Many people don’t have the time or energy to mix their waffle batter from scratch. It is the reason why pre-mixed waffle batter is so popular. Just pour the raw flour from the box, add water, and a few minor ingredients like cooking oil, et voilà!
If you’re a fan of pre-mixed batter, the results in this test could be the critical deciding factor on whether that specific waffle maker is a good fit for you or not.
Why the Test Matters
Its popularity is just part of why we decided to include boxed batters in our test.
Though they may look the same, a pre-mixed batter has vastly different characteristics than a self-mixed one. A waffle made from a pre-mixed batter will look and, more importantly, taste different from one made using a full recipe. For this reason, we have decided that there has to be a separate test for the pre-mixed batter.
Additionally, by comparing the performance score in this section with the scores of other recipes (self-mixed and cornmeal waffle recipes), we can better understand how versatile the particular waffle maker is. The higher and more uniform the scores in all three recipes are, the more capable it is at dealing with different recipes and batter styles.
We use the Birch Benders Organic Classic pancake and waffle mix for all of our waffle makers. Using the ratio at the back of the box, we mix our batter in the following proportions, which is enough for 5-6 servings of 7-inch waffles:
- 2 cups of waffle mix
- 1 ¾ cups of water
- 3 ½ tablespoons of oil
Temperature - Timing Calibration Test
The quality and characteristics of the batter alone don’t necessarily make a good waffle. For a high-quality waffle to be born, it has to be cooked at the correct temperature for the right amount of time. The objective of this calibration test is to find the exact temperature and timing marks for the waffle maker.
We conduct a calibration test with each new waffle maker that passes through our lab and every new recipe.
Because this is the second performance test in the pipeline (behind the self-made recipe test), at this point, we’ve already got an idea of what the optimal temperature and timing settings are. So, we recycle these numbers and see if the qualities of the produced waffles are consistent. We then make adjustments based on what we see (decreasing temperature, increasing cooking time, etc.)
Adjustments are continuously made until we find the best configuration for the waffle maker and the recipe.
The performance test is conducted as usual. After mixing up the batter, we pour it onto the waffle plate. When we close the lid, a timer is started. Using the calibration test, this timer is set to the optimal timing we obtained earlier.
When the timer beeps, the lid is lifted, and the waffle is transferred onto a plate. It is delivered immediately to our in-house chef for assessment and scoring.
The waffle is scored using three metrics: coloring (35%), texture (25%), and taste (40%).
The ideal waffle should have a beautiful golden brown color. It shouldn’t look too dark, which indicates charring. It also shouldn’t look too light, which could signify that it’s undercooked.
Besides having the right tone, it should also be uniform. There shouldn’t be any abnormally light or dark spots peppered throughout the waffle.
Color Tone Grading
Our chef uses the following table to score the coloring of the waffle.
- Golden brown — no or very few discolored spots: >=9
- Slightly darker or lighter than normal — minimal discolored spots: >=7
- Darker or lighter than normal — several discolored spots: >=6
- Very dark or very light — numerous discolored spots: 0 - 5.9
A good waffle should be fluffy and pliant enough to melt on the tongue.
However, it shouldn't be so soft that it breaks apart when picked up. It also shouldn't be so burnt that the crust immediately crumbles when it's touched. In both of these cases, that's an automatic fail.
Besides the texture, we also pay close attention to the number of air bubbles residing within the core of the waffle. The more bubbles there are, the softer the waffle will be. These bubbles form due to a process called aeration, which is a crucial stage in the development of the waffle as it consolidates from a liquid batter to a solid shape.
- Perfect texture (Multiple bubbles observed, good springiness): Over 9.0
- Good texture (Good number of bubbles, springy but may not fully come back to original shape): 6.5 - 9.0
- Mediocre texture (Small number of bubbles, springiness is minimal): 5.0 - 6.5
- Bad texture (Little to no bubbles observed, does not return to original shape at all after compression): Below 5.0
Taste is the most critical benchmark in our test. A waffle could look splendid and have the softest texture but will still be considered a failure if it doesn't taste good.
Unfortunately, grading a waffle's taste is tricky as everyone has a different palette. Some prefer sweet and light waffles. Others prefer saltier or more bitter and crispier waffles. So, the scoring in this section is subjective, depending on the palette of our in-house chef. Despite this, the taste score can still be a good reference point for judging the quality of the waffle maker.
After our test waffle batches have finished cooking, they are delivered to our in-house chefs. They will taste-test it and give out scores.
- Excellent quality (Good taste, texture, and overall appeal): Over 8.0
- Acceptable quality (Decent taste, texture, and overall appeal): 7.0 - 8.0
- Mediocre quality (Not the best, but still palatable taste. Acceptable texture and overall appeal): 5.0 - 8.0
- Bad quality: Below 5.0