A waffle iron is a genius cooking hack

Make waffles in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Make waffles in the comfort of your own kitchen.
Image: EPA/Erik S. Lesser
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A few years ago my husband and I bought ourselves a wafflemaker for Christmas. We were about to become parents and suddenly it seemed crucial to welcome our son into a home that had the ability to make a plate of waffles at a moment’s notice. Still, at the time, we saw our waffle iron as a weird impulse buy, and fully expected to leave it on the curb for a curious stranger the next time we moved.

Instead, we use it all the time.

Homemade waffles—not the sad toaster variety, with all respect to Eleven and Stranger Things—feel like a special treat. But they don’t have to be reserved just for special occasions like birthdays, or National Waffle Day, curiously celebrated on Aug. 24 to mark the first US patent for a waffle iron, issued in 1869. With an inexpensive waffle iron you can make restaurant-grade waffles at home for weekend breakfasts—or weeknight dinners,  Waffles are quick, family-friendly, easier to make than pancakes in some important ways, and can even be healthy. That’s a pretty special special treat.

Waffle irons are a low-risk buy

When it comes to waffle irons, is it better to go large, or go home? Those preternaturally messy, giant waffle irons you see at the best hotel breakfast bars will set you back about $100. They make two waffles at time, which is crucial for a crowd. And honestly, they look like so much fun to operate that I will probably upgrade at some point. But the $25 model I have gets the job done and doesn’t take up much storage space. It’s not a big risk to buy a cheaper appliance if you’re new to the waffle life.

Waffle irons are great kitchen helpers

I tend to do too many things at once. This becomes impossible when cooking something like pancakes, which require attention to detail. You can, however, walk away from an electric waffle iron to change a diaper or sort out an argument over a toy. The worst thing that will happen as the result of harried parent oversight (provided you don’t say, leave the house with it plugged in and full of batter), is that your waffle will dry out and be overly brown.

Likewise, my three-year-old loves to help cook in the kitchen. Under my supervision I can let him pour batter into the waffle iron knowing he’s not likely not going to maim himself.

If I have waffle batter left over from Sunday morning, I just pop it in a container with a lid, store it in the fridge, and make a couple of waffles in less time that it takes to make toast. For me, these cute weekday waffles are a happy accident. A parent with an actual plan could whip up a big batch on a Sunday evening, make waffles all week, and be a total hero.

Waffles can be healthy

Healthier waffle recipes abound. Flavorful versions that incorporate bananas, oats, cornmeal, pumpkin, sweet potato, or zucchini pack in some vegetable fiber and protein. Top your waffles with avocado and poached eggs, or greek yogurt and scallions, and you’ve got an easy weeknight dinner that also feels novel and fun. The book Will it Waffle is full of surprising, and kind of awesome waffle recipes, many of which are dinner-ready. A big yes to caprese salad with waffled eggplant.

Or, really go for it, and add waffles to your pickle fried chicken project.

If you’re looking for inspiration from Belgium, known for its waffles, use yeast or egg whites instead of baking powder (that’s how they get their lift). Maple syrup does not tend to be an option in Europe—instead try them with jam, Nutella, or powdered sugar.

Dorie Greenspan, the baking maven, writes that in Paris there’s little demand for home waffle makers because they’re a common street food. Those Parisian treats come with a side benefit. “The biggest flirts in the neighborhood, the waffle guys, set up shop daily in a carnylike trailer,” she writes. You’re definitely not going to share a wink and moment with your toaster as you heat up frozen waffles. But whip up a fresh batch for your kids, partner, or your roommates, and you’ll definitely get a few sweet smiles.