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January/February 2016

Electric Waffle Makers (Waffle Irons)

We set a price cap of $100 and tested 13 irons, making batches of both a Belgian-style yeasted waffle batter and the batter for our everyday Cook's Illustrated Best Buttermilk Waffles in each machine.

Update: January, 2017
Cuisinart has terminated its Waring Pro line. Our winning Belgian waffle iron, the Waring Pro Double Belgian Waffle Maker (model WMK600), is now called the Cuisinart Double Belgian Waffle Maker (model WAF-F20B). We purchased the new model, tested it, and, despite a minor cosmetic change of the heat-control knob, its status has not changed; it remains our favorite.

How We Tested

Historians believe that the Belgian waffle was introduced to the United States by the Bel-Gem company at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Producing waffles that are taller than conventional waffles and have deeper pockets, the European import became wildly popular. 

Today’s market is glutted with Belgian waffle makers, so we decided it was time we found the best one. We focused on the newer, more prevalent flip- and rotary-style models, in which the machine either turns on a hinge or spins 180 degrees on a stand, but we also included several conventional stationary models. We set a price cap of $100 and tested 13 irons, making batches of both a Belgian-style yeasted waffle batter and the batter for our everyday Cook's Illustrated Best Buttermilk Waffles in each machine. We were looking for an iron that consistently produced tall, evenly browned waffles with crisp shells and moist crumbs without any trial and error on our part. We also looked at how easy the machines were to use, clean, and store. 

Belgian waffles are, by definition, tall, so we set the bar for waffle height at 1 inch—anything shorter and we docked points. In terms of cooking, very few of the irons were able to make waffles that were uniformly brown. Many of the irons heated unevenly or ran too hot or too cool, producing waffles that were variously wan, burnt, patchy, gummy, or dry. 

For insight into why some models performed better than others, we attached temperature probes to the irons’ interiors to analyze their heating cycles. The best irons maintained an average interior temperature between 400 and 435 degrees Fahrenheit at their recommended settings. Waffle makers that couldn’t get up to 400 turned out pale, floppy specimens no matter how long we let the waffles cook, while those that ran hotter than 435 degrees frequently overcooked their waffles, which resulted in a cardboard-like texture. 

Timing was an issue, too. Several models that functioned within the ideal temperature range still failed to make good waffles in a moderate period of time. Some irons quickly signaled that the waffle was done, yet the results were spongy, undercooked specimens. Others took too long: We subtracted points from any iron that took more than 5 minutes to make a waffle, as they tended to turn out leathery, stale-tasting waffles. Our recommended irons were able to regularly produce perfectly cooked waffles in 3 to 4 1/2 minutes.

We awarded bonus points to machines that had one or both of two special features: a good drip tray that contained crumbs and overflowing batter for quick cleanup, and audible and/or visual alerts that told us when our waffles were ready, which nixed the need for constant monitoring. By the end of our month of testing, we could have thatched a roof with the piles of subpar waffles the machines turned out. Eight out of the 13 models were so flawed we couldn’t recommend them at all, and we can only recommend three of the irons without any reservations. All our top performers were flip or rotary models. (Though their manufacturers made various claims as to why this design was best, we could unearth no reasonable scientific explanation that linked their superior browning and texture to this design.) Our winning iron made picture-perfect waffles, two at a time, in under 5 minutes. While it lacked a removable drip tray, it had a good, loud alert. At $90 and almost 10 pounds, it’s large and pricey, but it’s well worth the investment if you make Belgian waffles regularly. For those who want a cheaper or smaller alternative, the Presto Flipside, our Best Buy at about $45, is also a good choice.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.