Waffles put pancakes to shame. Anyone with a frying pan can make a pancake. But a perfectly cooked waffle—crisp on the outside, soft and steaming on the inside, covered in those ingenious dimples that capture syrup and butter in tiny pockets? A thing of beauty.

So why, you ask, are pancakes so much more common than their geometrically precise, architecturally sound cousins? Easy: the waffle iron. Those dreadful devices are clumsy, they demand entirely too much shelf space, and cleaning them is a nightmare.

Cuisinart, however, has come up with a neat idea: Turn the whole thing on its side. The Vertical Waffle Maker presents a compact, more practical spin on this essential tool, and it pumps out consistently crispy and golden waffles.

WIRED

The typical waffle iron lays flat on your countertop. Cuisinart’s $60 machine stands up, cooking the waffle in a vertical position. You pour the batter into a slot on top, and don’t open the iron until the waffle is done.

This creates a much smaller footprint. Regardless of your counter space situation, it’s nice to have more room for plates, your coffee, and the big bowl of batter while you’re prepping waffles. It makes storage easier, too. The Cuisinart’s concave base makes for better Tetris with your rice cooker, bowls, and gadgets.

More importantly, the Vertical Waffle Maker makes a good Belgian-style waffle—big and round, with deep dimples and a uniform consistency. Like most Belgian waffles, these discs easily break into quarters for sharing (or building a fried chicken sandwich). The Waffle Maker’s temperature gauge allows you to select your desired crispiness. The lowest setting results in a light brown without runny spots, while the high setting leaves you with a dark, well-done waffle.

TIRED

Orientation aside, the Vertical Waffle Maker is still a waffle maker, so it gets hot and you’ll dread cleaning it. But you’ve put up with this from your current waffle maker, and it hasn’t stopped you because waffles rock.

The upright design requires pouring batter into the iron blindly. With a horizontal iron, you can see how much coverage you’re getting because the cooking surface is laid out before you. Here, the process starts with a closed iron. You’re pouring into a black hole, so expect some trial and error. Too little batter yields a waning-moon waffle. Too much leads to unnecessary excitement. At first, you think you didn’t add enough, and feel obliged to add more. Your horrible misjudgment soon becomes clear as batter bubbles up through the batter slot like a gurgling volcano. It is a harrowing and deeply stressful experience that leaves you with a big, gooey dough ball that becomes a runny mess when you remove the waffle—exactly the type of trauma Cuisinart hoped to do away with.

Of course, this only happens when you pour in too much batter, but it takes a few test runs to find the proper quantity. And unless your batter is exactly the same each time you cook waffles, that means your first few waffles will be too small, or they’ll have that gooey clam’s foot. Climb that learning curve, though, and every waffle emerges from the Cuisinart perfectly round and wonderfully crisp, further proving the superiority of waffles over pancakes.

RATING

7/10 – Very good, but not quite great.

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