There are several types of waffle irons out there -- the majority of waffle irons make Belgian waffles, but some produce flatter American-style waffles. Which you choose really depends on what kind of waffles you prefer. If you like fluffy waffles with bigger pockets, go for a Belgian waffle maker. However, if you prefer denser and thinner waffles, an American-style waffle maker is a better bet. Round waffle irons of either type tend to be small and yield a single waffle, while square irons turn out larger, perforated waffles that can be cut or torn into four individual waffles; the latter is ideal for families. There are also some novelty waffle irons on the market that can make waffles in the shape of hearts or flowers.
In addition to waffle type, you should decide on an electric versus a stovetop model. Some users prefer stovetop waffle irons because they’re less bulky and easier to store. Stovetop waffle irons are also easier to clean because their grids can be placed in soapy water. There is a learning curve on stovetop models, which might be considered a drawback for some: Since they’re not equipped with timers, lights or audio cues, you have to use judgment to determine proper cooking time.
Electric waffle irons run the gamut from $30 for very basic models up to more than $200 for high-end pro-style units. Pro-style waffle irons have a handle that requires you to flip the unit over while baking, which is supposed to evenly distribute batter and make the waffles fluffier. Although some users say these irons are fun to use, we didn’t find any actual evidence that waffles prepared in flipping irons turned out any better than those made in non-flip versions.
You can buy a basic waffle iron for around $40 -- just don't expect a lot of bells and whistles. The main difference between budget waffles irons and more expensive models is the features. Cheap models will lack temperature controls and browning levels, but they're fine for the basics. Keep in mind that temperature controls are a must if you plan on making nonstandard recipes, such as whole-grain or oatmeal waffles.
Want to avoid some bad apples and get information on specific models? Take a look at our recently updated full report on waffle irons.