Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Waffle Iron of Power

In the Bayles home, we are serious about our waffles. That means I don't mess around with wimpy waffle irons. We got our first waffle iron (made by Chefmate) as a wedding gift. It got us accustomed to the nice, deep pockets of the Belgian-style waffle, and lasted us for over 12 years of waffley wedded bliss. Sadly, it breathed its last breath half-way through baking the first waffle for my son's birthday breakfast (thank goodness for good neighbors who loaned us theirs for the rest of the morning!) Since we were just a month away from moving, we decided to do without for a while and wait until we got here a year ago. Before rushing out and buying a new waffle iron, I did a lot of research. I was determined my new iron would last us much, much longer than just another decade, and I wanted to be sure it could cook waffles just the way we like them. It didn't take much reading before I realized if I wanted a superior waffle iron I was going to have to splurge a little. On the threshold of grad school, this was a tough budget choice, but one I have not regretted. Thanks to a thorough blog review from a person who had tested out several irons, I was confident in purchasing the "No Peek" Belgian Waffle Maker made by Calphalon. The point the reviewer made that really caught my attention was this: in his hunt for the perfect iron, he had been told that if he wanted even heat and durable construction, he should try to find a really old iron, like from the 50's or 60's. Back then they made appliances to last through regular use in bigger families who cooked more often, not on a whim and as a novelty for two. After owning one such iron and finally running it into the ground, he bought this Calphalon iron and was happy to report it was built like they used to make 'em. Retailing around $100, this was a big commitment, but thanks to a 20% off coupon from Bed, Bath & Beyond (you know, the ones you find in the mail every single week?) I got mine for a more reasonable $80. It has been my best friend ever since. We use it at least twice a month and the results are always perfect.

Here are some of the features I love most about this waffle iron:

1. It is solid. According to the manufacturer, the plates are made of bronze. The outer structure has a sturdy brushed metal look. My last waffle iron took a bit of a beating from the kids who sat on it like a folding chair (never when it was hot of course!) or pretended it was a laptop (those little squares do look a lot like a keyboard). Its casing was plastic, and in time the underside cracked down the middle. The Calphalon iron is a lot more precious to me and doesn't get played with, but if it did, I think it would hold up to the abuse pretty well.

2. It is genuinely and perfectly non-stick. The waffles come off gorgeously every time. A note to all non-stick waffle-iron users out there: DO NOT spray your waffle iron! That will actually destroy the non-stickitivity of the plates as the oil accumulates and bakes on. If you have already used spray on it for a while, you will probably have to keep using it forevermore, but a new iron should never see Pam's face, so just keep her in the cupboard.

3. It has a temperature dial, something my last iron did not have. I love having the flexibility to raise or lower the heat level. However, I still use a timer. I had gotten used to ignoring the bell on my last iron because the waffles were never quite done when it sounded. With this one I found that cooking them to the darkness I liked (according to the bell) left the middle less cooked than I wanted (the batter I use is thicker than traditional waffles). So we set it lower and cook it a little longer, and they turn out perfectly. You'll probably want to play with this feature too to get it just where you like it.

4. The cord tucks away neatly and simply. My last iron had no such feature, and it may have been one too many tugs on that cord that did it in.

5. There is a locking slide to hold the iron closed for storage. It's not as stiff as I would like and it's easy to accidentally nudge the lock open, but since I don't carry it around very much I don't mind. It is enough to keep it closed if you store it upright and it's lots better than the floppy plastic "lock" that was little more than a hinge on the handle of my first iron.

6. It heats beautifully evenly. During my research I looked at so many bad reviews of disgruntled waffle makers including their frightening pictures of half-cooked waffles. You could see exactly where the heating element lay beneath the plates because a dark ring would be emblazoned on the waffles whilst the edges were still doughy and sticking pathetically to the iron. I looked at a lot of waffles like that. I really mean a LOT. But never in my kitchen. Nope.

7. It's big enough for our family. I couldn't do a little flip-over Belgian waffle iron. You can't chug out enough waffles for 7 people with one of those. This iron has a nice big four-square plate with nice deep waffle pockets. Just right for us.

So that's all the reasons I love my Calphalon waffle iron. If you're in the market for a new one, I highly recommend it.

Next week I will share my favorite Buttermilk Waffle recipe, along with our favorite thing to pair with it: Aunt Lynette's amazing Buttermilk Syrup!

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