After putting in a total of 40 hours of research, talking with four experts, and testing 15 models, we highly recommend the $50 Proctor Silex Belgian Style Waffle Maker for most people. It consistently delivers perfect-looking, crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside waffles, no matter what kind of batter you use. The Proctor Silex’s nonstick grid releases waffles better than most other models do, and the slide control allows for the best range of browning, with an accurate light indicator that lets you know exactly when waffles are done. The versatile four-waffle size can feed large or small crowds (it takes four to five minutes to make four waffles, easily servicing a family of four), and the machine costs about the same as smaller ones that produce just one to two waffles at a time. About the size of two stacked textbooks, the Proctor Silex can easily be stored vertically or horizontally. While its cheaper materials make it feel less sturdy than other models, we think it will serve very well for occasional waffle making.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $50.
After we published our first waffle maker guide in 2014, our top picks became unavailable—one was discontinued while the other sold out—so we decided to look for new models. For this update, we interviewed three pro chefs and a cookbook author, and tested 10 models with a seven-person tasting panel.
If our main pick sells out, we also like the Chef’s Choice WafflePro Express 840B, our former top pick, which performs just as well as the Proctor Silex—but only with thick batter, which makes it less flexible in practice. It also costs considerably more than our current top pick. But for the extra money, you get a sturdier build and an alarm that goes off when your waffle is ready.
Our budget pick, the Cuisinart Round Classic Waffle Maker, makes consistently excellent waffles and its compact design is perfect for small spaces. It produces only one round, thin waffle at a time (even smaller than our runner-up), so this is only a good choice for those who don’t need a high-volume waffle maker. The Cuisinart’s hardware is also cheaper feeling than our other picks.
I’ve worked in the food industry—with stints in a restaurant kitchen, cookware retail, and chocolate making—since 2002. I’m the managing editor of the print quarterly The Art of Eating and have written for that magazine as well as Saveur, Condé Nast Traveler, Feast, Jamie, and Tasting Table, among other publications.
For this guide, we interviewed Daniel Shumski, author of the blog and cookbook Will It Waffle?; J. Kenji-Lopez Alt, culinary director of Serious Eats; Tim Kemp, culinary manager of home cooking delivery service Blue Apron; and Matt Maichel, chef-owner of the catering company Waffle Which Way. Between them, they have made many thousands of waffles and other waffled items over the years and have used upwards of a dozen waffle makers.
Waffle makers range widely in terms of quality and features, not to mention in the actual waffles they produce. Opinions on what exactly constitutes a great waffle vary enormously from person to person. Some want them brown and crispy, others like them softer and fluffier. We set out to find the model that could make the most broadly appealing waffles with the least hassle.
First and foremost, you want a maker that effectively and evenly cooks the batter. Electric waffle makers have heating elements on both sides, behind each grid, to aid in even cooking. Matt Maichel explained that these machines work by removing moisture from the batter via heat and surface area: “The dimples create more surface area; the more surface area, the more quickly the waffle can cook.” He added, “If steam doesn’t escape properly from the device, then you won’t get a good waffle.”
Belgian and American waffles differ in size and thickness, which means you can’t use one waffle iron to make both kinds. Belgian waffles are taller—1 to 1.5 inches thick—and have deeper wells than their thinner American cousins. Traditionally, they’re also made with a different batter. Kathleen Purvis wrote in the Seattle Times, “Most Belgian waffle batters are yeast-based, to get that crispy texture,” but you can certainly put yeast-raised batter in a regular waffle maker (as we did in our tests). Likewise, you can put regular old Bisquick, baking powder-leavened batter, or even pancake batter in a Belgian-style waffle maker. They’ll just have a different texture and flavor than those made with yeasted Belgian waffle batter. Any kind can be crispy, depending, as Maichel said, on the recipe you use and how hot the maker gets: “The more oil [or fat] in your recipe, the higher the temperature you cook it at, the crispier your waffle will be.”
A machine should be able to switch between different browning levels easily. That way, you can make dark waffles for Aunt Mary and superlight, barely browned waffles for your weird cousin.
Nonstick plates are a common feature on waffle makers these days, and they make the baking process and clean-up much less painful—especially if they don’t require repeated greasing.
Since it is a single-purpose kitchen item (though Will It Waffle? author Daniel Shumski and others are doing their best to change that), it should be small enough to store easily. That means no flip waffle makers, which easily take up twice the space. Don’t worry, though—you aren’t missing much. We did test a few flip models and found them to be no easier to use (and with worse results) than standard countertop models. “The reason flip models are designed that way,” Maichel said, “is because gravity causes the batter to fall on the bottom plate, and you flip to mitigate temperature loss by putting some of the uncooked material on what was initially the top plate.” He doesn’t use any flip models because he doesn’t find that that feature actually improves cooking. Interestingly, we did find other pros prefer flip models. Lopez-Alt expressed a strong preference for flippers, though his favorite is the stovetop variety that you manually flip. He said, “It makes getting the waffle out easier, especially if you’re doing sticky things. I rely on gravity.” We think it takes practice and experience to get a good feel for how to get the best results from flip models, so for most people, we don’t think they’re worth all the extra space they take up.
Additional features might include: an audible or visual indicator, which chimes or lights up when the model is ready to cook or when the waffle is done; cord storage; locking handles, especially for models that can store upright as well as flat; or a measuring cup for dispensing batter (though we didn’t find these very useful in our tests).
To find our original winner, we evaluated top-rated waffle makers from America’s Test Kitchen, Good Housekeeping, and food blogs and websites like The Kitchn, in addition to the best sellers on Amazon. For this update, we started with the available winners from our original guide and looked for new competitors. We eliminated anything that cost $100 or more, since there’s no use in paying a lot for such a single-purpose, occasional use machine. We also passed on anything with a higher-than-average rate of complaints about failures or overheating.
While we included one cast aluminum stovetop waffle maker, we decided to eliminate cast iron models because seasoning the material added another layer of complexity to use and care. We were interested in testing a waffle maker with interchangeable plates (one that could also be used as a grill or panini press, for example), but the model we were interested in, the T-Fal EZ Clean Sandwich and Waffle Maker has been discontinued, and in a later conversation with Maichel, he confirmed that a device dedicated solely to waffle making works better than one that multitasks. That left us with 10 finalists.
To test them, we assembled a panel of seven tasters. We made at least two rounds of Bisquick and one round of yeast-raised waffles in each model. Rather than judge the time it took for the machines to heat up and cook, we focused on simply how good a waffle each maker produced. At first we followed the indicators to tell us when the waffles were done, and if there was no indicator, we waited for the waffle maker to stop steaming, as Maichel suggested. We allowed for flexibility in cooking time, so if one needed more time, we would shut the lid and let them cook a little longer.
Whether you prefer paler, more tender waffles or browner, crunchier ones, even cooking is the most important consideration. Waffles that came out blotchy and limp or burned in spots and light in others were grounds for dismissal.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $50.
The Proctor Silex Belgian Style Waffle Maker ($50) is the best waffle maker we’ve found because it reliably produces delicious, crisp-tender, evenly-browned waffles. The nonstick grid was the most effective of the models we tested, releasing waffles easily without extra oiling. At four waffles per batch, it’s a great size for serving either small or large groups. Because it takes only four to five minutes to make a batch of four, you could easily feed a family of four with this waffle maker (or just serve a couple of folks, if that’s your thing). The browning control offers better doneness precision than many other models, and a helpful light indicator let us know exactly when waffles were done. The Proctor Silex’s compact design also makes it convenient to use and store.
Waffles from this Proctor Silex maker hit the sweet spot ratio of tender crumb to crisp exterior, with consistent browning throughout. In comparison, the Calphalon No-Peek (our original pick for large groups), produced blotchy and limp waffles. The Oster DuraCeramic, a flip model, made waffles that were thicker, but also unpleasantly dry inside. The Proctor Silex’s even browning made for some of the best-looking waffles, with a texture and flavor all of our tasters rated highly. The thicker walls of the Proctor Silex waffles held up better to syrup than the thinner waffles from our runner-up, the Chef’s Choice WafflePro Classic, and our budget pick, the Cuisinart Round Classic.
One of the most important attributes of a waffle maker is how well its nonstick coating works. Getting the waffles out of the Proctor Silex was a snap with silicone tongs or chopsticks, even if the machine’s handles required a little gentle prying apart. The manual for the Proctor Silex recommends greasing the plates before the first use only, and we found that we never needed to oil them for subsequent batches. Once we were done baking waffles, it was simple to wipe down the plates with a soapy cloth or paper towel and then follow up with just a moistened one. Lesser nonstick surfaces, like the Presto FlipSide’s, were a nightmare; all the extra oiling required makes them enormously inconvenient to use, and even a light oiling didn’t prevent the first batch from cementing to the plates.
Because the Proctor Silex makes four 4- by 5-inch, 1-inch-thick square waffles at a time, it’s very efficient for feeding a large group. But its shape also works for feeding just one or two people. As Will It Waffle? author Shumski pointed out, “You can always make four at a time if you want, or you could make fewer, or you could make four, freeze two.” Neither our runner-up nor budget pick has that option.
The Proctor Silex has a slider for browning that runs from MIN to MAX. While there are no discrete settings, the dial does allow you a good deal of control over the result, so that you can make your waffles as light or dark as you want them. Using an infrared thermometer, I found that at the MIN setting, the plates were about 340℉, and about 390℉ at MAX, which provided a solid, edible range from barely golden (but not limp) to deeply tanned (but not burned). Compare that to the Chef’s Choice WafflePro Classic, which reached about 420℉ at its highest setting, burning the thin waffles.
We found the light indicator on our top pick sufficient for letting us know when the waffles were done. While a beep or chime would be helpful—especially if you’re busy frying up bacon or mixing Bloody Marys—sometimes we couldn’t even hear the models that beeped when done. And the Proctor Silex’s light indicator, which switches once the waffle maker has reached the right temperature, was far more helpful for accurate cooking than models that had nothing at all to tell you when they were adequately heated or when the waffles were ready. None of the models we looked at have an auto-shutoff feature, so they all ultimately require a little bit of attention.
Unlike large flip machines, which are heavy and hard to store, the Proctor Silex is fairly small, taking up about 1 square foot of counter space and 5 inches of vertical space when flat. It locks closed, so it can be stored horizontally or vertically. In contrast, the flip models are bulky and unwieldy; the tallest of them is more than a foot long and nearly a foot tall, making it impractical to store in many home kitchens.
None of the waffle makers we tested was particularly difficult to use (as long as we followed the manual’s instructions), but the Proctor Silex was one of the easiest. Even a kid could operate it. The metal body does get hot while cooking, but this was true of all the models we tested. The Proctor Silex vents steam from the back (like many of the models). Using an infrared thermometer, I found that this area was 235℉ at one point during testing. The heat-proof plastic handle is located in the front and separated from the main body, so steam is less likely to burn your hand.
The Proctor Silex has a limited one-year warranty.
There haven’t been any editorial reviews of this Proctor Silex model yet. We chose to test it based on strong user reviews and because our original pick was also from Proctor Silex. Thirteen reviewers on Amazon gave our new winner 4 stars out of 5, and the main complaint is that the plates are not removable and therefore difficult to clean—which is the case for all but the stovetop model we tested.
Cooked waffles had a tendency to keep the bottom and top halves of the maker a little stuck together so that you had to use both hands to gently pry them apart, but it wasn’t enough of an issue to be a dealbreaker.
The browning setting does not have discrete levels, which may be a little less intuitive for some users than a numbered dial.
We did find this model less sturdily built than some others in our testing—it feels lightweight and less sleek in comparison to some of the more expensive models we looked at—but for the price and performance we think it will serve well for occasional waffle making.
It’s been six months since I made my initial picks, and since then, I’ve continued to use the Proctor Silex Belgian Style Waffle Maker every few weeks or so and have found that it’s held up to continued use. Not only does it still consistently turn out great-looking and great-tasting waffles, but the nonstick grid remains easy to clean.
If you can’t find the Proctor Silex, we recommend turning to the Chef’s Choice WafflePro Express 840B, which makes a substantial, deep-pocketed, Belgian-style round waffle. It was the top pick in our original guide, for good reason: It bakes waffles evenly to a wide range of doneness levels (with some exceptions; see below), plus it has an alarm to alert you when the plates are sufficiently heated and the waffle is ready. However, it has a couple of minor drawbacks, which dropped it to the number two slot.
Unlike the Proctor Silex, the Chef’s Choice 840B does not handle thin batter well—in fact, the manual explicitly states, “A thicker batter that pours slowly works best.” This model did a great job with Bisquick batter, turning out perfectly cooked waffles every time, but with our favorite yeasted batter it produced blotchy, limp, flat, and soggy waffles. So the Proctor Silex is the winner in terms of versatility.
Currently the Chef’s Choice is also about 30 percent more expensive (the MSRP even more) than the Proctor Silex, but this extra amount might be worth paying if you don’t want to have to keep an eye on your waffle maker. The Chef’s Choice manual urges you to forget the conventional wisdom that a waffle is done when it stops steaming and to rely solely on the appliance’s alarm, and our testing bore out this claim: We didn’t have to check on the waffles at all. That said, we don’t mind being a little more hands-on in our waffle making, so we’re fine paying substantially less money for the Proctor Silex and paying a little more attention.
Good Housekeeping named the Chef’s Choice WafflePro Express 840B its top pick for Belgian waffle makers and gave it a score of 4½ out of five stars, noting, “While it’s priced on the high side, it comes with lots of special features like the ability to fine tune your waffle to your taste.”
If you prefer a crunchy traditional waffle but are looking for something cheaper and smaller than the Proctor Silex or Chef’s Choice WafflePro Classic, pick up the $30 Cuisinart Round Classic Waffle Maker. Since it makes only a single 6.5-inch-diameter, ½-inch-thick round waffle, it’s not great for feeding a crowd.
Like the runner-up Chef’s Choice, the Cuisinart has a slider for browning control with discrete settings (five in this case), which in theory makes it easier to manipulate the waffle to your liking. In practice, this model had a lot of play in the dial, making it difficult to tell where the slider was exactly.
The Cuisinart also feels remarkably flimsy, especially compared with the Proctor Silex and Chef’s Choice. In addition to the imprecise browning dial, the lid also wiggles from side to side. We noted some flash—excess bits of plastic from leaks in injection molding—on the slider, an indication of lackluster quality control.
More than one of our tasters declared this “the perfect waffle.” And it truly excels at creating consistently thin, crunchy waffles. Those waffles were not quite as perfect looking as those made by the Proctor Silex or Chef’s Choice, since the plate made a browner circle in the center of the waffle. It was just an aesthetic issue, however: The waffles were just as crisp and delicious at the paler outer edge as in the center.
In our testing for the original guide, we noted that the Cuisinart suffered from a steam ventilation problem, where the steam accumulates on the handles, making them tremendously, painfully hot to the touch. We did not find this to be an issue in testing for the update (which we performed on a different unit).
While both the Proctor Silex and Chef’s Choice waffle makers come with one-year warranties, the Cuisinart comes with a three-year warranty.
Good Housekeeping gave this model an A- and said this model “proves you don’t have to pay a lot to get beautifully browned and tender, yet crispy waffles.” This Cuisinart waffle maker is also well liked on Amazon, with a rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars across 1,758 reviews.
Before the first use, most waffle makers recommend oiling the grids with a paper towel or spray bottle (like PAM). Be sure to discard the first waffle batch, which can absorb some unpleasant oiliness, but after that, you shouldn’t need to oil the plates again (although our experts generally do).
The experts we spoke to offered some advice on how to get the best performance out of your waffle maker.
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats said, “I always butter or oil [the plates] first. And just like when you’re using a regular pan, the most important thing is to make sure it’s preheated properly or else it’s going to stick.”
Waffle sandwich caterer Matt Maichel, who also greases the plates before each use, had specific batter advice. “You should take your dough out of the fridge to come to room temp, or it will not cook as well,” he said. And “the trick to filling is, find a batter that you like; the viscosity determines how much goes [on the plates]. Thicker stuff doesn’t spread out as well, so you might have to help it.” (We found in testing that a spatula or the back of a ladle worked well for this.) “You use the least amount of really thin batter because it goes all over the place.”
Even if a maker doesn’t have a light indicator or chime, you’ll usually know waffles are done when steam stops rising from the machine.
“For getting the waffles out,” Maichel said, “a wooden chopstick is good because you can get it under there. Don’t use any metal … if [the plate] gets scratched, it’ll turn into a sticky spot.” In testing, we found that chopsticks were also useful for scraping out burned bits that got stuck in the Presto FlipSide, and tongs with silicone or nylon heads worked well for removing waffles, too.
If you’re not serving the waffles as soon they come out, it pays to take a little extra care with them. As Maichel told us, when they cool down, the steam inside condenses and makes the waffles soggy—especially if you let them sit around on a plate at room temperature. “I’ll put it on paper towels on a cookie rack. Or I’ll put them in the oven,” Maichel said. If you need to make waffles in quantity and keep them warm, you can put them on a sheet tray in a low oven (200°F) until you’re ready to serve them.
The Chef’s Choice WafflePro Classic 852 ($50) was our former runner-up when the Chef’s Choice 840B was unavailable. Although this model was an initial favorite in our testing, with tasters praising its waffles’ consistency and crunch, it makes only two thin, American-style waffles at a time, while the Proctor Silex makes four. We also found that this model had a tendency to burn waffles when the dial was on the highest setting, whereas the Proctor Silex did not.
The four-waffle Chef’s Choice WafflePro Classic 854 ($80) made waffles that were just as evenly browned and attractive looking as those of the two-waffle version. And in addition to browning controls, this model also has a switch for fast baking (crisp exterior, moist interior) or slow (crunchy, uniform texture). However, the waffles it made did not distinguish themselves enough to warrant the much higher price tag—for about $30 less, the Proctor Silex can produce just as many excellent waffles.
The Cuisinart 4-Slice Belgian Waffle Maker ($60) looks and feels high quality, but it cooked waffles unevenly, burning some parts and leaving others unappealingly pale. While our top pick, the Proctor Silex, made crisp, tender waffles out of Bisquick batter, the waffles this model made were mealy inside.
The Calphalon No-Peek Waffle Maker ($90) made blotchy and limp waffles. While it feels more high end than many of the other models we tested, it also costs twice as much as many of them. Plus, it’s a batter hog.
The only non-Teflon nonstick model we tried, the Oster DuraCeramic Stainless Steel Flip Waffle Maker ($40) further confirmed our findings from the original guide: Flip models do not make up for in performance what they take up in volume.
The Oster made the most substantial waffles among the waffle makers we tested. About 1.25 inches thick, they looked like the kind you would get at a hotel brunch, puffy and evenly browned all over. Unfortunately, they were a bit dry and cakey, and none of the tasters liked them very much. The two sides cook very quickly and then the waffle steams from the middle, creating a pronounced pale crevice where the waffle can be broken apart easily (good for sandwiches?).
The Oster was not user-friendly, though. It was difficult to gauge when to flip the waffle, and the indicator light and dials weren’t intuitive. A few Amazon reviewers also had these issues. Others complained that the nonstick stopped working in just a few months and that there were other problems with build quality.
We looked at one stovetop model, the nonstick-coated cast-aluminum Nordic Ware Original Stovetop Belgian Waffle Maker ($50). I was able to produce evenly browned, light, and crisp waffles the very first time I used it. The second time I used it was on an unfamiliar stove, and the resultant waffles were a wreck—way underdone, falling apart, inedible. But the third round yielded excellent, picture-perfect specimens. We ultimately cut it because the iron depends too much on the cook’s attention and experience to yield consistently great results. Professional and seasoned home cooks may prefer the great degree of control the Nordic Ware allows, and if you know your stove well, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt pointed out, you can compensate for hot and cool spots. It’s also the easiest to clean, he said, since you can just throw it in the sink when you’re done. None of the other waffle makers can go in the sink or be sprayed.
The Proctor Silex Mess Free Belgian Style Waffle Maker ($30) has features in common with our top pick, such as browning controls and indicator lights, but we had a much tougher time getting it to produce a decent waffle. The first batch was deemed soggy, and one tester said, “It’s not enough of a step up from Eggo—I’d rather have Eggo.” In a subsequent batch, half the waffle cooked much faster than the other, which meant that the former was overly brown while the latter remained pale and limp. We didn’t find that the included batter scoop helped; in fact, the suggested amount seemed too little when we used the Bisquick batter.
After two disastrous batches with the Presto FlipSide ($40)—first we didn’t oil the plate enough, then we forgot to oil it at all—which required us to laboriously scrape burned chunks of waffle batter out of the wells, we decided that nonstick waffle makers were the way to go. The other problem with this model is that it takes up a lot of counter space when in use. Unlike other flip models that rotate compactly about an axis like a spit, the FlipSide is hinged on one end and turned like the covers of a book, so its footprint is twice that of other models (or else you need to constantly move stuff aside to flip it). We did like the timer and wish more inexpensive models had one.
For our original guide, we also tested the following:
The Waring Pro WMK600 Double Waffle Maker ($90) has great reviews on Amazon, but in real life, we found it hogged space and power. It’s incredibly bulky, made the lights in the kitchen flicker, and its waffles aren’t anything spectacular.
While the VillaWare Belgian Flip Waffle Maker ($70) was a more successful flip model than the Waring Pro, it just wasn’t good enough. Even when we filled the machine with more batter than requested, our waffles still had holes. Add that to the bulky design and it’s a pass.
The West Bend 6201 Rotary Waffle Maker ($30) is a slimmer model, but still (like all flip styles) quite bulky. In our tests, we had issues with the nonstick surface being super-sticky. Like the VillaWare, waffles came out with giant holes.
Black & Decker’s Belgian Waffle Maker ($25) is a little too simple, lacking any brownness control, and reviewers complain about the poor quality and how quickly it breaks.
We can’t say anything good about the Hamilton Beach Flip Belgian Waffle Maker. It costs about $35, and it’s worth maybe half that. Our notes literally say, “I would not wish this on my worst enemy.” Not only is the cord microscopically short, limiting its placement in the kitchen, but it took quite a bit of effort to force the machine to flip over. The resulting waffle was terrible: The batter slid around in the machine, pooling up on one end and baking unevenly, with parts that were completely uncooked.
We also looked at the following:
Although the Proctor Silex Round Belgian Waffle Maker is the new version of our original pick, which was discontinued, we eliminated it because it lacked any kind of indicator and made just one waffle at a time.
Hamilton Beach’s non-flip Belgian-Style Waffle Maker has okay reviews, but reviewers indicate it has the same steam problems as the cheap Cuisinart and Proctor Silex, not to mention the lack of even an indicator light, which means you need to carefully monitor your waffle maker at all times.
The Krups F654 has mixed user reviews and garnered just a B rating from Good Housekeeping. GH reports that the handle gets too hot and it has no doneness setting. Without that, you’ll have to peek to see if your waffles are ready, which is a dealbreaker for us.
We considered looking at dual-purpose waffle makers with interchangeable plates like the T-Fal EZ Clean but ultimately passed. Things that try to do two disparate things well often fail at one, and from reading the reviews, it seems clear that the T-Fal—which is also now discontinued—might make great sandwiches but fails to make excellent waffles.
The Cuisinart Belgian Waffle Maker with Pancake Plates also has removable plates, but we eliminated it before testing because it was right on the edge of being too expensive, at $100.
The All-Clad Classic Waffle Maker has earned its fair share of accolades, but we think it’s too expensive at $125. At that price point, you’re paying more for the label and the stainless steel looks than for actual waffle-making ability.
The same goes for the KitchenAid Pro Line Waffle Baker, which costs $200 and makes two waffles at once. Sure, it’s fancy, but it’s a space hog and really, really expensive.
The Breville Smart Waffle Maker was also eliminated because it costs $200.
The Nesco WM-1300 Everyday Waffle Maker has good reviews, but heart-shaped waffles really are a niche product. If you’re dying for a special Valentine’s treat, then maybe consider it. Otherwise, stick to a classic shape.
We eliminated the Oster Belgian Waffle Maker, one of the maker’s few non-flip models, because of complaints by Amazon reviewers of poor construction and an inaccurate indicator light.
The Proctor Silex Belgian Style Waffle Maker is dead simple to use, easy to clean, and can take care of small or large groups of waffle eaters. It makes a beautiful, perfectly browned Belgian waffle with generous wells for syrup, and it does so consistently, time and time again.
Originally published: November 2, 2015