Choosing a Belgian waffle maker

Most waffle irons make a single Belgian waffle. These are generally round, fluffier and taller than American-style waffles, and they also have larger pockets. Traditional waffle makers cook denser and thinner waffles, and several specialty waffle irons on the market make novelty shapes such as hearts or flowers. All can be used with standard waffle mixes and from-scratch recipes.

Waffle irons vary in price from about $30 for very basic models up to more than $200 for high-end pro-style units. Performance seems to be more consistent among waffle irons costing $40 or more, but the main difference between a $40 waffle maker and a $200 model are the features. Basic models skip temperature controls, browning levels and automatic shutoff. Some don't have a timer, so you'll have to use a kitchen timer to determine how long it takes your waffles to cook.

Before purchasing a waffle iron, experts suggest:

  • Look for temperature control. If you like deeply browned waffles, choose a model that allows you to control the heat level. If you buy a waffle iron without temperature controls, you'll have to cook the waffle longer to achieve a deep brown color, which may dry it out. Temperature controls are a must-have if you want to use nonstandard recipes such as whole-grain or oatmeal waffles.
  • Opt for cool-touch handles if you have small children. Waffle irons with plastic handles heat up less than models with chrome or stainless-steel housings, reviews say.
  • For a family, consider a model that makes several individual waffles. Waffle irons that make perforated waffles -- which can be cut into four or five small pieces -- or individual waffles are more convenient than those that make a single large round waffle.
  • Use nonstick cooking spray for best results. Even though most of today's waffle irons have nonstick surfaces, reviews say you should coat the iron with a light film of cooking spray each time you use it to prevent sticking.
  • Steer clear of rough sponges and never scrub your waffle iron. Otherwise you may scratch or remove the nonstick coating. Experts recommend letting your iron cool down and using a cotton swab or soft cloth to remove any food particles.

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