I speak from experience: a few months ago, clear out of nowhere, I was struck by a need for homemade waffles. I had to have them—and because I live in New York City and expect immediate gratification, I proceeded directly to my local discount emporium and procured a plastic waffle iron—covered in a thin film of dust—for the sum of $16.99. Back home, I washed it and hastily set about mixing up a bowl of batter. Sadly, this story has a grim ending: even after the the requisite heating and greasing, pouring and griddling, the specimens that emerged from my iron were flabby and pale—hardly deserving of the name waffle and certainly a far cry from the feast of my dreamings.
First and foremost, you want a waffle maker that effectively and evenly cooks the batter. Electric waffle makers have heating elements on both sides, behind each grid, to aid in even cooking. Matt Maichel explained to us that these machines work by removing moisture from the batter via heat and surface area: “The dimples create more surface area; the more surface area, the more quickly the waffle can cook.” He added, “If steam doesn’t escape properly from the device, then you won’t get a good waffle.”
We couldn’t find any editorial reviews of this Hamilton Beach model, but at the time of our research it had a good rating on Amazon. Some reviews complain of a flimsy locking mechanism, but for occasional use we still think this model is a great buy. At around $20 (at the time of writing), it’s less than half the price of our top pick, and even cheaper than our other budget pick.
Bella's rotating waffle maker bakes one round traditional waffle in less than 3 minutes, making it one of the quickest-to-cook models we tested. It received near top performance scores amongst traditional waffle makers tested, producing perfectly tender waffles from both a mix and from scratch and evenly browned 'em, too. Little ones helping cook breakfast will love flipping the waffle maker over after you add the batter. 
Update. Two months later? All great except for the most crucial role of a waffle iron. The bottom plate no longer heats. At All. Zippo. Warranty out. Choices? Heat waffle iron until indicator light goes out. Pour in half usual amount of batter. Let cook for 17 minutes. Open lid. Flip waffle. Close lid until cooked. Or? Trash can and curses upon ATROCIOUS Presto Belgian waffle iron.
Just as important, nonstick surfaces are significantly easier to clean. This also means the waffle iron will last much longer, since you won’t be scratching the iron trying to clean it out. Many experts suggest using some kind of oil (be it butter or something veggie-based like a spray) to help release your waffle from the iron, but even after a few years of testing our non-stick coatings have held up well and we wouldn’t say that oil is necessary. A little bit of butter is very nice, though, and gives some extra crispiness.
After spending 35 hours making (and eating) waffles with eight of the most popular and highly rated models on the market, we determined the BELLA – 13591 Classic Rotating Belgian Waffle Maker is the best waffle maker for consumers. This model quickly and consistently produced the best-tasting waffles, evenly cooked every time and with good control over browning. For a compact option, we like the Cuisinart – Round Classic.
Although we included one cast aluminum stovetop waffle maker, we decided to eliminate cast iron models, because seasoning the material added another layer of complexity to use and care. In addition, we were interested in testing a waffle maker with interchangeable plates (one that could also serve as a grill or panini press, for example), but the particular model we had our eye on, the T-fal EZ Clean Sandwich and Waffle Maker, has been discontinued, and in a later conversation with Matt Maichel, he confirmed that a device dedicated solely to waffle making works better than one that multitasks.

For the second round of waffle testing, we used Stella’s overnight yeasted waffle batter. Although this batter also relies on steam to power the rise, the fermentation by the yeast fills the batter with air bubbles even before the creation of steam, so it gets a one-two punch of leavening. This batter was thicker than the buttermilk batter due to the air bubbles it contained, which meant there was no difference between waffles made in a flip waffle maker and those made in a non-flip unit. The same irons that performed poorly due to inadequate heating in the previous test fell short here as well, but with less dramatic results, because steam isn’t the only leavening agent in this batter.

This is a true Belgian waffle maker. Beautifully thick and evenly cooked waffles produced every time. There are 7 browning settings, beeping alerts and lights, a locking handle, and it even comes with a recipe booklet. The nonstick coating and removable drip tray allow for easy cleanup. And the highly polished stainless steel body ain’t that bad to look at either.

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