Belgian Waffle Irons, Things I didn't know... Until Now
I have a really cheap (Rival) Belgian waffle maker that is old enough I can only find a replacement on eBay under "Vintage Rival Belgian Waffler." And the guy wants $40+ bucks for it AND shipping! Walmart has the new Rival version for ten bucks! Anyway, I have been making Belgian waffles in it for at least thirty years. Maybe forty! I don't think fifty, but who knows? So for the vast majority of those years it made absolutely fantastic Belgian waffles. I even created my own recipe just for it years ago. Buttermilk waffles that come out with a really crispy shell on the outside and fluffy beautifully textured interior. Fool proof! UNTIL a housekeeper who should not have been a housekeeper because she didn't know how to keep house took the plates out of the waffler and ran them through the dishwasher! Since then, waffles stick, no matter what I do. Even spraying with Pam prior to each baking does not help. Obvious conclusion: Buy a NEW Belgian waffle maker!
So I searched, studied, read, evaluated. I learned that I don't want round Belgian waffles! A four inch square can be packed with more fruit and whipped cream (not that I serve Belgian waffles that way all that often) than a 4 inch diameter circle. Obvious. And if waffles were intended to be round, they would have round holes in them after they bake instead of square. Something bugs me about a round waffle with a bunch of mutilated square dimples around the edges. But that's just me. I also decided I did not want one of those elevated waffle irons (they come in one and two waffle models) that you have to turn over to enssure the batter is cooked on both sides (or whatever turning the waffle iron a half turn does) that require more attention than just pouring the batter in, closing the lid, taking the waffles out when they're done. Ultimately, I decided on a Cuisinart from amazon.com. It makes four waffles at a time and has bells and whistles like a beep when it's ready and a beep when the waffle is done to the setting you've chosen. What could be better than that? It arrived a week ago, but today was the first opportunity to give it a try.
BUMMER...! If you like uncrisp soggy waffles that deflate as soon as you take them out of the waffle iron, and that cook holes all the way through the waffles where the dimples are, and that make you wish you'd made English muffins from scratch for lunch instead of Belgian waffles, this is your machine!
But that only pushed me to try to figure out why. Obviously my great created-it-myself Belgian waffles from scratch recipe does NOT make great Belgian waffles in just any old waffle iron. I THINK I have things figured out. The "dimplers" (those raised platforms that increase the cooking surface and make waffles waffles) are shaped very differently in each of these waffle irons. In the ancient Rival machine, they are almost vertical sided platforms with just a bit of cant on the platform sides and a little round dimple in the center of the top of the platform. In the Cuisinart, the platforms are more like pyramids with the cap knocked off. The Cuisinart also locks the lid down once you close it, thereby restricting the batter from rising to its fullest potential the way the Rival allows with a floating hinge. I think the Rival originally came with another set of plates for grilling so the machine opens and folds flat for that use, as well as floats to accomodate grilling thicker foods on both sides at the same time. When I make waffles in the Rival, the lid rises and about a full quarter inch of cooking batter shows through the sides. It's exciting to watch! No show anything close to that with the Cuisinart. And I think the shape of the dimplers and the floating hinges are what make the difference between crisp on the outside heavenly on the inside Rival waffles and mottled almost burnt and barely tanned surface spotting of dense, wimpy, soggy waffles with the Cuisinart. I also suspect the Cuisnart must make waffles that some people like or they wouldn't still be making them. It just doesn't work for me!
So the Cuisinart is going back to Amazon for whatever recycling they choose to do with it. I am trying ONE MORE TIME to rehab the old plates to my ancient Rival. If I could just figure out how to remove that Teflon coating I could cure the plates like a wok and have a really great waffle iron! And if all else fails, Walmart now has new Rival Belgian waffle makers for ten bucks. But I'll have to go to a Walmart and examine the dimplers and hinges before I give 'em ten bucks for one. Here's to rehab! Hope it works!
I'd be really, really leery of trying to remove Teflon; it sounds like a lot more risk and effort than return.
My solution isn't cheap: I've gone through several waffle irons, and am currently using this:
Yes, on the higher end, but it has worked flawlessly for me for over two and a half years. I've never even had to use nonstick spray with it--it barely needs to be wiped clean after use.
Well, I think I've made some progress... I did find two sets of directions on the web for removing Teflon; one says to "dissolve" it with lye and wipe it clean, then wash, wash, wash before using. The other says to "dissolve" it with denatured alcohol followed by the same washing ritual. Who knew? Alcohol or lye dissolves Teflon? So much for brandy in my waffle batter! Neither method sounded all that fun to me. What about fumes? Where do you dump it? Is it biodegradable if I bury it in my yard? Who needs that kind of hassles? So I decided on a (hopefully) safer method.
I simply soaked the Teflon plated waffle plates in very hot water for a very long time, then scrubbed every nook and cranny with a soft toothbrush, then followed the directions on every shampoo bottle: Repeat. Then I baked the plates in a 250F convection oven hoping that was hot enough to dry it out completely yet cool enough not to set off any of the bad stuff that Teflon can do when it gets too hot.
The next step was to clarify some butter. Didn't want any milk solids gunking anything up. The plates were snapped back into the waffle iron, it was heated up as hot as it would go (okay, maybe the Teflon was behaving badly, but how to tell?), then I used a basting brush to paint clarified butter (butter oil!) on all hot surfaces, closed it again and let it cook the butter while I made some waffle batter. The waffles did NOT stick! YAAAAAAY....! But I may be committed to clarifying butter every time I want to make waffles. Oh, well. A cheap price to pay for really good waffles.
On other fronts, The fixed-hinge Cuisinart is ready to go back up the Amazon. I think I may have looked at every waffle iron on the web. The ONLY waffle irons you can get with a floating hinge seem to be either the changeable grid waffle/grill kind or a panini/waffle type. The hinges are different on those two types of machine, and I'm not convinced the panini type "jaw" would allow a light batter to push it up as easily as the waffle/grill type of expandable hinges. And yes, I am convinced that this is something that contributes heavily to the lightness of my waffles. I mean, think about it: If you want a light angel food cake, do you put a weight on it before baking? Do you bake biscuits with weights on them? Yet that is exactly what locking the lid on a waffle iron does to waffle batter. I used my exact same recipe when I made waffles in the Cuisinart, but they came out dense and doughy. Locked lid syndrome!
Thanks for the Alton Brown recipe. I looked it over and the primary difference between his batter and method and mine are that he uses a mixture of white and whole wheat flour and I use a mixture of white (AP) flour and cornstarch. He hand stirs his and stops short of getting all the lumps out (a method I use religiously for pancakes, but not for waffles) and I make my batter in the blender thoroughly aerating the eggs on high before adding the buttermilk to the working blender, letting it spin while I mix my dry ingredients, add them, then add the melted butter and I'm done. The texture of my batter is just a tad thicker than really heavy cream, his is thick enough he uses a scoop to measure it. When I pour my batter into the waffle iron, I pour just enough batter to come up to the top of the dimple platforms, then close the iron and the batter will expand enough to raise the lid. Magic! Light! Airy! Delicious! And it's a hinged waffle iron lid that does it! Who knew?
Thanks to all of you for your interest and your helpful suffestions. Oh, and just for the record, you CAN cure an aluminum pan the way you cure cast iron. I once had a forty year old aluminum omlette pan that had a FANTASTIC cure on it! It was only ever used for omlettes and only ever cleaned with salt (as an abrasive) and paper towels. It made omlettes that would have brought tears of joy to Escoffier's eyes... Until my mother came for a visit, brought her dog, and fried liver for the dog in my omlette pan. She killed it! <sigh> You don't want to get into a "My mother hated me" contest with me. You'll lose! This is the same mother who came to my house, stole my leftover Christmas goose stuffed with a chestnut, apricot and Grand Marnier stuffing, took it to her house, tore off the skin, discarded the dresssing and made... ... ... are you ready? ... ... ... goose tacos!!! I tell you, she hated me! '-)
Caroline1, You don't say what the plates are made out of so this "solution" contained in the link may or may not work. It involves the use of lye and I believe it is too corrosive for aluminum. For what it's worth, here it is:
I hope someone with more knowledge about these things chimes in with either a thumbs up or a do not do it.
Blasting with walnut shells or sand blasting would work but may scour the plates which might require polishing with jewelers rouge and a Dremel. You can check out toaster central for some vintage wafflers but I don't think they are Belgian. Good luck.
Removing the teflon on your own could be quite dangerous. A local machine shop with a sand-blasting machine might give it a shot for $5-10? Bear in mind that even if you DID get the coating off, if the metal underneath is aluminum then I'm not sure how you might season that?
Alton Brown did a good eats waffle episode that I just happened to watch a few days ago on DVR. And ... it's all on youtube for your viewing pleasure, including of course a good section on waffle irons. I know that you are against round one's but supposedly they are the best.
A few very popular waffle makers with loads of great reviews:
Sand blasting would be the best way to get the coating off (or other media blasting).
If the underlying metal is steel or iron, you can season it like similar pans. If the metal is aluminum, you can get it re-teflon coated or anodized (check with local metal plating locations). Anodizing is not cheap (I assume teflon isn't either) and typically runs about $100 per tub (in Los Angeles) where you would be able to anodize about 100 waffle makers in a tub.
I was wrestling with a gunked up waffle iron maybe a year ago (no teflon) but ended up taking a cordless drill and a wire brush wheel meant for putting on a stationary rotor for buffing blades and going to town. you may destroy the thing, but that's the only way I can think of to remove the teflon (short of a blacksmith forge)
it might be a bit more labor intensive, but given the right attachment, maybe less destructive (I'm trying hard to walk the Yin and Yang tightrope of Apollonian and Dionysian impulses these days - but it's kind of cool to destroy things during the day, then make dinner and take an online course at night)
a Dremel would indeed get into those dimples better, you just may have to change the tip often. Black and Decker makes one too, but I wasn't happy with the quality of some of the cutting/abrasive disks/cones.
cost effective vs the $10 Walmart iron? nah. labor of love yes.