There are two main types of waffle makers: American-style and Belgian-style. Belgian waffles are generally round, fluffier and taller than traditional American waffles (which are generally thinner and square), and they have deeper wells for fruit, whipped cream or syrup. Round waffle irons of either type tend to be small and yield a single waffle at a time, while square irons turn out perforated waffles that can be torn or cut into four individual pieces.
The process of cooking a waffle in either of these irons is pretty simple: Wait until it reaches the proper temperature (most have an indicator light that signals when the iron is hot enough), ladle in the batter and wait until the waffle releases easily from the grids. Some units have controls that allow you to set the level of browning. Pro-style waffle makers require you to flip the unit over with a handle during baking, which is said to evenly distribute batter and make the waffles fluffier. Although these irons are fun to use, we found little evidence that the waffles turn out significantly better than those made in models that don't flip.
Belgian waffle irons tend to perform better in reviews than American-style models, perhaps because they make crunchier, fluffier waffles. Deeper pockets give the outside of the waffle a chance to crisp up while the inside stays moist.
The Presto 03510 FlipSide Belgian Waffle Maker (*Est. $45) receives very high ratings from about 850 owners posting reviews to Walmart.com and Amazon.com combined. This model requires flipping the cooking plates from right to left rather than rotating the handle. Owners say the FlipSide does a great job cooking waffles, but we saw several complaints about the timer, which requires a battery and runs independently of the waffle iron. This model also lacks browning controls and temperature adjustments, and a few users say it's not ideal for whole-grain waffles that need to bake longer and at a lower temperature than standard waffles. Still, for basic Belgian waffle recipes, the Presto 03510 FlipSide is a good pick in this price range.
Although it's expensive, the KitchenAid Pro Line Waffle Baker (*Est. $200) has the advantage of being able to make two waffles at once. Editors from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute say it's the best of 11 models they tested. Features include automatic shutoff, a built-in digital timer and an easy-clean nonstick surface. More than 200 reviewers combined at Amazon.com and Cooking.com give the KitchenAid Pro Line extremely high average ratings, praising its consistent results, durable nonstick surface and efficiency when cooking waffles for a family. Some owners complain, however, that the temperature can't be adjusted.
The Waring Pro WMK300A Professional Belgian Waffle Maker (*Est. $70) is a pro-style flipping model that has accumulated a great deal of feedback from consumers. Even so, we found dozens of complaints at Amazon.com that it stops heating after a while. One particularly handy user who goes by the name "Mark 'SuperDad'" fixed his Waring Pro waffle iron with a $1.50 replacement fuse and leaves detailed instructions for others with the same problem. Although most owners say they're happy with the WMK300A, the number of users who report this durability problem is significant. Based on the consistency of these complaints, we chose not to recommend this waffle iron as a best reviewed model.
Rather than one round or four square waffles, the Chef's Choice WafflePro Express 840 (*Est. $70) makes five thinner, heart-shaped waffles. Experts at one prominent cooking magazine say it heats up quickly and turns out waffles in as little as 90 seconds. Waffles are consistently browned from the beginning to the end of a batch, and editors are especially impressed with the thick heating coils that extend under most of the cooking surface. That and the iron's four heating elements (most waffle makers have only two) embedded in the waffle plates ensure even color and instant heat recovery between waffles. It has six temperature settings and an audio cue that signals when it's ready to cook as well as when waffles are done.
Users at Amazon.com and Cooking.com give the WafflePro Express an overall score of 4.5 out of 5 stars based on ratings from more than 100 reviewers combined. Users say the waffle maker cooks as fast as advertised -- about 90 seconds -- making it ideal for large batches and bigger families. One owner posts at Amazon.com, "We can cook waffles faster than three children can eat them and actually have leftovers to freeze." Users also like the texture control that allows waffles to be crispy on the outside and moist on the inside (fast bake mode) or cooked evenly throughout (deep bake mode). A few owners say this iron's waffles come out especially small and thin, and not everyone wants heart-shaped waffles.
Although we found mixed reviews for less expensive Black & Decker waffle irons, owners at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Epinions.com give the G48TD 3-In-1 Grill, Griddle and Waffle Maker (*Est. $45) high marks for its size and versatility. With the grids removed, this waffle iron can be used as a griddle for sandwiches or pancakes. It receives 4 stars out of 5 in more than 700 reviews at Amazon.com. Owners say the G48TD is easy to clean, waffles turn out crisp and golden, and it's ideal for families because it produces perforated waffles that can easily be cut into four individual pieces.
Still, about 20 percent of owners give this waffle maker a 1- or 2-star rating. Quite a few complain that the clips holding the grids in place are flimsy, and some say the top of the iron is too heavy, resulting in squished sandwiches. Several users say the 3-In-1 can become extremely hot to the touch. We also read that the nonstick interior isn't very effective, making it tough to pry waffles off the plates. Based on the significant number of gripes from users regarding durability issues and burn hazards, we chose not to include the Black & Decker G48TD 3-In-1 Grill, Griddle and Waffle Maker in our best reviewed section.
We also read mixed reports about the Cuisinart WMR-CA Round Classic waffle maker (*Est. $40) , which has a five-setting browning control, lights that indicate when the iron and waffle are ready, and an unusually long warranty of three years. This model receives 3.5 stars out of 5 at both Amazon.com and Epinions.com. Although some owners say this Cuisinart model heats quickly and cooks evenly, others complain that the controls are finicky and the nonstick coating becomes ineffective over time. A number of users say the WMR-CA died after only a few months.