If you think waffle irons are just for making waffles, I’m here to change your world. They’re the best way to make hash browns at home, and they’re also great for omelets, cornbread, birthday cakes, cookies, falafel, and darn near anything else you can think of to put in them. I know this because I’ve spent years living in a vintage RV with a broken oven and relied on a waffle iron for nearly all my “baking.”
If your waffle iron is going to do all that, though, it needs to be up to the task. When I first bought one, it was on a whim, and I got the cheapest I could find. It worked, but it only made two waffles at a time. Here’s a recipe for conflict: Have three kids and then get a waffle iron that makes just two waffles at a time.
When that ultra-budget model died, I started looking around for a replacement that could make four waffles at a time and stand up to the greater level of not-technically-waffles abuse I was going to throw at it. Most of all, it needed to be easy to clean. The Cuisinart 4-Slice Belgian Waffle Maker ticks most of these boxes and isn’t terribly expensive either.
Cuisinart’s waffle maker is solidly made, with a sleek stainless lid surrounded by sturdy plastic. It’s a pretty good size — roughly 14 inches deep, 10 inches wide, and 5 inches high — meaning it will take up considerable counter space if you leave it out. Fortunately, it’s not too heavy (10 pounds), so I shove it in a cabinet under the counter when it’s not being used.
This model makes 1-inch thick waffles with reasonably deep holes. The results are not quite what I’d call a Belgian waffle, but the precise meaning of that term is highly debatable — some say it’s the batter, some say it’s the thickness, others think it’s the shape. What matters from an I’m-not-just-making-waffles point of view is that Cuisinart’s waffle plates are cast aluminum and well-coated in a nonstick material that really is nonstick.
I’ve been using it two to three times a week for several months, and there’s no sign of wear on the plates, no scratches in the nonstick, and still no sticking — and I never grease it before adding batter. That’s after making hash browns, cornbread, two birthday cakes, and plenty of other non-waffle cooking.
The secret to the long life of any nonstick coating is to never use metal tools of any kind on it. Get a good silicone spatula to help gently pry out your waffles. I use one very similar to this Oxo version. The silicone won’t scratch the Cuisinart’s plates and, because it’s heat-proof, you won’t melt your spatula.
This waffle maker has a very simple, five-setting temperature control. A green indicator light lets you know when the iron is ready, then again when your waffles are done. That said, I almost never pay attention to the indicator light. Everyone in my family likes their waffles at different levels of brownness and crispiness, so I’d constantly be fiddling with the temp settings to make everyone happy. Instead, I set it to three and let the kids keep cooking it as long as they want. My pro guy? Never open your waffle iron before the green light turns on, but don’t assume your waffle is done just because the green light is on.
This Cuisinart offers a good range of brownness through the one to five settings and errs on the undercooked side, which is to say that setting it to five won’t burn your waffles. Once you move beyond simple waffles to things like hash browns, the temperature settings won’t do you much good — you’ll want to time your cooking just like you would in an oven.
When it first arrived, my one gripe was that the plates don’t pop out, which would make them easier to clean. But this has turned out to be a nonissue. I wipe it down with a damp rag after each use. It’s also not that heavy, so you can turn it around to get a good angle on all sides. It would still be nice if those plates came out, because at some point the nonstick will start to fail — I’ve never owned anything nonstick that didn’t eventually become stick. At least I’d be able to take them out and scrub them if needed. Still, I don’t consider the nonremovable plates a deal-breaker at all.
Whether you should spend $ 60 on this waffle maker probably depends mostly on how often you make waffles. If waffles are a special treat you enjoy a couple of times a year, a cheaper waffle iron might suffice. For those of us who are more serious about waffles, this is well worth the investment.