this waffle iron best for either small groups or occasional waffle-making. That said, Cuisinart offers a three-year warranty -- right up there with some pro-level appliances that cost six times as much. The Cuisinart WMR-CA is also versatile, with users saying it's even great for making foods like hash browns, bacon and potato cakes.