A humble breakfast staple for decades, waffles are now hot and trendy as chefs and home cooks elevate pancake's crisp cousin by loading fried chicken and other savories on top or transforming dishes like pizza and pasta by sandwiching them in a waffle iron. Whether they're finished in a shower of powdered sugar, a flood of maple syrup or an embed of Korean BBQ, waffles stand out when cooks start by using a stellar batter. Here are some essential tips for turning out memorable homemade waffles.
Waffles date back to the middle ages, with some European countries continuing the tradition of using elaborately decorated irons to create a food that was largely considered a dessert. In the U.S., waffles are a longtime breakfast favorite, most often made with buttermilk, flour, a pinch of baking powder to give them a fluffy lift.
Popular waffle types
- Belgian waffles — Best known for their deep, syrup-catching divots, this Americanized version of a Brussels waffle can be made with a yeast-infused batter or a lighter variation that includes baking powder.
- Classic waffles — Thinner than their Belgian-inspired cousins, these are typically made in waffle irons that are round, square or rectangle, and provide a crispy foundation for jams, jellies, syrups of every type and savory toppings such as fried chicken.
- Whole grain waffles — Healthy versions feature oats, flaxseed, wheat germ and other good-for-you ingredients.
- Gluten-free waffles — Made from sorghum flour, teff and almond flours, these waffles offer an alternative option for those who are sensitive to gluten.
- Potato waffles — Think of a German potato pancake cooked in a sizzling hot waffle iron. These savory waffles can be made with mashed potatoes or hash browns. Try them topped with Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Butter or Chef John's Bacon Jam.
- Hong Kong-Style — A popular dish sold by street vendors in Asia, these yolk-y "grid cakes" are frequently smeared in sweet jams and peanut butter and folded over, making for easy eating on the go.
- Flavored waffles — Because the batter offers a primo blank slate, begging for cooks to get creative, there are variations featuring sweet potato, chocolate chips, bananas, pumpkin and gingerbread.
- Mashups — Meet French Toast Waffles!
Choosing a waffle iron
Waffle irons come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some prefer round, while others go for square or rectangle shapes. For the romantics, there are heart-shaped waffle irons and still others that are tributes to beloved icons like Hello Kitty. There are models that fit neatly in your pantry while others are gorgeous enough to deserve a spot on the kitchen counter, while some camping waffle fans flock to versions that work over an open fire. Previously considered a one-trick pony, waffle irons have graduated to cool, clever cooker status for creating hacks like corn dog waffles, pizza waffles, waffle iron quesadillas and waffled cheeseburgers. Proving you can make an entire brunch on a waffle iron, some cooks make bacon and scrambled eggs on waffle irons.
Tips for achieving waffle greatness
- No matter which direction you go, there are a few things you need to know before making waffles.
- Preheat the waffle iron. Plug in the iron while mixing the batter. It should preheat for at least 10 minutes. Some models have lights that indicate when it's at the proper temperature to attain that golden, slightly crispy exterior and fluffy, soft interior.
- Do not overfill the waffle iron. This might take some trial and error, but it's best to slightly under-fill because the batter will spread out when the waffle iron is closed.
- Don't peek! Trust the recommended cooking time on the recipe. Opening the waffle iron will lower the temperature and prolong the cooking time.
- Use non-stick cooking spray sparingly. Most modern waffle irons have non-stick surfaces, so a spray isn't necessary.
- Tongs work well for removing waffles from the hot iron.
- Make extras and freeze them, making for a quick and easy breakfast on busy weekday mornings.
Try this recipe: Eggnog-Raspberry Belgian Waffles
Waffle Iron Cleaning and Storage Suggestions
After those amazing waffles disappear from plates, and it's time to think about cleanup, here's another awesome thing about this dish: Cleanup is easy, breezy. Unplug and cool the waffle iron before wiping it with a soapy sponge. When rinsing, ensure that the electrical heating unit and the cord do not get submerged in water. Dry thoroughly. Most waffle irons earn bonus points for ease of storage, too, as they're compact enough to fit in most cupboards.