The Best Waffle Maker
If it’s waffles you seek, you can’t do any better than the $70 Chef’s Choice WafflePro Express. After more than 20 hours of research, evaluating our top four picks with a tasting panel of 10 taste testers, plus a head-to-head challenge between the top two competitors, we found the WafflePro made delicious waffles (both traditional and Belgian) with minimal fuss. It’s fast, safe, small enough to store unobtrusively, and easy to operate and clean.
If you’re regularly making waffles for a large family (or a party), we recommend the Calphalon No Peek Waffle Maker. It costs $87, and makes four waffles at once, very quickly. If being able to produce a huge amount of waffles quickly is your number-one priority, this will do the job — but be warned, it’s a batter-hog and can be finicky.
Table of contents
Should I upgrade? | How we picked and tested | Our pick | Flaws but not dealbreakers | If our pick is sold out, go square | A step down | Best for big families | Care and maintenance | Competition | Wrapping it up
Should I upgrade?
If you’ve already got a waffle maker you know and love, there’s no need to buy a new one. But if you’re frequently entertaining a crowd and find your old waffle maker slows you down, consider upgrading to the WafflePro.
How we picked and tested
A waffle maker is, by nature, a single-purpose item—and, for that matter, it’s one you might not use often if you don’t host waffle parties on the regular. The waffle maker you pick should be exceedingly good at its job and also completely unobtrusive when you don’t need it. But first, it needs to make delicious waffles.
That’s a tall task, considering how varied people’s idea of what a great waffle is. Some want them thin and crispy, like a traditional American waffle; others like the light fluffiness (and giant syrup traps) of the Belgian. Most waffle makers that make fantastic, tender-inside Belgian waffles will struggle with crisp-throughout traditional waffles, and vice versa. The best waffle makers will handle both batters well, creating crispy traditional waffles and fluffy Belgian ones depending on your mood.
Chances are good you’re serving a crowd, so the ability to make a large batch of waffles quickly everyone can eat at the same time is paramount. Two factors play into cooking speed: first, how long it takes to cook a waffle; much longer than three minutes feels ridiculous. Second, how many waffles can it cook at a time? A waffle maker that takes a little longer per batch but produces more waffles at once is preferred to one that is faster but only makes one waffle.
Since it is a single-purpose kitchen item (sorry, Alton Brown), it should be small enough to store easily. That means no flip waffle makers, either, but don’t worry—you aren’t missing much. We did test a few and found them to be no easier to use (and with worse results) than standard countertop models. The ideal waffle maker should be cheap, too, since there’s no use in paying a lot for a very specific item.
To find our 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. We eliminated anything that cost more than $100, as well as anything with a higher-than-average rate of complaints about failures or overheating. We also eliminated anything without an indicator (either light or sound) to tell you when the waffle is done.
Once we had our eight finalists in-hand, we first tested each with one round of standard waffle batter (made of Bisquick mix). That allowed us to discover any glaring flaws—like, for instance, that flip waffle makers are unwieldy for no added benefit. After the first round of testing, the field was narrowed down to five contenders: two traditional waffle makers, three Belgian.
We found the WafflePro Express late in the game; we had initially eliminated it because Amazon reviewers complained that the waffles it produced weren’t thick enough to be considered true Belgians. But after seeing how well the Classic handled both traditional and Belgian batter, despite being a traditional waffle maker, we wanted to check out the Express, so we pitted it against the Classic in a head-to-head challenge that mimicked the previous testing conditions. We didn’t regret it; the Express turned out to be the winner.
Our taste testers rated the WafflePro Express’s waffles among the best-tasting for both traditional and Belgian batters.
“They’re a good compromise — substantial, but crunchy,” one tester said. Another called them “crispy but fluffy.” The waffles made with the traditional Bisquick batter tasted thin, but substantial and crispy—a little like an Eggo, if an Eggo were much more delicious. Chef’s Choice calls the Express a Belgian waffle maker, and even though it’s really not thick enough to hold that title, it handled Belgian batter beautifully, making a light, airy waffle that still maintained a bit of crunch and crispiness.
It wasn’t the fastest machine we tested—each batch took about two and a half minutes to cook on medium brownness—but it was well within an acceptable range. And even though its cooking time was a little longer, its loud audio beep means you can multitask instead of having to hover over the machine. Making eight waffles took about thirty minutes, but most of that time was spent watching Game of Thrones, only requiring me to pop up once in a while to take out the finished waffle and pour in batter for the next. Better yet, barring the first waffle (which, in all machines, was never perfect) the second waffle was as great as the sixth waffle (which was as great as the eighth).
The WafflePro Express has six darkness settings and a switch which toggles in between a deep-bake mode—which produces consistently crispy waffles—and a “crispy outside, moist interior” setting which creates the soft inside of a true Belgian waffle. The crispy setting works great, producing uniformly crunchy, delicious waffles; we found the moist interior setting lacking, performing consistently only at high darkness settings. But regardless of whether you like your waffles crispy or melt-in-your-mouth, the Express can make what you want.
Unlike large flip machines, which were heavy and hard to store, the WafflePro is very small, taking up about one square foot of counter space and five inches of vertical space. It locks closed, so it can be stored horizontally or vertically. In contrast, the flip models fail completely on that front, with the tallest of them being more than a foot long and nearly a foot tall. Sure, that’s fine for hotels, who keep the model out at the continental breakfast daily, but for your home? Skip it.
None of the waffle makers we tested were particularly difficult to use, but the WafflePro Express was so easy, a kid could do it. Meanwhile, both the Cuisinart and the Proctor-Silex emit burning hot steam right next to the handle after a long cooking session, making it too easy for little hands (or, let’s be real, big hands) to get burnt. The WafflePro Express’s handle is separated from the main body, so steam can’t escape right next to it, and it’s made of heat-proof plastic. Yes, the top does get a little hot, but that goes for all the waffle makers we tested.
Some people complain about ease of cleaning on Amazon, but in our own testing, we didn’t experience issues. Like all of the waffle makers we tested, this has a nonstick coating for easy waffle release. I intentionally made one waffle messily and let the batter dry on the side of the machine instead of cleaning it off immediately. Cleaning was no problem — one swipe with a wet paper towel and it was back to new.
We aren’t the only ones who love it. Good Housekeeping rated it an “A” and named it their top pick for Belgian waffles: “Chef’s Choice WafflePro Express turns out one thick, deep-pocketed grid. 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.” America’s Test Kitchen (subscription required) also awarded it the win, saying, “Thick heating coils extending beneath most of its cooking surface helped this iron efficiently turn out even, beautifully cooked waffles, no matter the temperature setting.” And if you have any problems, the WafflePro comes with a one-year limited warranty.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
First off, the obvious: no, the WafflePro Express is not a real Belgian waffle maker. Its waffles are about a half-inch thick; compare that to the Calphalon No-Peek, which creates waffles that are about 1 inch thick. Its waffles are thicker than its cousin’s, the WafflePro Classic, but Belgian-style? Nah. If you’re set on a properly tall Belgian waffle, we’ve got a better pick for you below.
It also can take a little long to preheat. Whereas most of the competitors went from zero to steaming in four minutes or less, the WafflePro Express took more than six minutes, which felt like an absurdly long time. But thanks to the nice audio ding, you can dawdle around the house while you wait. Yeah, we wish it were faster, but it’s a compromise we’re willing to make for picture-perfect waffles.
And it’s a little pricier than we’d prefer. At $70, it’s on the upper range of acceptable for one-use-only products, but it’s also much faster and efficient (not to mention more versatile and delicious) than the cheaper products we tested.
If our pick is sold out, go square
Considering the fact that we almost chose it as winner, it will come as no surprise that we think it’s a great, versatile waffle maker. It does, however, have a few flaws that dropped it to our #2 slot.
But if you’re a big fan of square waffles or can’t find the WafflePro Express, the Classic is an excellent and versatile choice.
A step down
If you prefer a crunchy traditional waffle but are looking for something a little cheaper than the WafflePro Express, pick up the $27 Cuisinart Round Classic Waffle Maker. Like the WafflePro Express (but unlike the Proctor-Silex) it has a five-setting browning control, which makes it easier to manipulate the waffle to your liking. But it still lacks an audio signal, so you’ve gotta hover.
One of our taste testers described it as having “excellent crunch, but light on the inside,” and another said it reminded her of an Eggo. But another said it was “thin with minimal substance,” so if you don’t like your waffles ultra-crispy, this is not the machine for you. But when it comes to the super-crispy traditional style, it really does excel, creating consistently thin, crunchy waffles.
It’s also crazy fast, the quickest machine we tested, taking only 56 seconds to completely cook a waffle and only 2:36 to warm up—a time bested only by the Calphalon, which warmed up in a mere 2:22. If you’re looking to bang out a bunch of waffles, the Cuisinart will get it done the fastest. But it still suffers from the same steam ventilation problem as the Proctor-Silex, where the steam accumulates on the handles: they become tremendously, painfully hot to the touch.
Best for big families
For large parties or families, the best waffle maker is the $87 Calphalon No Peek Waffle Maker. It makes four thick Belgian waffles in under two minutes, making it one of the quickest machines we tested.
Of course, that speed comes at a price: When we first tested it, one of our tasters found the results “Fluffy, spongy, and a little soggy. I wish it were crispier.” For the best results, we found that you have to let the machine reheat after each batch, which takes between 45 seconds and a minute and a half, depending on how dark you like your waffles. It can also be a little finicky, especially if every member of your family likes their waffles a different color. We found some problems switching from darker waffles to lighter, with the lighter waffles ending up a lumpy mess of half-cooked dough. Even with the extra reheat time, though, it’s still faster than the Cuisinart if you’re cranking a large volume of waffles out.
We also wish the machine didn’t require so much batter. It takes two cups to make four waffles, or 1/2 cup per waffle. That’s a lot, especially when most machines require 1/4-1/3 cup batter per waffle, and especially when you’ve only got the option to make four waffles at once. Betty Crocker’s Bisquick waffles recipe makes a little less than 4 cups of batter, meaning your second batch will be a little sparse. It’s certainly annoying, but not a dealbreaker.
Care and maintenance
Before the first use, Chef’s Choice recommends oiling the machine with a paper towel or spray bottle (like Pam). Be sure to discard the first batch, which can absorb some unpleasant oiliness, but after that, you shouldn’t need to oil the plates again.
The Waring Pro WMK600 Double Waffle Maker has great reviews on Amazon, but in real life, I found it hogged space and power. It’s incredibly bulky, made the lights in my kitchen flicker, and its waffles aren’t anything spectacular.
While the VillaWare Belgian Flip Waffle Maker 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 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 is a little too simple, lacking any brownness control, and reviewers complain about the poor quality and how quickly it breaks.
The Presto FlipSide Belgian Waffle Maker has a lot of fans, but we just can’t get behind the space-hogging design, especially considering how poorly other flip models performed. Reviewers complain about uneven cooking, and the timer is battery-powered separately, so it doesn’t always indicate if your waffle is actually done.
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 you’re 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 might make great sandwiches but fails to make excellent waffles.
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 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.
NordicWare’s Stovetop Belgian Waffler is a truly traditional design, but complaints about the stickiness of the waffler kept us away. Plus, we’re more fond of the easy, hands-off design of electronic machines.
Wrapping it up
The WafflePro Express is dead simple to use, easy to clean, and much less likely to burn you than cheaper models. It’s a great hybrid between traditional and Belgian waffles, handling all batters beautifully and quickly. We also like the Cuisinart Round Classic Waffle Maker for a budget traditional waffle maker. For most people, the WafflePro Express will make them precisely the waffle they want, quickly and easily.
Originally published: June 11, 2014