Waffles Galore!

They?re not just for breakfast anymore.

Photo: Vladislav Noseek / Shutterstock

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There is no substitution for a waffle iron. And if you like to make waffles, you’ll need one of these small appliances. Fortunately, a waffle iron can be as compact as a box of chocolates and more affordable than a dozen roses, so there is little reason not to treat yourself and loved ones to the luxury of fresh waffles whenever the mood strikes.

Waffles can be thin, crisp and toasty or thick, fluffy and buttery. They are delightful with stewed fruit and yogurt in the morning and divine with berries and ice cream at night. Even if you only make waffles a few times a year, a reliable waffle maker is an indispensable appliance.

Waffle makers come in myriad shapes, boasting all kinds of different features. When choosing a waffle maker, the most important thing to keep in mind is what kind of waffle you favor. Are you a fan of tender, soft waffles with shallow indentations? Then pick a flat, standard machine. Or do you prefer crunchy, thick, hearty cakes? A Belgian waffler, with deep indentations, may be the one for you. For those interested in style, you can opt for something more whimsical, perhaps one with a design of hearts or even Mickey Mouse. Also, bear in mind the number of people you plan on feeding. A large, four-segment appliance is ideal for satisfying a table of impatient waffle eaters all at once, while a compact appliance that sits on the table between two diners makes for a leisurely cooking experience.

Related: 10 Great Waffle Recipes

If your kitchen is small or stretched for space, storage may be another consideration. If you’re not planning to use your waffle maker every day, a light, small, easily put-away model is ideal. Some waffle irons can be kept on their side for space efficiency, while others cannot. In this case, the cord of the iron can be wrapped around it for storing; although a few have retractable cords, which takes up a little more space but neatens overall manageability. If you’re going to keep the appliance in a pantry or drawer, you may want to hold onto the original box, which makes it more stable and stackable.

The various bells and whistles of high-tech, multi-feature machines will appeal to some cooks, while others will prefer a simple design with little more than a light to indicate when the iron is hot enough to use. Some waffle makers allow you to set a “doneness factor,” from pale and soft to dark and crisp, while some rely on the old-fashioned test for doneness: Remove the waffle when it has stopped steaming, and the lid lifts without sticking. If you tend to several breakfast items at one time, opt for an alarm or automatic shut-off feature to save your family from slightly singed waffles.

In terms of cleanup, waffle irons need minimal care. For most, a quick wipe of the cooking surface and a little shine of the outside are all that they need. Look for a streamlined design so batter won’t leak into cracks that a sponge can’t reach. Some models even have removable plates that will let you soak and scrub freely. This is key if you like to add messy mix-in ingredients, such as chocolate chips or blueberries, to your waffle batter. In this case, seek out a nonstick surface, which is also a must for low-fat recipes.

So go ahead, make room for a waffle iron in your kitchen. After all, there is no substitute for the crisp crust and steaming interior of a freshly baked waffle, and no other way to make it.