Commercial Waffle Maker Buying Guide
Who doesn’t love waffles? Soaked in syrup or topped with fruit, chocolate, and whipped cream, these fluffy creations are truly heaven-sent. Their combined gustatory merit and culinary versatility mean they’re a staple on most menus. Sweet or savoury, waffles are a delectable, crave-worthy delight from coast to coast.
Enjoying the waffles is easy. Making the waffles, on the other hand, is arguably an art form, but the right waffle maker can make all the difference. Keep reading so your operation can pick the best commercial waffle maker for your foodservice kitchen.
Types of Waffles
If you picture a waffle, you probably have a distinct type in mind based on what you’re used to eating. Maybe they’re thin, crispy and soaked in syrup, or maybe they’re fluffy, huge and topped with fruit and whipped cream. Do you know what type you want to serve?
- Belgian waffles: A popular choice, these waffles are light and fluffy, with large, deep pockets to soak up toppings, which makes them great breakfast and dessert items. Belgian waffles are most often one large, rectangular shape but can also come in round varieties with four pie-shaped sections. They’re usually a deeper, darker brown than traditional waffles and offer up a crispy but light texture.
- Traditional waffles: These North American waffles are thin and crispy, with shallow pockets and round and square shapes. These thinner waffles aren’t designed for endless toppings, so stick to the butter-and-syrup basics with these.
- Bubble waffles: These Hong Kong specialties are becoming more and more popular thanks to their bubbly, puffy texture. They’re crispy on the outside but fluffy on the inside for a unique, spongy texture. Bubble waffles are often rolled into a cone shape and filled with ice cream, whipped cream and toppings for a delicious, trendy treat.
- Liége waffles: Pronounced "lee-edge", Liége waffles are a Belgian treat. They’re sweeter and denser than Belgian waffles, and they have irregular shapes/edges.
- Waffle cones: These are used for ice cream and so are thin with shallow pockets so that they can be rolled into a cone shape. They have a crispy texture that goes well with ice cream.
Waffles vary in terms of both batter type and the specific waffle maker used; you can’t use one waffle maker to make both Belgian and bubble waffles.
Remember that waffles are a super versatile base: they can easily transition from breakfast food to dinner and even dessert without missing a beat. You can also use your waffle maker for a variety of other foods, like crunchy mac n’ cheese, grilled cheese, omelets, hashbrowns and so much more.
Get creative! Your waffle maker will quickly pay for itself.
If you have a specific type of batter you want to use, that will determine which waffle maker is best for your kitchen. Alternately, the type of waffle maker you choose will determine which batter(s) work best.
If you’re going to be making two or more types of waffles, then you’ll likely need two separate waffle makers. If you’re going to be cooking more than just waffles in your waffle maker, you might need two waffle irons, unless you’re willing to clean it between orders. Even if you are using two different batters for food allergy purposes - separate units may be required.
Sizes and Capacity of Waffle Makers
No waffle maker guide would be complete without talking about the size and capacity of waffle makers. Waffles can come in many shapes and sizes, so make sure you know what type you’ll be looking to serve in your restaurant.
From mini waffles to waffle cones, square waffles to round waffles, you’ve got some big decisions to make! Some waffle makers feature removable waffle plates so you can switch out the texture, shape, or size, but this can often be too cumbersome for a busy kitchen. Keeping with one size/shape will speed up your workflow significantly.
The actual size of the waffle you want matters too: waffles can vary from 7 inches to over 10 inches in size. Some waffle makers make just one waffle at a time, while others can make up to four waffles per batch to save you time. You should determine roughly how many waffles per hour you’ll be serving to figure out the size of waffle maker you need and how quickly they need to cook. Also consider the style of plates or bowls and their sizes to see if your waffles can be properly plated. Your average diner is also a consideration for determining the size of waffles you want to serve – kids and adults (and even the age of the adults) are expecting certain portion sizes.
Single, double, stacked double, horizontal, vertical, side by side single/double. For example, single waffle makers typically produce 20-30 waffles per hour. Double waffle makers increase that output to 40-60 waffles per hour. By calculating how many orders of waffles you sell on average (or aim to sell), you can decide whether the single or double waffle maker is better for your kitchen. You’ll also need to factor in servings per plate; if each plate gets two waffles, a double waffle maker might be better or else the first waffle could cool while you’re cooking the second. Keep in mind the fact that some waffle makers might need time to reheat between batches, which could slow down your output. Look for waffle makers with good heat retention and fast preheat times.
Controls and Features
Waffle makers are starting to offer more and more features to keep up with busy kitchens. Every waffle maker should have a few key parts: a handle that you can easily turn, flip and maneuver without burning yourself; indicator lights to tell you whether the machine is on or off, cooking or ready to go; waffle plates to get consistent, even texture; and temperature dials to control the cooking.
Important features and controls to consider:
- Rotary feature: This allows you to flip the waffle mid cooking in order to ensure an even, consistent cook and browning.
- Drip trays: Any busy kitchen will love a drip tray since it helps keep your kitchen tidier throughout a busy shift. They collect stray batter and crumbs in a removable tray that you can then empty periodically or at the end of the day. Less spillage means less time cleaning and more time making waffles!
- Controls: The more advanced your waffle maker, the more controls you’ll have. This isn’t always a good thing though, as it can complicate the process and slow you down. Look for on/off controls (some waffle makers can only be turned off by unplugging them), timers, visual and auditory indicators (when the maker is preheated, when a waffle is done cooking, when it’s time to flip the waffle, etc.), and temperature controls as your must-have controls in a waffle maker. These will help you achieve consistent results each batch and have more control over cooking the waffle. Other less important but nice-to-have controls include browning adjustments and texture switches.
- Voltage: Make sure you choose a waffle maker that’s suited to your restaurant’s kitchen in terms of voltage. Some heavy-duty waffle makers even have two plugs, so you’ll need to ensure your kitchen can support that. Double-check the manufacturer’s guide to ensure you’re always being safe and cautious when it comes to electricity. Some waffle makers have cord hiders and latches for storage/cleaning purposes, which are nice-to-have features.
- Measuring cup or batter dispenser: some waffle makers come with a measuring cup and/or a batter dispenser. For accurate and consistent measurement of batter to ensure less waste, consistent texture and size of waffles, and a cleaner workstation. However, there are other portioning tools available that can help you achieve perfect waffles every time.
- Removable plates: depending on the waffle maker you choose, you may be able to remove the plates/grids for cleaning. And may even be dishwasher safe.
Cleaning Your Waffle Iron
Keep in mind that you’re going to be cleaning these machines regularly, so you want to pick a waffle maker that’s both heavy-duty but also easy to clean. Removable grids will make cleaning the machine so much easier, however, all commercial waffle makers are designed to be cleaned thoroughly to meet health unit guidelines.
Waffle irons plates or grids can be made from cast aluminum, cast steel, cast iron, or non-stick coated materials; how to clean them will depend on what they’re made of (always follow the manufacturer’s guide to avoid scratching or ruining the surface).
Waffle Iron Materials
In terms of the waffle iron materials, your options include:
Cast Aluminum: This is your speed maker. It’s both fast to preheat and fast to bake, but it’s a softer metal that can be easily dented and scratched and has to be hand washed only.
Cast Steel: This is a stronger material that can be run through the dishwasher and can handle dings and scratches, but it takes longer to cook (although the heat distribution is fantastic).
Cast Iron: For high volume kitchens, cast iron is incredibly durable and heavy duty, but needs regular seasoning to keep it non-stick (so make sure you can handle the maintenance). In terms of cooking, it retains heat very well which means less downtime between batches but can take longer to heat up initially.
Non-Stick: These are usually less durable than cast iron and cast steel and need to be hand washed. However, nonstick makes it easier to consistently achieve great waffles.
Deciding whether to prioritize cook time versus cleaning, among other factors, will help you choose the right material and waffle maker for your kitchen.
The right waffle maker for your commercial kitchen can depend on a wide variety of factors, as you’ve seen in our waffle maker buying guide. Make sure you take all these factors into consideration before making the leap because a commercial waffle maker is a delicious investment.
Have questions about the best waffle iron or irons for your restaurant? Contact us! We’re here to help.
Written by River Street Writing