Vegan waffles have some special needs. This guide will help you to choose the best waffle maker to bake delicious treats.
If your vegan waffles are not deliciously crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, your waffle iron could be to blame.
I’ve hosted a number of waffle parties over nearly two decades, with as many as 40-50 guests, and sometimes running three irons at once for an hour or two. I’ve used some models that have worked really well, and some that have created a mess.
I’ve also discovered something else. While vegan waffles can taste better than any egg- or dairy-containing waffle, they do often bake a bit differently.
Here are some waffle maker features that are important for making high-quality vegan waffles.
Sufficient Wattage for the Baking Area
If you’re making 7-inch round Belgian waffles, or squares of roughly equivalent size, you want your iron to have at least 1,000 watts. I advise against the ones that try to spread the same wattage over a higher area, or over two round waffles at once. They will still work, but the waffles’ interiors may get a bit more dried out before you have the desired level of crispness on the outside.
You might be tempted to get a large “family style” waffle maker that makes four waffles at once, believing that it’s more efficient. But even if it has 1,100 or 1,200 watts, it’s going to be spread over a larger area, and cook times are going to be longer anyway.
Flipping or Rotating Waffle Makers
Years ago I thought the whole “flip” thing was just a gimmick. But it’s not. It really does help waffles cook much better. Where this feature really shines is with thinner waffle batters, which yield exceptionally airy waffles. Some of the gluten-free and yeast-raised recipes on this site are relatively thin.
When you pour a relatively thin batter into a non-flip waffle iron, the bottom of the waffle starts browning right away, as the batter is already in contact with the iron’s hot surface. However, because a thinner batter initially spreads out more, it takes more time for the thin batter to expand sufficiently so that it also contacts the surface of the top iron.
So the top of the waffle isn’t going have as much time to brown as the bottom in a non-flip iron. Unless, of course, you leave it in longer, in which case the bottom may then be overdone.
Compare this to pouring batter into a flip waffle maker: When you do the “flip” shortly after closing the iron, some of the batter remains clinging to what is now the top. So the top also has more time to cook. The waffle bakes more evenly on both sides.
Additionally, the waffle batter falling from the top to the bottom following the flip creates more air pockets in the batter. This makes it a bit easier for the batter to rise as it’s baking in the iron, creating a fluffier waffle.
In short, flip irons are groovy. I realize that non-flip irons have grooves in them, too, but I don’t personally find them as groovy.
Waffle Grid Size and Depth
This is largely a matter of personal preference. Some people like the much smaller and shallower squares, while others like them larger and deeper. I personally prefer the latter because the waffle can hold more syrup and other toppings. I like to pile on a lot of toppings.
There’s also something about the more substantial mouth feel of slightly thicker waffles that i enjoy, but that’s also a personal preference.
Sometimes I like to get really crazy and fill the deep holes with toppings, lick the toppings out, and then put on more syrup or other toppings before eating the waffle. Yum!
Baking Temperature Control
This is handy because sometimes you may be in the mood for a crispier or darker waffle, and sometimes you may be more in the mood for a softer or lighter waffle. Also, one of your guests or even your partner may like your waffles a slightly different way than you do.
If you frequently change your temperature setting, just be sure to keep note of what setting you use with each of your favorite recipes. For example, on my Waring Pro WMK-300a irons, I usually keep the temperature around 5 or 5.5 out of 6.
If your glasses start to fog up, you may have the temperature turned up too far, or your face is probably dangerously close to the waffle maker.
Built-In Doneness Indicator or Timer
Some waffle makers have a built-in thermostat that estimates when the waffle is done, alerting you with a beep. This isn’t essential, but it keeps you from having to use an external timer or stand right by the iron waiting for a “done” light to come on. Just note that vegan waffles often need to cook a bit longer than non-vegan waffles. Because of this, you may want to use external timer anyway, or simply let the waffles cook a minute or so after the built-in timer goes off.
I wish someone would design a waffle maker that could talk to your smart phone, and trigger the song of your choice when your waffle is done. That would be the greatest thing since sliced bread–other than waffles, that is.
Temperature Ready Light (and possibly beep)
This is useful for telling when your waffle maker is hot enough for batter. It needs time to heat up prior to the first waffle, and may or may not need time between subsequent waffles. All modern waffle makers I’ve seen have one of these, but some older models may not. If it doesn’t have one, consult the manufacturer’s directions or be prepared to do a little guesswork the first few times.
Batter Catch Tray
Usually the biggest mess happens with the initial waffle in each batch, as you’re trying to guess how much batter to pour in. Because every recipe’s batter behaves differently, this could mean at least one mess every time you make waffles. So it’s helpful to have a batter catch tray to keep the mess from going all over your counter or table. It’s especially helpful if it is removable, so you can quickly wash the batter off in the sink or dishwasher.
This seems to be standard across modern waffle makers. However, don’t be misled by the name of this feature. You still need to spray the top and bottom grids generously with oil immediately before cooking each waffle. This is particularly true with gluten-free vegan waffles. See this post with a short video of how to oil your waffle maker to keep waffles from sticking.
Specific Recommended Models of Waffle Makers
I’ve had pretty good luck with the Waring Pro WMK-300 and WMK-300a models over the years. However, it appears that they’ve been discontinued and replaced with a slightly lower wattage model, the WMK200. It has 1,000 rather than 1,200 watts, but it’s gotten many good reviews. I haven’t yet tried it. My guess is that it may take slightly longer to cook, but probably still does fine at higher temperature settings.
Presto has an 1,100-watt flip waffle maker that’s gotten a lot of good reviews, and is a bit less expensive than the Warings. The built-in countdown timer makes it less likely that you’ll get batter on your smartphone. (Yes, I have done this while using my smartphone timer for baking.)
Kitchen Gadget Man has done a good comparison of several of the Waring waffle makers. As some of the WMK-300s developed issues with a thermostat fuse blowing out, he includes a link to an inexpensive fix for that. He hypothesizes that this could be the reason they moved to a lower wattage model. I don’t know if that’s the case.
If looks and novelty are more the most important factors for you, check out the Star Wars Death Star Waffle Maker.
I also discuss some of the above features in The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook.
Look for Deals on Used Waffle Makers
Because they can be so much fun, waffle makers are a popular gift. However, many people receive them, use them only once or twice, and then stash them away for several years before selling them. If you don’t want to spend more than $20 or $30, but still want a waffle maker with decent features, check resources like Craigslist and your local thrift shops.
Also check with neighbors and relatives to see if someone might have one they’re just giving away, or are be willing to sell you cheaply. If you promise to invite them over for brunch, it will be an extra sweet win-win for everyone.
Finally, review my general vegan waffle baking tips.
May your mouth and your life be filled with many delicious treats!
Catcher photo by Flickr user Alan Turkus. License.