Everyone loves a scrumptious hot waffle, but have you ever wondered about the history of the cast iron waffle maker? Professional chefs today prefer the old-fashioned waffle maker made of cast iron. For cooking performance, safety and durability, cast iron is far superior for and hard wearing than the modern Teflon free waffle maker, which has become popular for the average use householder.
Cast Iron Waffle Maker Origins
The ancient Greeks designed the first utensil to make waffles. They called it an obleios. This comprised of two heated iron plates into which they would pour the batter. This was perhaps the first stovetop waffle maker of its kind. For making waffles, the simple design worked, but came with a high risk of skin burns due to the intensely high heat that cast iron is capable of holding.
Into the middle ages, waffle makers appeared in all shapes and sizes, until an enterprising American named Cornelius Swarthout bought the first patented stovetop waffle maker to the market in 1869 that was safe to use as a stovetop waffle maker.
In the early 20th century, General Electric and Westinghouse created a waffle maker with a basic heating element. Technology at that time was limited, so this was a bold move forward. As technology developed, advance in the design and effectiveness of waffle makers improved radically in the early fifties.
As demand for consumer products increased post war, the old-fashioned waffle maker gradually began to resemble modern waffle makers but cast iron remained popular for the many benefits that it brings. Later in the article, we will outline these benefits for you.
For a more detailed analysis of the differences between “waffle makers” and “waffle irons”, read this article.
History of cast iron
China invented cast iron in 5th Century BC. They used moulds to create pots, pagodas and weapons, and strong cutting blades for ploughs. Cast iron was cheaper to use than iron, so quickly became a popular resource.
Things you can do with cast iron that you can’t do with a regular waffle iron
Cast iron can tolerate high heat whereas Teflon is better suited for cooking quick food like eggs, or food that covers the entire surface of the plates or pan.
As cast iron maintains heat well, there is less risk of the food burning. You can set a cast iron waffle maker to high heat, knowing that it will not release toxic fumes as a Teflon coated waffle maker could do at high heat.
Burning Teflon generates a lot of smoke, which has a strong plastic type of smell. It will burn and sting the eyes and cause issues if inhaled. There are no such concerns with cast iron.
With some cast iron waffle makers, you can put the plates in the dishwasher. This would not be possible with Teflon, as it would scratch.
Things that you need to watch out for when using a cast iron waffle maker
It gets hot
The plates of a cast iron waffle maker can get VERY hot. The design of the product casing protects you from potential burning from the outside of the waffle maker, but be careful not to touch the hot plates before, during or after use. Do not touch until they are cool. You can test this by placing your hand a few inches above. If the plates are still hot, you will feel the heat rising up to your hand.
Seasoned to provide a non-stick surface
The beauty of cast iron is that it easily becomes non-stick. Before using your cast iron waffle maker, smooth a little oil on the surface. This will help with the cooking and create a non-stick surface that will cook your waffles to perfection.
It is heavy
Cast iron is heavy and built to last, but be aware of the extra weight as you are moving the waffle maker around the kitchen. Lift with both hands and place down gently on a work surface.
Pros of cast iron
Teflon is highly toxic at high heat. If it overheats, it can burn and create highly toxic fumes. Cast iron does not burn and does not release any fumes even at extraordinary high heat.
Professional chefs use cast iron Belgian waffle makers. Built to last, cast iron is durable and can take a fair amount of abuse without falling apart and, as we have mentioned before, can tolerate extreme high heat.
You use less oil
Cast iron has excellent non-stick properties if seasoned well with oil before use. Just a small amount of oil will go a long way with a cast iron waffle maker. For health purposes, using less oil means you are reducing your fat intake when cooking. If using saturated fats, this is a big health bonus.
Stops food from burning
If seasoned well, cast iron will not burn your food. No matter how high the heat, cast iron does not have hot spots. It maintains a steady cooking temperature throughout.
For super tasty waffles, it is good to know that your waffle mixture will be cooked evenly. Cast iron plates hold heat and keep your waffles hot as you prepare yummy toppings.
Easy to clean and maintain
After use, clean with a non-abrasive sponge. For awkward spots, you can use a soft toothbrush. Some models have removable plates that are dishwasher friendly, but please check the instructions before doing this.
Clean as soon as possible after use, before butter, oil or batter dries out on the plates.
Cast iron is virtually indestructible, but surprisingly low cost to buy and, with a little care, will last you a long time.
Modern Teflon coated products can be dangerous for our health. Cast iron presents no potential risk of toxicity. Indeed, using cast iron can actually increase your iron intake as the food absorbs iron during use.
Cons of cast iron
Cast iron is heavy, so take care when moving your waffle maker around the kitchen. It also radiates a lot of heat during cooking and will retain heat for a considerable time after use.
During and after use, make sure that you put your cast iron waffle maker in a safe place away from toddlers or pets and take care yourself until the plates have cooled.
Once cooled, store your waffle maker in a safe place so that children or pets cannot pull it off a work surface.
There is nothing better than making your waffles with an old-fashioned waffle maker. As we have explained above, the benefits are numerous but not least of all that you can expect a superior taste and quality from your waffles. You will save money by buying a product with excellent durability that will cook your waffles like a Pro.