A waffle maker isn't just a kitchen appliance—it's a wish-granter. You know the fantasy: Sunday. You awaken to the sweet scent of butter and freshly brewed coffee wafting through your home. Tiptoe to the kitchen. There's your honey at the counter and a stack of perfectly golden waffles, still steaming from the iron. You pile on the maple syrup, dig in, and then go back for more. You stay in your pajamas all day and pretend you run your own diner.
Of course, it's a waffle iron that makes it all possible. And while the same machine may spend the other 51 Sundays a year wedged in the back of your cabinet, when that craving strikes, it better be ready for the big leagues. Because if you're going to go through the motions—the ceremony!—of making homemade waffles, why bother with mediocre results? If that's what you wanted, you could just defrost some frozen ones.
In 2018, we rounded up seven well-regarded waffle makers in a range of styles and price points and headed into the kitchen. Many, many batches of batter and "test bites" later, we determined that the All-Clad Belgian Waffle Maker blew the rest of the competition away, and the Krups 4-Slice Belgian Waffle Maker was the best budget alternative. To update our review in 2020, we tested two more high-end options: the Cuisinart Double Belgian Waffle Maker and the Breville Smart Waffle Pro 4 Slice. We also tested two additional budget models: the Presto Flipside Belgian Waffle Maker and the Chefman Anti-Overflow Belgian Waffle Maker, to see how they measured up to the reigning choices.
Read on for why we stuck with All-Clad as our luxury choice, and why one of the new affordable picks won us over.
THE BEST WAFFLE MAKERS
The Gold Standard: All-Clad Stainless Steel 4-Square Belgian Waffle Maker
Before beginning these tests, we'd heard buzz that the All-Clad Belgian Waffle Iron was the Cadillac of waffle makers—a hulking, shiny, stainless steel behemoth capable of turning out batch after batch of five-star hotel-buffet-quality waffles. Given that it came at a gulp-inducing price tag of $200, we were also very skeptical. In our initial 2018 test, none of the other machines we tested even came close to delivering the same level of quality and consistency. This year, after a retest, we remained big fans, but we were a little more critical of some of its drawbacks.
First off, the build: This thing is a tank. Made of the same 18/10 stainless as All-Clad's prized cookware, the 4-square model we tested weighs in at about 14 pounds, so lifting it will give you a nice little bicep workout to offset all that maple syrup. (A smaller, slightly less expensive 2-square model is also available; it weighs closer to 10 pounds.) That said, the exterior dimensions are not considerably larger than other 4-square models on our list (in fact, it was smaller than some)—so, though heavy, the All-Clad doesn't seem like it would take up appreciably more storage space. Regardless, this waffle maker might make more sense for someone with a permanent spot for it on their countertop, as storing it is still very cumbersome.
As for extra features, there's a small clip-on tray attached to the rear of the waffle maker to catch any errant drips (it really works), and a sturdy dial that allows you to adjust your browning preferences on a scale of 1-7, one being the lightest and seven being the darkest. A lighted indicator and pleasant chime let you know when your waffles are done cooking. The locking lid is solid and the handle feels great in your hand. The interior heats up evenly and is generously proportioned to produce 1-inch thick waffles with deep, crisp wells. While the nonstick surface requires no greasing and releases the waffles with ease, the plates are not removable, so it can still be a hassle to clean. Epi editor Maggie Hoffman, who has the same All-Clad waffle maker at home, says that her biggest frustration with it has been how difficult it is to clean.
The 4-square model allows you to feed a family in one fell swoop. Every batch of waffles comes out tall and airy, uniformly cooked on both sides, crisp and golden on the outside, moist and tender on the inside. And judging by the reactions of customers on Amazon who call this the "best waffle maker on the planet" and report that "the results are perfect every time," our outcomes were not a fluke. We did, however, notice this time around that making only one or two waffles at a time, instead of filling all four waffle segments in the plate, throws off the machine's ability to sense overall doneness; our half batches came out a little underdone and unevenly cooked.
When it came to waffles themselves, the All-Clad's waffles still won over pretty much everyone in the blind taste test thanks to their superior craggly, crispy texture on the outside and pillowy interior, and thus we stand by our initial recommendation. However, we realize that its price tag, heft, and resistance to easy clean-up make it a prohibitive choice for many, which is why we are also fond of the Presto. Read about it below.
An Excellent Budget Alternative: Presto Flipside Belgian Waffle Maker
In 2018, we picked the Krups 4-Slice as our budget winner thanks to its easy-to-clean removable plates, but found that it produced inconsistent waffles, sometimes sending out unevenly-cooked guys. We were pleased this year to find a budget waffle maker that not only outperformed Krups both in price and waffle quality, but that even gave the All-Clad a run for its money. That machine is the Presto Flipside Belgian Waffle Maker.
The Presto represents an anomaly in waffle-maker design. Two folding sides are anchored together at the bottom by a plastic hinge. On top of the round waffle plates, there's an ergonomic plastic handle. Fill the waffle maker, close the two sides together, and then use the handle to flip the main body, which rotates via that anchoring hinge at the bottom, 180 degrees. Many high-end waffle machines can also flip, but the Presto's novel design means it's far more compact than other models. The Presto has a narrow profile and it can stand upright when it's not in use, making it easy to store in a narrow cupboard alongside, say, cutting boards or sheet pans.
While the All-Clad senses the doneness of your waffles automatically and alerts you with a beep, the Presto asks you to take a little more ownership over your waffle's cook time. There's a timer on the base, which you set yourself depending on your waffle crispness preferences. We found this design to be pleasantly straightforward, and loved that it allowed you to more easily control the doneness of your waffle. The instructions recommend a four-minute cook time, but we suggest cooking the waffles for five minutes.
Epi staffers who tasted the Presto's waffles described them as "fluffy, but still nice and crisp along the edges," and appreciated their deep wells, which could "hold maximum syrup and butter." Every waffle we made with the Presto came out evenly-cooked on both sides, a rarity for cheaper waffle makers. While the waffle maker is made of comparatively cheaper materials and undoubtedly less durable than the more expensive All-Clad, it's priced at a very reasonable $50. The Presto also only makes one waffle at a time, while the All-Clad cooks waffles in batches of four—regardless of the price consideration, this is a better waffle maker for people cooking waffles in smaller batches, for one or two people, while the All-Clad is great for feeding a whole family or a big brunch party. If you have a small kitchen and want a single-waffle machine, the Presto Flipside is perhaps the only waffle maker we tested that is simultaneously affordable, space-conscious, and actually capable of making good waffles.
How We Tested
Criteria for an ideal waffle are somewhat subjective: Some of us like our waffles crunchy on the outside but fluffy in the center, others prefer a purely crispy waffle, and still others like a blond, purely fluffy waffle. Still, some technical standards are pretty universally accepted, and those were what we focused on during our test. A good waffle iron should heat evenly and cook batter consistently from top to bottom and side to side without burnt spots or raw patches. It should allow enough steam to escape during the cooking process to produce waffles that are structurally firm and not soggy. It should also be reliable, repeating the same results batch after batch.
There are millions of recipes for waffles, but most batters fall into two distinct categories: yeast-raised (more commonly used for thicker Belgian-style waffles) and baking powder-leavened (also called "American"; think Bisquick and the like). That said, you can use yeast-raised batter in American-style waffle makers and American-style batter in Belgian-style waffle makers (though the texture and shape will, of course, will be dependent on the waffle maker). Our lineup of contenders included both Belgian- and American-style machines. We tested all of the machines using this buttermilk waffle recipe.
Factors We Evaluated
1. Does the waffle maker feel sturdy and well-built? Is it unnecessarily large or clunky?
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?
2. Does it heat the batter consistently? Do the waffles come out evenly cooked with crispy exteriors and tender centers?
A good waffle is a thing of beauty. On the other hand, a limp, floppy waffle—or a waffle with burnt patches and pale, raw spots, feels like a crime against breakfast. We paid close attention to consistency and even-waffling ability, subtracting points for poor or unreliable performance.
3. Does it have a non-stick surface and, if so, does it work?
These days, lots waffle irons have non-stick surfaces—a convenience that can greatly reduce prep (no greasing necessary!) and simplify cleanup. We kept an eye on how well the surfaces worked and if they easily released waffles after cooking.
4. Does it offer any nice extras?
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.
5. Is it easy to clean?
Batter is messy stuff, and all those nooks and crannies in a waffle iron can be tough to get clean, so any model that made the task easier—whether it be with attachments to catch wayward drips and spills or with dishwasher-safe plates—got a plus in our book.
Other Waffle Makers We Tested
There's no easy way to say this: The real revelation of this test was just how mediocre most waffle irons are. But at least they were consistent in the ways in which they were mediocre! Far and away, the most common problem was one of uneven cooking, or what we like to call the "two-face" effect: waffles that emerged from the iron evenly browned on one side but pale and doughy on the other. It is not a good look.
Beyond that, we liked the very compact size (perfect for tiny apartment dwellers!) and modest price of the Hamilton Beach 2-Slice Belgian Waffle Maker. As usual, we were won over by the solid body and smartly designed drip-catching "moat" on the Breville No-Mess Waffle Maker , but at $128 we felt the imperfect performance couldn't justify the considerable price. The Chef's Choice Waffle Maker Pro looked very promising, with a generous size, sturdy build, and dials that allow you to adjust doneness and set waffle preference ("crisp and moist" or "uniform texture"), but the execution didn't live up to the promises. Finally, the top-loading design of the Cuisinart Vertical Waffle Maker seemed like a cool innovation, but in practice the results were underwhelming. And no matter what the setting, the waffles from the Cuisinart Classic Round Waffle Maker were the floppiest of the bunch.
For the retest, we thought the Cuisinart Double Belgian Waffle Maker was a little too fussy to operate, and it churned out waffles that paled in comparison to other high-end options. The Breville Smart Waffle Pro 4 Slice is probably as deluxe and automated as a waffle maker gets, but it was also by far the bulkiest machine we tested. Also, our taste-testers found the waffles to be a tad too shallow; the All-Clad produced waffles that were a superior texture. As for the budget picks, Chefman Anti-Overflow Belgian Waffle Maker actually overflowed quite a bit, and was flimsily constructed. This time around, our former budget winner, the Krups 4-Slice was just too inconsistent; some of the waffles we made in it were unevenly cooked.
In the pantheon of waffle irons, the All-Clad Belgian Waffle Maker is the undisputed queen for waffle aficionados, but with that crown comes a hefty price tag and some serious demands for kitchen space. If you're looking for a more budget-friendly but still worthwhile alternative, the Presto Flipside will give you crispy, fluffy Sunday morning carbs that are the perfect vehicle for a hearty layer of butter and syrup.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious