1. An evenly-distributed cooking system
Rather than just pressing the waffle batter down to cook, many modern waffle makers use a rotate-and-cook system where you flip the griddle 180-degree using a handle. This way, the battery is more evenly-distributed and cooks more evenly. You also don’t end up with holes in your waffle. Some waffle makers have beefed-up cooking systems like an Opti-Heat system (exclusive to Calphalon) that further ensures even cooking. The rotating type of waffle maker has several names, including flip-style, rotate-and-cook, rotary, or brand specific names like VillaWare’s Gravity-Flip.
2. The right pocket depth (classic vs Belgian)
The cooking plates on a waffle iron are very important since they determine the thickness of the waffle. You will notice that some makers are categorized as “traditional/classic” or “Belgian”. The difference is the thickness of the waffle that the waffle maker cooks; Belgian waffle makers have deeper cooking-plate pockets than traditional ones. Which one to choose depends on your personal preferences, if you like thick fluffy waffles go for a ‘Belgian’ one. Most waffle makers allow you to make at least two waffles at once, using dual cooking plates. Features like weighed lids help prevent waffles from rising too much, so this is definitely something to look for.
3. Temperature and control settings
For total control other waffle texture, color, and more, temperature and control settings are included on just about all waffle maker models in every price range. To control the browning level of your waffle, waffle makers have three to five settings ranging from light to dark, depending on your taste. With most makers, you also have the power to adjust the temperature, so you can make lighter, fluffier waffles or ones that are crispier. With control over temperature and coloring, you can make the perfect waffles every time, and they’ll be more versatile so you can make fluffy waffles for breakfast with fruit, or crispier ones that won’t get soggy when you add extras like ice cream.
4. Indicator lights and tones
Part of making the perfect waffle breakfast (or lunch, or dinner, or midnight snack) is knowing when the waffle maker is ready for batter, and when the waffle is cooked through. All waffle makers have at least either an indicator light or audio beep that lets you know when the waffle is preheated enough, and when your waffle is ready. The addition of the audio beep is useful because you aren’t necessarily babysitting the waffle maker, waiting for the light to go off. You will hear the beep if you’re a few feet away in another room. If your waffle maker is set to a specific browning setting, the light and tone will go off when that setting is reached. Some irons also include a countdown timer, so you can prepare other parts of your meal (like cutting fruit and so on) when the waffle is nearly ready.
5. Easy clean-up
Cleaning up a waffle maker is the least fun part of waffle-maker ownership, so most brands make it as easy and painless as possible. A non-stick interior is the foundation for convenient cleaning, as the batter doesn’t stick and have to be scraped out later. Non-stick surfaces are also easy to wipe clean, since you typically can’t submerge your waffle maker in water to soak. Drip trays are also common, and ensure that extra batter doesn’t get all over the countertop when it’s still raw and cooking.
6. Convenient weight
Waffle makers are relatively lightweight kitchen appliances, and many fit into storage vertically, so they don’t take up much space. The lighter irons can be as little as 5 pounds, which is great for for when you move or when you want to take your waffle maker with you on vacation. The heavier ones, which can make two waffles at once or are made of heavier metal, can weigh as much as 9-10 pounds.
7. A durable construction
Waffle makers should be made of durable metal since the unit is exposed to high heat. Inadequate metal will wear or warp over time. Some good materials of choice include brushed stainless steel, chrome, or even high-performance bronze. Stainless steel is probably the most popular because it isn’t super expensive and distributes heat evenly, which is crucial when cooking a waffle. For safety, cool-touch handles are an important feature.