Item: The Smart Waffle 4-Slice
Overall Impression: Waffles have replaced bread in my house.
Breville's Smart Waffle is hands down the fanciest, smartest, most finely-tuned waffle maker I have every personally had the privilege to use. If you want to make car analogies, it's right up there with the Ferraris and the Teslas. It's a beautiful machine. It performs one job, and it does that job perfectly.
Characteristics and Specs: This is a super slick machine with brushed stainless steel housing and cast aluminum cooking plates coated with PFOA-free non-stick coating. An LED screen shows all your waffle-cooking options and changes colors to indicate when the waffle irons are warmed and when waffles are done. Audible beeps also cue various waffle stages. Knobs allow you to choose particular waffle styles and to adjust the lightness and darkness of each batch; a "A Little Bit More" button allows you to easily add cooking time for crisper waffles and the reset button brings it all back to a base starting point if you get lost in the adjustments.
The waffle plates are stationary in the machine and cannot be removed. An internal program (dubbed "Waffle IQ" by Breville) constantly monitors the temperature of the plates and adjusts the cooking time so that every batch, no matter how many you do in a row, cook exactly the same. The waffles lift easily from the non-stick waffle plates leaving very little behind to clean up. What residue is left is easily removed with a dishcloth or swept up with a pastry brush.
Favorite details: I found the Smart Waffle incredibly easy to use. There's zero guess work about how long to cook each batch — the program internal to the machine monitors how hot the plates are getting and adjusts the cooking time to match. If you like darker or more crispy waffles (or the opposite), it's easy to adjust that yourself with the "Light/Dark" knob or with the "A Little Bit More" button. The waffles also lifted cleanly from the waffle plates, leaving very little to clean up.
The gutter around the edge is a smart addition to the classic waffle iron and makes cleaning up drips and spills much easier. I also found the "Light/Dark" knob handy for adjusting each batch of waffles to people's personal preferences.
It just plain works. Oh, and if a batch is done and you're stuck in the next room doing something? The machine will adjust the temperature of the plates to keep the waffles from burning and it will also beep every few seconds so you don't forget. This happened to me once in the middle of testing — I got distracted with a phone call — and I was surprised that the neglected batch was indistinguishable from the other batches.
Potential problems: Let's get the thing we're all thinking out of the way: I definitely recognize the inherent absurdity of paying $250 for a waffle maker. It's a unitasker that takes up quite a bit of cupboard and counter space and that, at most, will only get used once a week. You have to love waffles a lot to pay this much for a waffle maker.
But. Here's the thing: this is a very, very good waffle maker. I was completely blown away with the quality of the waffles I made — from boxed mix waffles to my grandma's favorite holiday recipe. Every batch emerged perfectly golden and crispy, whether I was making a few waffles for me and my husband or multiple batches for a brunch.
I do have one more set of quibbles with this machine, as much as I liked it. I found some of the functions on the machine to be strangely redundant. The Smart Waffle maintains an approximate cooking temperature of 425°F no matter what setting you use, so all your personal adjustments only apply to the total cooking time. Turning the "Light/Dark" nob to make a batch lighter or darker simply removes or adds cooking time. Adding cooking time is also the function of the "A Little Bit More" button, which adds a pre-determined 55 seconds to the current batch. Do we need two things that perform such similar functions? In my mind, not really. After playing with waffle maker for a while, I found myself ignoring most of the options except for the "Light/Dark" knob.
I also didn't totally understand the difference between the various waffle settings (Belgian, Classic, Chocolate, Buttermilk, and Custom). This isn't explained anywhere in the manual, and makes it confusing to choose which setting to use with a given recipe. Should a Belgian-style waffle made with buttermilk be cooked on the "Belgian" setting or the "Buttermilk" setting? Does it really matter?!
I asked Breville's rep about the difference between the settings. He said that the idea here is to have pre-set cooking times for each type of waffle based on its ingredients — for instance, a slightly shorter cooking time for sugar-rich chocolate waffles. But my confusion still stands: if I don't know what factors the machine is accounting for with each setting, how do I know which setting to pick with any given cookbook recipe? In practice, I found that the differences in cooking times between the settings weren't great enough to truly throw off any one batch (between 5 minutes and 5:45 minutes), plus it's so easy to adjust time with the "Light/Dark" knob if the waffle needs it. I ultimately started cooking all my waffles on the middle-ground "Classic" setting and was perfectly happy with the results.
The waffle maker relies on its nonstick coating to make clean-up easy — and it is...mostly. Those deep wells are great for making fluffy waffles, but trying to sweep up the little crumbs that collect inside them while removing the waffles is a beast. I ultimately designated a pastry brush to this task, which works just fine to flip the crumbs out into the machine's gutter (or the countertop!), but I would have appreciated a little more instruction on this area of clean-up in the manual or even a clean-up brush included with the machine.
Storing this big boy is also something of a conundrum. It's heavy and large, so it's awkward to be constantly moving it to and from a cupboard, but it also takes up a lot of precious countertop real estate. I've seen some product shots of storing it on its side, which definitely helps save space, but I'm nervous about storing such a fine-tuned machine any other way than flat.
Good for small kitchens? Sadly, no. See above re: potential problems.
Splurge-worthy? If you love waffles (and I mean love), then most definitely yes.
Really, the issues above are just quibbles and they do nothing to take away from the ultimate functionality of Breville's Smart Waffle, which seems pretty darn flawless. I'm only half-joking about waffles replacing bread in my house. If you're in the market for a waffle maker and have the budget for it, I really don't think a waffle maker can get much better than this.
Find It: The Smart Waffle 4-Slice, $249.99 at Breville ($199 for the 2-Slice)
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)