Cast iron waffle makers were once the only option for homemade waffles, and they’re still the best option in my opinion. Modern electric waffle irons cant make waffles this good…
We absolutely love waffles, and they’re a staple in our household, not just for breakfast. We’ll eat them with a savory lunch, and even for dinner.
Once you’ve tried waffles and fried chicken, you’ll realize they’re more than just breakfast food. They make pretty darn good bread for a summer lunchtime BLT too.
When we moved to our off-grid homestead a decade ago, I worried that we wouldn’t have enough electricity to make waffles, and I started looking into options for stovetop waffle irons (and other off-grid appliances).
Once we moved, we learned that our solar panel setup produces a surplus of electricity most of the year, especially in the summer. It was more than enough to support a waffle maker.
Still…we made the switch. Why?
Benefits of a Cast Iron Waffle Maker
I’ve made waffles on at least a dozen different types of waffle makers, from modern Teflon-coated ones to antique aluminum models, and half a dozen different types of non-electric waffle makers (even campfire models).
Stovetop cast iron waffle irons are my absolute favorite. Why?
First, cast iron is a safe, health-conscious surface for cooking. Modern waffle makers have Teflon coatings, which can be bad for your health.
Older electric waffle irons are aluminum, which is arguably worse for human health. Cooking in aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s, among other things.
Cooking on cast iron is a much better option, but there are no electric waffle irons with cast iron surfaces. (I’ve looked everywhere.)
Second, stovetop waffle makers allow you more control over the precise heat.
You can cook waffles just the way your family likes them every time. Electric waffle irons usually just have one setting, “on” or “off.”
Third, a properly seasoned cast iron pan is a better non-stick surface than Teflon or aluminum.
If well made and well maintained, you shouldn’t ever have a problem with waffles sticking to the pan. They still stick to Teflon and aluminum sometimes, more often than they will to well-seasoned cast iron.
Fourth, cast iron just makes a better waffle.
Waffles were originally meant to fry in a pan, creating a buttery, crisp outside. Without extra butter in the recipe (and on the pan), waffles are often dry and unappealing. Modern recipes are often low fat, which may still make something that’s a “waffle shape” but it’s not a real honest-to-goodness waffle.
Types of Cast Iron Waffle Makers
At this point, every single cast iron waffle maker on the market is a stovetop waffle maker (non-electric). Still, there are a number of different types, each with its own pros and cons.
The two main types are cast iron waffle makers with bases, and those without. There’s some variation within each category, but those are the biggest differences.
Antique Cast Iron Waffle Irons with Bases
These types of cast iron waffle makers come with a base that holds the waffle iron and allows you to freely flip the waffles without removing the iron from the base. It’s like modern Belgian waffle makers in a way, as the whole “iron” is flipped but the base stays stationary.
The base was originally needed to provide space between the iron and the intense direct heat coming from an old-fashioned wood cookstove. The model I use has a small base, that elevates the waffle iron about 2” above the heat source. Other models elevate it as much as 4”.
Separation like that still allows the waffle iron to get very hot but helps ensure an even heat without hot spots. That’ll keep your waffles cooking evenly, while still giving them a nice crisp outside.
This type of waffle iron works really well on modern gas stoves, as the waffles would cook faster on the edges than in the center without the buffer space due to the flame pattern. (They also, of course, work really well on regular wood stoves as well as old-fashioned wood cookstoves.)
Since the cooking surface isn’t in direct contact with the heat source, they will not work at all on induction cooktops. They’re also not the best for electric cooktops, though they will work.
The other benefit of the base is that it catches drips, both butter, and batter. That helps keep the stove clean while you cook.
These aren’t made anymore, but they are readily available on Etsy (as fully reconditioned and ready to use).
You can also sometimes find them in antique shops, but more often than not they’re missing pieces or rusty. For some reason antique shops expect you to put it on a shelf as a historical curiosity…rather than get to work making waffles as great-grandma did.
Modern Cast Iron Waffle Irons (without Bases)
Modern versions of non-electric waffle irons are generally made without bases, and you just flip the entire waffle iron (without rotating it in the base).
Since these are in direct contact with the heat, they will work on electric and induction cooktops, as well as gas cooktops.
For these to work, you’ll need a nice heavy, well-made piece of cast iron. If they’re thing and cheap, the direct heat will cause burned spots and you’ll have sad undercooked spots next to burned spots.
I do not recommend the cheap ones made by Rome, as they’re incredibly thin (so uneven cooking), with a very short handle (so burned hands) and they have a rough, cheaply made surface that you can never properly season no matter how much work you put into it. (Trust me, I’ve tried.)
Lehmans makes one that’s almost identical but is slightly higher quality. It’s still thin cast iron with a short handle though, so not ideal.
There’s a similar non-electric stovetop waffle maker made by Nordicware, but it’s cast aluminum and I don’t recommend it.
If you’re looking for one that will last a lifetime, just like the antique versions, I strongly recommend the high-quality ones made by Skeppshult. They’re thick enough to evenly distribute the heat, and well made so they can be easily seasoned to prevent sticking.
How to Use a Stovetop Waffle Iron
Using a stovetop waffle iron is fairly simple, but it requires a few extra considerations.
You’ll want to use an old-fashioned waffle recipe that includes a lot of butter in the batter, which makes the waffles taste better (and obviously helps prevent sticking). Modern “low fat” waffles aren’t going to work well, and I’ll include the old recipe that I use at the end.
Before you get started, be sure that your waffle maker is well seasoned.
A well-seasoned waffle maker is key to creating a non-stick surface.
Don’t ever wash your cast iron waffle maker in water (and definitely not soap). It should just be wiped down with a dry towel (or paper towel) after use.
If you do have any sticking, scrape it off with a butter knife and re-season that spot.
When you put the waffle maker on the stove, turn the heat up very high. The pan should be very hot before you add batter, and this helps create a crisp exterior while also flash cooking the outside. High heat actually prevents sticking, believe it or not.
If your waffle maker is well seasoned, it should only need to be greased every 2-3 waffles to prevent sticking, but you’ll want to grease it between each waffle anyway. That helps the waffles fry on the outside and creates a crisp surface.
Butter has a lower smoke point than lard. (It’s about 300 degrees F for butter, compared to around 375 degrees F for lard.) Properly rendered leaf lard is neutral and flavorless, perfect for making pies, donuts, and greasing waffle irons.
With butter, the pan may start to smoke if you get your waffle maker too hot. Lard is more traditional, as the higher smoke point means you can cook your waffles at around 350 F, which will leave them crisper.
Get the pan very hot, just short of the smoke point of the grease you’re using. Flip the pan over a couple of times to ensure that both sides are evenly hot.
Next, grease the pan as described, making sure you brush grease into all the nooks and crannies on both sides.
Then, pour on the waffle batter. You want enough to fill the pan, but obviously not enough to make it overflow.
Each pan will hold a different amount of batter, so it’s a matter of trial and error until you get the exact amount for your pan. Mine happens to hold exactly two ladles full, using my favorite soup ladle.
Once you’ve poured in the batter, close the waffle maker and immediately flip it over onto the other side.
This helps the waffle puff and fill the whole waffle iron. The same principle is used in modern Belgian waffle makers, and you won’t get this kind of puff with a plug-in waffle maker that doesn’t flip.
Flipping the waffle maker immediately also prevents it from overcooking on the first side, and ensures that both sides crisp evenly. Cook for 2-3 minutes on the second side, and then flip back onto the original side for another 2-3 minutes.
The actual time it takes to cook waffles on the stovetop depends on your stove’s heat output, and the type of cast iron waffle maker you’re using. Models with bases diffuse the heat for a more even cook, but each waffle takes a bit longer to cook.
Once the waffle is nicely crisped on both sides, use a fork to remove it to a plate near the stove.
Then, grease the waffle iron and start all over again.
Recipe for Stovetop Waffles
My favorite recipe for using in a stovetop waffle iron comes from an old copy of the joy of cooking. You know, like a really old copy, the ones that still have recipes for woodchuck and possum.
It still assumes you’re working for a living, and all the butter used in the recipe is going to fuel you to milk the cows and tend the farm all day. It’s darn delicious, but it’s not “light” by any stretch of the imagination.
The recipe actually calls for “4 to 16 Tbsp. of butter (1/2 to 2 sticks),” which is a huge range. The upper end of is literally four times the minimum suggested.
Joy of Cooking notes that,
“We give you three choices to prepare this recipe: use 4 tablespoons for a reduced-fat waffle, 8 tablespoons for a classic light and fluffy waffle; or 16 tablespoons for the crunchiest most delicious waffle imaginable.”
If your cast iron waffle maker is well seasoned, you can use any amount in that range and they’ll come out great. Obviously, more butter makes richer waffles.
You’ll need to have an extra tablespoon of butter on hand for greasing the waffle iron as well, so melt just a bit more than you intend to add to the batter.
Old-fashioned cast iron waffle makers are perfect for making waffles right on the stovetop. This waffle recipe works well in cast iron waffle makers, either antique or modern designs.
- 1 3/4 cups flour, all-purpose or pastry
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 large eggs, well beaten
- 4 to 16 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (1/2 to 2 sticks)
- 1 1/2 cups milk
Before beginning, be sure your cast iron waffle maker is well seasoned.
- Whisk together dry ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, beat together wet ingredients, including melted butter, eggs, and milk.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Do not overwork the batter.
- Grease the waffle iron with butter or lard.
- Preheat your waffle iron until very hot, just short of the smoke point. (Just under 300 degrees if greasing with butter, or just under 375 if using lard.)
- Pour waffle batter into the center of the waffle iron, spreading it until it's within about 1/2 to 1/4 inch of the edge.
- Close the waffle iron and immediately flip.
- Cook for about 2-3 minutes on the second side, then flip back to the first side for another 2-3 minutes.
- Remove waffles with a fork when fully cooked and golden brown on both sides.
- Grease the waffle iron before adding more batter and repeat.
Keep warm until serving.
The recipe actually calls for "4 to 16 Tbsp. of butter (1/2 to 2 sticks)," which is a huge range. The upper end of is literally four times the minimum suggested.
Joy of Cooking notes that,
"We give you three choices to prepare this recipe: use 4 tablespoons for a reduced-fat waffle, 8 tablespoons for a classic light and fluffy waffle; or 16 tablespoons for the crunchiest most delicious waffle imaginable."
The recipe also calls for a full tablespoon of baking powder, which is a good bit more than most waffle recipes. That helps the inside get nice and fluffy while the outside is crisped on the pan.
Be sure to use a well-seasoned cast-iron waffle iron, and grease it with butter or lard between each waffle. Never wash the waffle iron after use. Just wipe it down with a towel before storing it. (If any batter does stick, that'll need to be scraped off with a butter knife, and that spot reseasoned.)
The recipe makes 5 full pan waffles in my antique waffle iron, but the yield will vary based on the size of your waffle maker.
Other Types of Stovetop Cooking Irons
Beyond true waffle irons, there are a number of other types of stovetop “waffle iron” that don’t make true waffles. Modern ovens weren’t common in homes until the 1920s, and wood-fired cookstove ovens weren’t even invented until the 1830s.
Before that, most of the bread was done in a common village oven, and if you wanted other baked goods, biscuits, or cookies, you’d have to make them in a dutch oven, oven open fire, or on some type of stovetop iron.
If you look at Traditional Norwegian Christmas Cookies, most of them are deep-fried or cooked in specialized irons that could be used right over the fire. The adoption of ovens wasn’t until even later in that country, and the historical oven-free treats are still the most popular.
Many countries have traditional stovetop irons for making their signature treats at home. Specialty irons are still available for many of those treats, including:
- Nordic Krumkake Irons ~ Used for making thin, crisp, and sweet cookies that are a bit like Pizzelles.
- Italian Pizzelle Irons ~ A thin Italian cookie that’s made in an iron. These days, most people use electric pizzelle irons, but there is one company making a cast-iron stovetop pizzelle iron.
- Russian Oreshek Irons ~ Traditional Russian cookies (Oreshki) made in a stovetop iron. They’re cookie shells that are filled and then assembled into round cookies when two sides are put together.
All of the “Irons” above have two sides and sandwich the batter like a waffle iron. There are other specialty pans that make treats that need to be flipped, or where the treats are deep-fried (on or in the pan).
- Nordic Aebleskiever Pans ~ These make round fried pancakes that are almost like donuts. When they’re leavened with egg whites, they’re called Aebleskiever. When yeasted, they’re called poffertjes. There are literally dozens of countries that have recipes made in an Aebleskiever pan (or something similar).
- Swedish Plättarn ~ A specialty cast iron pancake pan that makes tiny, very thin, silver dollar-sized crepe-like pancakes called plättar. The traditional batter is very thin, so it needs the depressions to make neat rounds.
- Nordic Rosette Iron ~ A specialty iron that’s first dipped in batter and then dipped in a deep fryer. The batter flash fries on the iron to make traditional rosette cookies, which were popular in the Nordics before people had ovens at home. They come in a variety of shapes, from stars to flowers.
Cast Iron Cooking
Looking for more cast iron cooking ideas?
- How to Bake a Pie Outdoors in a Dutch Oven
- Campfire Dutch Oven Banana Bread
- Cast Iron Skillet Brownies