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If you have a Ron Swanson mindset when it comes to breakfast, then it’s likely that you take your waffles very seriously. As far as kitchen appliances go, though, waffle makers are often an afterthought compared to blenders, mixers and toaster ovens — in reality, they can actually help you make quite a few dishes beyond waffles.
“Once you start looking at the waffle iron as more than a single-purpose appliance, the possibilities really grow,” said Daniel Shumski, a recipe developer and author of "Will It Waffle?” He pointed out several innovative ideas for the tool, including smorffles (waffle s’mores), waffled falafel and waffled chocolate chip cookies. Carla Contreras, a New Jersey-based chef and food stylist, agreed that “the possibilities are limitless,” and added that you can use the machine to make everything from hash browns and omelettes to quesadillas and mac and cheese.
To help give you some waffle wisdom, we asked experts about the features to look for in a waffle maker, plus got their recommendations for double-sided waffle makers, square waffle makers and more.
Waffle makers to consider in 2021
Below, we rounded up cooking experts' waffle maker picks for every type of chef.
Best waffle maker overall: Breville
According to Shumski, Breville makes some of the nicer waffle makers on the market. “They do heat very evenly and feature an excellent non-stick coating,” he said. However, Shumski warned that these kitchen appliances “do NOT come cheap,” so they may be better for bigger families or couples who plan on using their waffle maker often.
Best double-sided waffle maker: Cuisinart
Contreras uses this specific waffle iron at home with her family, and she loves that “you can make two [waffles] at a time” with it. “It also flips [and] creates round, Belgian-style waffles,” she noted. “Bonus: This beeps when it’s ready to cook.”
Best affordable waffle maker: Oster
If you aren’t looking to spend too much money on a waffle iron, Contreras said that this is a “simple and affordable” option worth considering. “I love the lights on the top and that you can adjust the temperature,” she said.
Best square waffle maker: Cuisinart
For those impartial to square-shaped waffles, Contreras recommended this waffle iron from Cuisinart that bakes four waffles at a time. “It has a light to let you know when it’s ready,” she noted. “You can adjust the temperature and it has non-stick grates.”
Best waffle maker for mini waffles: Nostalgia
If you’re short on space or have little ones who don’t finish their larger waffles, Contreras recommended this mini waffle maker, which is just 3.5 inches tall. According to the brand, the waffle iron heats up in 1 to 3 minutes and the light indicator turns off when it’s at the right temperature for cooking. It has a non-stick surface and makes 5-inch waffles.
How to shop for a waffle maker
All waffle makers serve the same basic purpose, but they aren’t all created equal. Below, experts highlighted some things to pay attention to during the shopping process.
Size and shape
Waffle makers can be round, square or even character-shaped. They can also be designed to make a different number of waffles, ranging from just one to as many as four at a time. There is no one ideal size or shape, however — as Shumski noted, this comes down to “personal preference.”
“It’s tricky because you’re probably going to own one waffle iron and that implicates a certain degree of commitment to a single size or shape. But don’t overthink it,” he advised. “Go for what appeals to you.” Contreras also said to keep in mind how much storage space you have as well as how many people you’ll be cooking for.
The experts we spoke to agreed that the most important thing to look for in a waffle maker is a non-stick coating, which makes the appliance easier to clean. However, Shumski warned that though “most waffle irons are going to have non-stick coatings, not all non-stick coatings are alike.” Some of the cheaper waffle makers, he said, “may disappoint in terms of the quality of the non-stick coating.”
Shumski also noted that it’s convenient to have a waffle maker with removable plates. “It’s not crucial, but it can help with clean-up if you’re doing some more adventurous waffling,” he noted. Some machines, like the All-Clad Stainless Steel Waffle Maker, even have removable plates that are dishwasher-safe.
If you have a large family or just prefer to get things done quickly, a double-sided waffle maker can be a good option. “I love my double-sided waffle iron for myself and my family,” Contreras said. This type of waffle maker cooks two waffles simultaneously, allowing you to essentially cut your cooking time in half.
How to care for a waffle iron
Waffle irons are relatively simple to care for: If the one you buy isn’t dishwasher-safe, you can most likely clean it with some soap and water. However, according to Contreras, there are other things you can do to avoid major messes and keep your iron in good shape:
- Don’t overfill your waffle maker with batter. “It makes a giant mess and it’s difficult to clean,” Contreras explained.
- Never use metal utensils to lift your waffle out of the iron. According to Contreras, these can “scratch the surface” of the waffle maker.
- Coat your waffle maker with oil or butter before cooking. “I alway make sure to spay with olive oil before cooking,” Contreras noted.