There are few comfort foods as beloved as waffles — and they are having a moment, as home chefs across the country are pairing them with unexpected (and delicious!) savory favorites from sautéed mushrooms to pulled pork. With the brunch staple soaring in popularity, waffle makers are flying off shelves. The only problem? They get so darn gunky! Luckily, there are easy ways to clean a waffle maker, no scrubbing required. Keep reading for expert tips on how to get it done fast.
Why waffle makers are notoriously difficult to clean
Anyone who’s used one knows the appliance is tricky to get spic n’ span. What exactly makes it such a challenge? “The heating plates on a waffle maker have deep pockets and crevices in which batter and other sticky ingredients accumulate,” explains cleaning specialist Muffetta Krueger of Muffetta’s Domestic Assistants. “Plus, heat from the cooking process causes food to harden and adhere to the surface of the plates, making particles difficult to scrape off.” Never fear! The first step to cleaning your waffle maker is pinpointing the material it’s made from.
To clean a cast iron waffle maker: Sprinkle on some salt
It’s renowned for its ability to hold onto heat — but cast iron can also hold onto baked-on crumbs. “Don’t worry! Cleaning it is actually quite simple,” assures Heather Quinlan, product manager for Hamilton Beach Brands, who specializes in waffle makers. Her easy how-to: First, use a soft, dry brush to lift loose particles from the plates. Next, dampen a sponge in warm water and wipe the surface, then sprinkle it with a bit of coarse-ground salt and use the sponge to gently scrub and dislodge cooked-on residue.
Once all traces of the waffle are removed, dry the plates completely to prevent rust. And to help thwart future gunk, consider this easy step: Pour 1 tsp. of olive oil onto a dry rag and rub it into the plates; let the waffle maker heat up again for about 15 minutes before letting it cool. This will seal and re-season the plates, ensuring the surface remains non-stick for when your brunch-time beckons next.
Tip! While using soap on cast iron is debatable, there is one thing all experts agree on: Don’t put cast iron in the dishwasher because it will cause the material to rust.
To clean a non-stick waffle maker: Apply a dot of dish soap
The easiest surface to clean is, of course, the non-stick variety, but there are still some best-practice methods to keep in mind: “Always allow the waffle maker to cool completely before cleaning it — not only is this safer, is also helps dislodge stuck-on food more easily,” explains Quinlan. “The non-stick surface may also be damaged if you try to apply cool water to the plates when they’re still hot.” Next, brush away excess crumbs and discard them. You can typically clean non-stick plates with regular dish soap and water: Just dampen a sponge and apply a tiny dot of soap — a little goes a long way.
Wipe the plates clean, then rinse and let dry. If the plates still have stubborn residue, apply a small amount of cooking oil — olive, vegetable, whatever you have on hand — and let it sit for a few minutes. Says Quinlan, “Oil attracts oil, so it will lift the residue right off the surface with a quick wipe. Follow up with another quick wash using soap and water, let it dry and you’re golden.”
Important note: Avoid using metal utensils or scrapers on non-stick waffle maker, as they can scratch the surface. If you nick any non-stick cooking surface — including your pots and pans — they need to be replaced since it means trace amounts of the non-stick material can now be absorbed by your food.
To clean a steel waffle maker: Try a baking soda paste
“Dish soap (and water) take care of regular messes on stainless steel,” says Krueger. But for stubborn residue, she advises adding water to 2 Tbs. baking soda until it forms a paste. “Apply it to the plates and use a damp sponge to quickly scrub the surface — the baking soda will do the majority of the work for you, but it’s gentle enough that it won’t scratch the steel.” When you’re done, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe off the paste; let dry completely before storing.
Tip! Allow extra pre-heating time for steel waffle makers. Because the metal is denser than others, it takes extra time to reach ideal temperature.
To clean an aluminum waffle maker: Spray on this combo
Since it heats up quickly, aluminum comes in clutch when you’re in a rush to fulfill a waffle craving — but it can prove tricky to clean. The solution: “Combine one part white vinegar or lemon juice with one part warm water, and about 1 Tbs. cream of tartar; rub it into the waffle maker using a clean cloth,” says Krueger. Both the vinegar and tartar are mildly acidic, so they will break down and lift residue. You can buff the plates with a little vegetable oil afterward — aluminum is best “seasoned” like cast iron to prevent food from sticking the next time you use it.
Tip! Like cast iron, aluminum is a no-go for the dishwasher, which will ruin the finish and discolor the material until it appears gray or black, so even if the plates are removable, it’s best to clean this one by hand.
How do you clean cheese from a waffle maker?
Savory waffles are one of the hottest trends right now, with folks cooking scallions, bacon, potatoes, ham — you name it! — right into the batter. One of the most popular ingredients for this style of waffle is cheese, which can create its own kind of cooking challenge.
“Cheese hardens when cooked too long on a surface like a waffle iron,” says Krueger. “If that’s what you’re dealing with, allow the waffle maker to cool, then use a plastic or silicone spatula to gently scrape off as much as possible. Soak a rag in a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water and let it sit on the plates to soak.” She explains that the acids in the vinegar help break down the fats in the cooked-on cheese, allowing it to be removed from plates easily after about 20 minutes.”
To prevent waffle makers from getting dirty in the first place
“Over the many waffles I’ve made for my young family, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about how to cook them,” says homemaker and family chef Sam Thomason, founder of Simple Everyday Mom. “First, let the waffle maker fully pre-heat — it likely will have a light or ringer to let you know when it’s ready. If you skip this step, when you go to apply the batter, the plates won’t be hot enough to seal the outside, which will lead to batter leaking everywhere.” She adds that a quick spray of non-stick cooking spray between batches keeps the plates from gumming up and minimizes baked-on crud. Last but not least: Give the unit a quick wipe-down with a damp rag every few waffles to stay ahead of residue accumulation.
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