Best waffle makers of 2021: Cuisinart Double Belgian, Breville Smart Waffle Pro and Hamilton Beach Flip
CNN Underscored
Best waffle makers of 2021: Cuisinart Double Belgian, Breville Smart Waffle Pro and Hamilton Beach Flip
CNN —  

If we had to choose just one food that embodies the warm and fuzzy feeling that a human hug provides, then it would have to be the waffle. Like a hug, the best waffles are firm to the touch yet make you feel all fluffy and soft inside. And who doesn’t love a good waffle served up simply with a drizzle of syrup and a pat of butter, or deliciously decked out with all the fixings you can think of! Waffles are a surefire hit for any breakfast worth its biscuits, but to make the perfect waffle, you must have the right waffle maker.

We tested nine top models to find the best waffle maker for your breakfast needs, and after a slew of tests, we identified three waffle-making winners:

Best waffle maker overall

The Cuisinart makes two great-tasting deep-pocketed Belgian waffles at a time, with a flip mechanism that not only gives you fluffy, evenly cooked waffles, but makes the machine easy to store.

Best budget waffle maker

The Hamilton Beach Flip gave us great results and control over our waffles, is easy to store, and has dishwasher-safe removable plates for easy cleanup.

A luxury waffle maker worth the splurge

It's pricey, but the Breville made the best, most consistent waffles of all the waffle makers we tested. Smart timers and clear alerts make it easy to get great results, and cleanup is easy.

Best waffle maker overall: Cuisinart Double Belgian Waffle Maker ($117.78; amazon.com)

Cuisinart Double Belgian Waffle Maker
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Cuisinart Double Belgian Waffle Maker

If you need a machine that makes great waffles, doesn’t take up too much of your precious counter space and still lets you make multiple waffles per batch, then the Cuisinart Double Belgian Waffle Maker may be the perfect waffle maker for you. It’s a flip, or “Belgian” style, waffle maker, meaning you flip the deep grids 180 degrees just after you begin baking in order to distribute the batter more evenly and let the waffle bake more evenly. This model goes a step beyond most flip waffle makers, featuring two sets of waffle grills, one on each side of the flip mechanism, so you can make two rounds of waffles at once — a real bonus for a hungry breakfast crowd.

The 1,400-watt machine took about five minutes to warm up, which was on the longer side among the waffle makers we tested. Cuisinart doesn’t have smart automatic timing like the Breville, but simple alerts and LEDs tell you what you need to know. Six beeps and a green indicator light let us know the machine was ready to cook, three beeps told us that each waffle was done and each side had its own indicator light to let us know just when our waffles were done.

The waffles that we made in this machine were nicely round and roughly 1-inch thick, and while we got even better results from the far more expensive Breville nonflip model, we can say that of the many rounds of waffles we made in this machine, none came out badly. The Cuisinart gives you plenty of control over the doneness of your waffles with its browning control knob. With our test recipe, we made the perfect waffle to our taste — not too dark, not too dry — on a setting of 4, but higher settings of 5 and 6 also provided nicely cooked waffles that were beautifully browned on the outside and still moist inside.

Like many of the machines we tested, the manufacturer’s instructions recommended that we coat the BPA-free waffle plates with a bit of vegetable oil. Once we did, the cooked waffles released easily, making cleanup a breeze. There are no overflow trays, so to avoid spills and more cleanup, we do suggest using the enclosed measuring cup to pour out just the right amount of mix into the machine.

Best budget waffle maker: Hamilton Beach Flip Waffle Maker ($49.99; originally $54.99, wayfair.com)

Hamilton Beach Flip Waffle Maker
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Hamilton Beach Flip Waffle Maker

The Hamilton Beach Flip Belgian Waffle Maker makes a very good waffle, is much more affordable and takes up less space on your countertop than our top picks, and it’s the only one we tested that has removable dishwasher-safe cooking grids and tray, making cleanup quicker and easier.

You won’t get quantity per batch with this waffle maker, as it only makes a single 1.25-inch-thick waffle at a time, but the three browning settings are all you need to make a great waffle. We did like the simple red light/green light alert mechanism on this easy-to-use machine, which let us know that the machine was powered on and then ready to start in about 4.5 minutes. Yes, the warm-up time is a bit on the longer side out of all the machines we tested, but you know how the expression goes about good things being worth the wait, right?

While we didn’t notice that much of a difference between the three browning settings for this 800-watt machine, we preferred the lowest setting, with which we were able to make a golden-brown waffle that was slightly crispy. We think a timer would’ve definitely made the machine a bit more foolproof, but we had good results checking our waffle after five minutes. For the affordable price tag, maybe you won’t mind having to time your waffles yourself to make sure they’re good and done. If you’re cooking with kids, then perhaps they can join in on the waffle-making fun by operating a handheld timer to time the browning.

After clicking out the waffle trays and cleaning them in our dishwasher and in our sink, we easily reassembled the machine and were delighted to “flip” the griddle with the foldable handle, which allows it to be stored virtually anywhere in your kitchen without you worrying about it taking up too much space.

This machine makes cleanup easy and its space-saving design makes it a solid choice if you’re tight on space and don’t need to make a heap of waffles at a time.

A great waffle maker worth splurging on: Breville Smart Waffle Pro 4-Slice Waffle Maker ($249.95; williams-sonoma.com)

Breville Smart Waffle Pro 4-Slice Waffle Maker
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Breville Smart Waffle Pro 4-Slice Waffle Maker

Sure, it’s expensive compared to the other waffle makers we tested, but we found lots to love about the Breville Smart Waffle Pro, from its sleek and sturdy design to the substantial cool-touch handle that allowed us to open and close the machine without burning our hands, and the locking latch that can be activated for safety if you have children milling about the kitchen. But most importantly, it made the best waffles of the machines we tested, was the easiest to use and gave us the most control over how they turned out. If you’re a serious waffle fanatic and it’s within your budget, the Smart Waffle Pro is worth a look.

This 1,800-watt machine heats up in about four and a half minutes, alerting us by turning its LCD display orange once it reached optimum cooking temperature. All of the guesswork that comes with the other machines we tested is eliminated with the Breville — its “smart” technology automatically calculates how much time is needed to cook your waffle, and starts counting down accordingly when you close the lid. We really liked this feature, which let us time our waffles to be done alongside other dishes we were preparing — this is a pretty big deal if you love to have bacon and eggs with your waffles, because you can leave the Breville to do its job without having to babysit it like the other machines. If you leave your cooked waffle in the machine for longer than 30 seconds, then you can expect a friendly beep to remind you that it’s waiting for you.

A simple press of the Restart button sets the timer anew for as many batches of Belgian, classic, chocolate, buttermilk or custom waffles that you desire. You can customize the doneness of your waffles effortlessly with the darkness control dial that has 12 settings from light to dark.

For the perfect 1.5-inch Belgian waffle, we suggest using the default setting of 6. If your waffle ends up being a little lighter than you want, then Breville’s trademark “A Bit More” button adds a little more time to the cooking so you can get your waffles just right. The included BPA-free dosing cup portions out two waffles, but if you have many mouths to feed, then you’ll appreciate that you can actually make four or more waffles in no time.

While you can’t stick them in the dishwasher, we found the aluminum nonstick cooking plates easy to clean, so your biggest worry will be where to store this big Breville unit so that you can show it off and keep it safe until you’re ready to use it again, which we have a feeling will be quite regularly.

How we tested

Our testing included nine waffle makers, from miniature devices to models capable of making batches of four waffles at a time, and ranging in cost from just under $18 to $250. We assessed the machines on multiple criteria, including heat-up time, ease of use, setting and indicator capabilities, cooking time and more. More importantly, we made lots of waffles, testing out the various browning options on each machine to find out what it took to get the perfect crispy exterior and fluffy interior. To keep things consistent while testing out these machines, we used a premade pancake and waffle mix (Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Pancake & Waffle Mix).

We used the following criteria in assessing each model:

Performance

  • Baking temperature warm-up speed: We timed each machine to see how long it actually took to warm up to optimal waffle-baking temperature.
  • Doneness indicator: All of the machines had a power indicator light, but not all of them had a light or sound to indicate when the cooking cycle was complete or how long the cooking cycle should be, so we tested several settings on each machine at the recommended cooking time and also at self-determined cooking times to see just how long it took to completely cook a waffle.
  • How easily do cooked waffles release from the plates? We noted the ease of release of each waffle from the cooking griddles for every machine.
  • Taste/texture of waffles: Once the waffles looked done, we went in for a closer look to see if they were cooked evenly and thoroughly. We also noted how the machines performed on different settings, as well as how different settings affected the texture and tone, or brownness, of the cooked waffles.

Cleaning

  • Is everything dishwasher-safe?
  • Nooks/crannies/attachments — how easy are they to get clean?
  • Easy to disassemble plates from heating elements for cleaning?

Build

  • Is the machine easy to store?
  • How many watts/how powerful is the heating element, and is that reflected in performance?
  • What size waffles and how many waffles does it make?
  • Configuration (does it rotate, does it make square or round waffles? Multiple waffles in one pour?)

Other waffle makers we tested

All-Clad Stainless Steel Classic Round Waffle Maker ($129.95; amazon.com and williams-sonoma.com)

The All-Clad Stainless Steel Classic Round Waffle Maker is heavily built, with an all-stainless housing that adds to its solid feel (and contributes to its 12-pound heft). We waited about four minutes for the All-Clad to warm up, a green indicator light letting us know that the machine was ready. We found that the midrange settings produced nicely browned waffles that maintained some moisture inside. Cleaning required a bit more care than we’d like, since the plates are not removable and it takes some effort to maintain the shine of the stainless exterior.

Cuisinart Round Classic Waffle Maker ($29.92; amazon.com and walmart.com)

The Cuisinart Round Classic warms up to optimum cooking temperature more quickly than any other waffle makers we tested; it’s ready to go in just over one minute. It’s speedy, makes a good waffle and comes at a budget price. The browning options gave us good results, and we got tasty, half-inch-thick waffles in about one minute. The waffle plates are billed as BPA-free, so if you’re looking for some reassurance about product coating, that should help. We did find the build a little flimsy, and the browning control adjustment knob makes it hard to make a secure adjustment to one of the five settings. Still, for the budget-friendly price, this machine offers a nicely cooked, light and fluffy waffle.

Dash Mini Maker Waffle Maker ($27.55; amazon.com)

At just 4 inches wide and 1.3 pounds, the Dash Mini is the smallest of all the waffle makers we tested, and made surprisingly decent waffles, though we felt we had to finish them off in a skillet with a pat of butter to get the desired crispiness. Like most of the waffle makers we tested, this petite product is not dishwasher-safe, and the interface and alert LEDs are a little confusing. But it does a good job considering its size. It also comes in 19 fun colors and waffle shapes (from hearts to seasonal options like snowflakes), and is reasonably priced. Though it might not be suitable for cooking waffles for a large gathering, it would make a great gift for your waffle-loving friends and family.

Dash No-Drip Belgian Maker Machine ($61.95; amazon.com)

If color matters to you just as much as quality with regards to your appliances, then you’ll just adore this pretty waffle maker by Dash. We appreciated this machine straight away, thanks to its pleasing aqua hue (it also comes in red, silver and graphite finishes). Fine as this machine looks, we also appreciate that it can cook four waffles at a time, making it fit for a family or a die-hard waffle lover. Considering the sheer volume it can cook at once, it offers reasonable bang for your buck. Like several of the other machines we tested, this Dash uses a red light/green light alert mechanism (conveniently placed on the cover of the machine) to let you know when the waffle maker is heated to cooking temperature as well as when the waffles are done baking. We do wish that the cover handle was a bit more substantial, and while the handy overflow channels capture excess batter, the cooking surfaces aren’t removable for cleaning. That said, it wasn’t too hard to clean up with a soapy dishcloth, but cleanup is not as simple as with our other picks.

Oster Stainless Steel Belgian Waffle Maker ($17.88; amazon.com and walmart.com)

This Oster waffle maker isn’t quite as small as the Dash Mini, but it’s small and light enough that you can set up virtually anywhere in your kitchen. It’s also one of the most affordable machines we tested, being priced at just under $18. The 1-inch-thick waffle that this machine makes is good to look at and well cooked; using the machine’s medium setting, we got good results with a cooking time of four and a half minutes. Given its petite size and low cost, we weren’t surprised to see that no extras like a timer were incorporated into its design, but its handle is more substantial and confidence-inspiring than that used on other low-cost models, like the Dash No-Drip.

Presto FlipSide Belgian Waffle Maker ($43.99; amazon.com or $69.88; wayfair.com)

The Presto FlipSide, like the Breville, has a countdown timer that makes it easy to get well-cooked waffles with minimal attention. It took roughly three minutes for the Presto to warm up for cooking, and during the cooking process, the machine alerted us that waffles were done with a three-beep alert. It also gave us a single heads-up beep when the waffle had about one minute left to cook (waffles took three to four minutes to achieve good results in our testing). The jury is still out on whether or not flipping leads to a better cooked waffle, but we definitely loved that with a flip of the machine and a flip of its locking lever, the machine can be stored in a space-saving vertical position. Of all the machines we tested, this one actually made the thickest waffles of them all, an impressive 1.5 inches thick, close to a classic Belgian waffle. We preferred the results we got from our top picks, but we were impressed with the Presto’s ease of use, and it’s a solid choice if you’re looking for a classic Belgian waffle.

Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing: