Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mystery Waffles And The Waffle Maker That (Sort Of) Makes Them

The Good: Good waffles, when they are done, Generally easy to clean
The Bad: A baffling system to attempt to determine when the waffles are done
The Basics: While the waffles the 26501 waffle maker creates have the potential to be great, the process of creating them is too intensive to make this a decent device.

Like many Americans, I love waffles from time to time. I love coffee more, but waffles are nice every couple of days and to make that happen, I found I wanted a wafflemaker. When it looked like I would lose my preferred waffle maker, I went out and picked up a Hamilton Beach Morning Baker Waffle Maker (#26501) because I found it on sale. I had been extraordinarily happy with my Hamilton Beach coffee maker (reviewed here!), so I figured they might make a good waffle maker, too.

The Hamilton Beach Morning Baker is a white plastic waffle iron that creates nice big - Belgian style - waffles. The waffles that come out of this waffle iron are big enough to fit strawberries in the . . . what are the compartments in waffles called? Anyway, the waffles have nice big spaces to fill with syrup, fresh fruit, or whatever else one would like to put in them. The resulting waffles are 7" in diameter and over 1" thick.

The Morning Maker 26501 Waffle Maker is a waffle maker that has a pretty standard plastic exterior, a hinge in back and it opens to reveal a Teflon interior that is a nice, solid no-stick surface. When closed, the morning maker's front is essentially a handle that allows this device to be carried easily. The 2 1/2 ft. electric cord winds up below the base quite nicely, so transporting and storing the waffle maker are rather easy. I've yet to find a need for the carrying handle (outside simply opening the waffle maker), but I suppose it might be convenient when using the waffle iron at a friend's house, as a mock-handbag or as some sort of handheld weapon. It is, in all seriousness, a selling point whose purpose eludes me.

Operation of the 26501 is both simple and baffling. Plug it in. It heats up. A light on the top of the device begins glowing orange. When it gets up to temperature, the light clicks off. Simple, right?

I wish.

Using the 26501 waffle maker is weird because the non-stick surface is pretty amazing. With properly mixed waffle batter, it is not necessary to spray the heated surface with non-stick spray, that's how good the non-stick surface actually is! I often spray it anyway because sometimes I add a bit much batter and it comes out the sides. When that happens, one realizes that the nonstick iron surface ends where the plastic begins and the waffle has a tendency to stick to the outside. Bummer.

So, where's the baffling operation of a waffle maker that has a light that goes off to tell you it's ready and you simply dump the batter onto the iron, close it up and wait? The light is absolutely no help in determining when the waffles are completed. None whatsoever. I've no idea what motivates the light because once the device is activated and comes up to temperature, the light goes on and off with apparent randomness. The waffle maker does not deactivate or reactivate the light to inform the user that the waffles are, in fact, done. No, the light goes on, light goes off, light goes on, light goes off - all as part of the normal operation of the waffle maker.

How, then, is one supposed to know when the waffles are done? According to the waffle maker's manual, waffles are done when there is no more steam coming from the device. What the manual does not say is that when there's no more steam coming from the 26501, there's also a limited period before the waffle inside is burned. When the steam stops, you'll have crispy waffles.

This means that getting waffles that are anything less than hockey pucks is an experience of trial and error and the variables continue changing. If you open the waffle maker too early, the waffle tears in half as the top separates from the bottom. If you open the waffle maker too late, you get crispy waffles that require a liter of syrup just to make easy enough to cut or chew. The perfect waffles that I have gotten out of this waffle maker all came while there was still a little steam coming from the device, so it's more or less a wash.

Add to that, the device does not have a browning control to regulate or alter the temperature. It's so easy with the plugging in and it goes, but so hard to get a useful product out of it. The waffles also decrease in cooking time as the device remains plugged in. So, if you make a successful waffle that takes two minutes to cook, odds are if you drop more batter in, within two waffles, you'll be overcooking waffles at two minutes. In short, this is a high maintenance device. You have to pay attention to it while it is activated to get what you want out of it. Otherwise, it just makes garbage.

It's high maintenance while activated, but wonderful for cleanup. This durable little number cleans up easy with a wipe of a wet cloth. The iron surface rinses clean with hot, running water and I've never had pieces of waffle stick in any part of the iron. The plastic surface (the outside cover and the base) may get batter cooked on, but it flakes or washes right off. Cleaning up is ridiculously easy with this iron.

Overall, though, I like to be busy in my kitchen and this device requires too much attention for that. Tomorrow, I'll review a better waffle iron. This one is good for the size, shape and quality of the waffle it makes, but only when you're focused on the device and become a slave to its idiosyncrasies.

For other kitchen appliances, please check out my reviews of:
Hamilton Beach 727 Milkshake maker
Frigidaire FDB750RC Stainless Steel Dishwasher
Cuisinart ICE-20/ICE-21 Ice Cream Maker


For other home and garden reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2010, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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