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.
If looks matter to you most, consider a rotating waffle maker. Because you flip the iron over as it bakes, the batter can become more evenly distributed over the grates. That being said, if you really want picture-perfect waffles, try our Lab's even-heating hack: After pouring waffle batter over the hot grates, use a rubber spatula to gently (and quickly) distribute the batter evenly across the surface before closing the waffle maker's lid. You'll never have to eat a waffle with absent, sorry-looking edges again!
What we didn’t like: This is a big and bulky unit, making it a difficult fit in small spaces. Without a drip tray, there is potential for mess. (However, because it's a flip model, you need less batter to fill up the iron, so drips are also less likely.) There was some unevenness in cooking, with the edges browning a touch faster than the rest. The deep wells and fixed plates make cleanup difficult.
You can depend on the Breville the No Mess Waffle for thin crispy waffle rounds, one after another, after another. The other great thing about this brushed stainless-steel waffler is that it has a moat around the waffle grid that catches any excess batter so there’s never any runover on the counter or the machine itself making it truly no mess. It lights up and beeps when it’s hot enough for baking and again when your waffle is ready, but we wish the beeps were louder—they would be easy to miss in a noisy kitchen. After breakfast, you can latch the grids together and store it on its side to have more room to prep for the next meal.
What’s more reassuring is when you sit down to tuck-in and the waffles are still crisp and warm. In my experience, a moderately warm oven can be helpful in maintaining ultimate crispness, but only in small batches. Large batches can end up unappetizingly rock-hard because they can overcook from the heat of the oven. A better approach to all of this is to toss the freshly made waffles— one at a time— back and forth between your hands. This essentially helps release any steam and allows for divine crispness. However, for another approach to this, I’ve some more tips.
If you’re tight on space and money, the Black+Decker offers the most bang for your buck for thin, American-style waffles. It produces waffles that are thin and crunchy on the outside, with some chewiness on the inside; it makes four square waffles, with shallow wells, at a time; and its reversible plates and adjustable hinge convert it into a panini press for toasting thick sandwiches. The unit also opens up to lie completely flat as a griddle for eggs, pancakes, and more, making this a cheap all-in-one breakfast station. The plates are fully removable and dishwasher-safe for fast and easy cleanup.
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.