LIÈGE WAFFLE IRON BUYING GUIDE
We researched literally hundreds and tested a few dozen household and commercial irons. Choosing a waffle iron for cooking Liège waffles isn't easy, but here's what you need to know.
90 DEGREES OR 180 DEGREES AXIS ROTATION
You definitely want an iron that rotates 180 degrees, but also one that rotates on its axis. The only irons designed to do this easily are HVD irons or Krampouz's Swivel iron (other problems, see below). With Liege waffles, there is always residual sugar left behind and when some of it burns (it always does) you do not want to spend hours cleaning it. The rotating on its axis design allows for the sugar to drip off if you rotate the iron vertical. If your iron only opens 90 degrees, all the sugar will simply pool to the bottom plate and top plate is left in an upright position that is difficult to clean.
AUTHENTIC SHAPE OR NOT
In order to cook an authentic oval like shape with a 4x6 or 4x7 knuckle pattern, your choices are limited. For household irons, there are only 2 choices on the market that we know of that can make an authentic or very close to authentic shape. First is by Croquade (found on surlatable.com and Amazon) for about $160, but the temperature control is difficult and it doesn't have commercial reliability. The second is Emeril by T-fal (limited quantites on Overstock and eBay), but it too is very difficult to control the temperature. It does cook 2 at a time which is better than the Croquade, but we don't recommend either unless it's only for very limited use.
For commercial, HVD, AMPI and Krampouz make irons with the most authentic Liege pattern plates. Luxinox (VH Corporation), Sodir/Equipex and Carnival King are not quite as authentic because the gap shape in between the knuckles is more V shaped than it should be, but it's close enough to be usable.
If you don't care about having an authentic shape, then there are more household options, but still only a few commercial options are available. Webstaurantstore.com and Foodservicewarehouse.com carry the best selection, but options are limited. We think the round Carnival King WBM13 iron is a good choice as it rotates 180, has replaceable plates, and is fairly priced. However, you can only cook one at time. We generally don't recommend the Waring-Pro commercial irons as the plates are not replaceable and the double iron in particular will not work as the sugar will burn easily. The Waring-Pro though is UL 197 and NSF/Ansi4 certified while the Carnival King is only CE.
HOUSEHOLD OR COMMERCIAL
This is more of a business decision based on budget and risk. For high volume commercial operators cooking Liège waffle dough, you do need a heavy duty Liège waffle baker to get speed, consistency, durability and electrical efficiency. However, if you're a low volume operator, you'll have to consider the cost of a commercial iron. Authentic commercial pattern machines are expensive at $900+ so you may want to start with an affordable household model (as little as $25) to get started. However, the risk is that your insurance policy will not cover damages from a household model and you may get in trouble with your local inspectors (fire, health, electrical). Also, from a business perspective, your brand may take a hit from not serving an authentic shaped waffle.
HOUSEHOLD IRON RECOMMENDATIONS
If you're going to cheap, this Hamilton Beach is it. Both Hamilton Beach and Croquade are good for testing though.
Sometimes the most affordable models can work surprisingly well. We found this to be the case with this household model. You can't beat the $25 price. It has a 4x5 grid so you get a close to authentic Liege waffle shape. If it had just one more row of nubs making it 4x6, it would be very good. On the lowest setting it will cook our dough in 2 1/2 to 3 minutes assuming you're cooking room temp dough. Unfortunately cooking cold dough doesn't work so great. It holds the temperature low and even enough that the residual sugar caramelizes slowly to limit the burning. It's a a little difficult to manage b/c there are no large handles and the outer edges of the waffle tend to get a little undercooked.
Fast preheating and cool down
Easy cleanup with water
Hamilton Beach 26009 Belgian Style Waffle Baker available for around $28 on Amazon.com.
No authentic 4x6 or 4x7 waffle pattern
No power on/off switch so ideally you can use a power strip with individual switches for each outlet
No large handles
UL certified for only household use
Outer edges of waffle will be a little undercooked
We like this Croquade model because it has an authentic shape. However, being non-stick aluminum means it won't really hold a steady temp so you really have to pay attention when using it. Compared to HVD, the plate design is a bit deeper so your waffle will be thicker and smaller in diameter. We like this iron so much though that we use it for demo tastings because it heats up fast and is very portable.
Very close pattern to commerical Liege irons
Fast preheating and cool down
Easy cleanup with water
This Croquade iron is available on Amazon.com for about $160, but it's starting to become harder to find as we don't think they're making much headway into the US market.
COMMERCIAL LIEGE WAFFLE IRONS BRANDS
For a long time we have been searching for a mid range alternative to HVD, but with better performance than Krampouz. We finally found it and we tested their 52126 model finding it to be a solid option. We were impressed by the heavy 33lb plates and how they cooked evenly. Sure, it doesn't have HVD's slick CNC milled plates, but the mid range pricepoint is very attractive and iron is well built. Although we are their first US reseller, they have been in business for 30+ years so they are not a new business. We like that they are based in the actual city of Liege. See our AMPI page for more details.
Their machines are simply the gold standard, the creme de la creme, the best, etc... HVD is hands down the highest quality commercial Liege waffle irons on the market. The machines weigh over 80lbs so they retain heat incredibly well keeping a steady temperature. The cast iron griddle is milled giving it a smooth cooking surface that makes it much easier to clean than normal cast iron that has a pebble grain finish. HVD includes a cleaning tool that you can use to scrap off excess sugar, but you can let the iron cool and then the sugar can be peeled off if you're using Couplet sugar like we do. Tirlemont is stickier and doesn't peel off. If well maintained, the cooking surface stays much more non-stick than Krampouz or VH machines. Most serious waffle operators start of with Krampouz and eventually switch over to HVD. Also, the electronics are rock solid and swivel design is very durable as well as easy to use. In terms of the final cooked waffle, you get the best waffle as the pearls of sugar will melt and caramelize evenly across the entire waffle instead of having melted sugar on the edges which is typical of pretty much every other iron. It's a somewhat subtle difference, but if you're going for the highest quality waffle or if you need very low maintenance (remote locations), this is the best iron without a doubt. They are the most reliable machines on the market and many operators start with Krampouz or VH/Luxinox, but then end up investing in HVD irons.
The machines are quite expensive, but if you are a high volume operator, these irons are well worth the investment. We import them regularly and we have a special arrangement with HVD where we have 110/120V machines made with a US plug. HVD irons normally come with the european Schuko plug so as a value-add so you can use our version straight out of the box when it arrives. Plus for our customers, we stock some parts so if you ever need parts we can quickly supply them to you instead of waiting for them to be shipped from Belgium.
L26 - Cooks 2 at a time
A57 - Cooks 4 at a time
In 2018, they released two Brussels style waffle irons that can actually be used for cooking Liege waffles and they are good affordable options under $300, but they are non-stick aluminum plates which will need to be replaced fairly often versus cast iron that will last a lifetime. The replacement plates are a bit pricey at over $100 for a set, but you can at least replace them once the non-stick coating wears off which is definitely will. We recommend the WS180 vs the WBS46. Apparently the WBS46 non stick coating is not as high quality as the WS180. Both irons can be found on Webstaurantstore and parts are also available on their website. Even if you have a HVD iron, this is a good back up machine because all irons have some downtime for maintenance or repair.
This is a popular mid range Liège waffle iron imported from France, but we caution buying them because their US distributor, Eurodib, apparently will not be restocking their machines in 2019 and are in sell down mode. More importantly, parts may become difficult to source unless they setup a different distribution channel in the US. Looks like they partnered with Hatco to continue selling the small machines, but we don't know about parts. Krampouz waffle irons are fairly well made and cook better than Luxinox (VandH Corporation), but not as evenly at HVD or AMPI. The plates do come off fairly easily which you would think makes them easier to clean, but the reality is that very few Liege waffle operators ever bother taking the plates off. A dishwasher machine simply will not remove burnt sugar and detergent will remove the important seasoning. The pebble grain texture of the cooking surface really needs to be well seasoned to prevent sticking and unfortunately burnt sugar does stick very easily to it making it difficult to clean. We wished the machines had an on/off power switch as the thermostatic dial can wear out quickly. When a new machines arrives, we do like that it is clean, but you do still have to season it to prevent waffles from sticking. We're not support if Hatco will be providing any support. If you do buy this machine, contact us and ask about buying a scraper cleaning tool from us. It will definitely help as cleaning these machines is difficult.
LUXINOX (VH Corporation or thebelgianwaffleironstore.com)
You've probably never heard of Luxinox, but you may know about the Belgianwaffleironstore.com or VH Corporation. Luxinox is the actual manufacturer of these popular Liege waffle irons and VH Corporation just private labels their irons. We actually were a reseller as well, but after testing the irons and working with Luxinox, we decided not to resell them any longer for a few different reasons. First and foremost, we had some issues with the performance of the machine. The digital thermometer and counter are nice features, but the bottomline is how well the iron cooks a waffle. Our experience was that they heated a bit unevenly. The outer edges of the waffle were consistently less browned meaning the heat distribution was uneven. For a $800+ machine that is made of cast iron, it should cook your waffle really well yet it didn't. It wasn't terrible, but a commercial machine should just be very good and consistent. Besides performance, we had other issues. In particular, the machine from the manufacturer is not packaged very well. Our iron sustained damage during the air cargo delivery due to lack of sufficient padding. The main bracket was bent and we had to request parts which also took over a month to receive which speaks to their support capability. We also had another problem. The outer non-cooking surface of the cast iron plates had a black residue that apparently is part of the manufacturing process. We spent about an hour cleaning the machine before being able to use it. This is all in contrast to our experience with Krampouz where the machine arrived quickly, well packaged, had no black residue, heated fairly evenly and has decent support. The biggest issue may actually be support since getting parts is difficult. So for these reasons, we stopped reselling Luxinox irons. However, while we did not have a good experience with this irons, one of our customers thinks they're better than HVD and Krampouz because they're cheaper than HVD and are easier to clean than Krampouz since the gaps in between the knuckles are more V shaped. For business owners, we contend that support is still very important and if you can't get fast turnaround on support, then you'll be left high and dry when your machine breaks down.
If you've had a good experience with Luxinox machines, please let us know as we would love to share your experience. For example, someone recently from Australia told us this, "Your story on Luxinox is total rubbish. I have owned one for about 10 years without any of the issues you ramble on about! Your story is simply untrue. I live in Australia, imported in pristine condition with excellent packaging. Model has never failed me. You should rather look at the delivery people who are more often than not too rough with these parcels. I have nothing but a very high regard for this product." Perhaps 10 years ago things were different. Also, we as customers don't control the shipping so it's really up to Luxinox to package their product better.
Unfortunately their "Liege" machines do not have the proper shape. The knuckles are too small so the shape isn't really authentic. We asked if they would be redesigning the plate design and unfortunately they don't have plans at this time. They do have a nice maintenance program where they will service the machine if you send it to them. No one else does this so once they come out with a better plate design, this may be the best value on the market.
We don't recommend these machines for Liege waffles because they don't rotate 180 degrees. The sugar will pool in the bottom plate and you won't get an even distribution of sugar on your waffles. More importantly, cleaning is a much more difficult. We don't know how you're supposed to clean the top plate if it only opens 90 degrees. We have several customers who made this mistake so hopefully you read this and avoid the problem.