Cheryl convinced me this last week to give the waffle iron another try. After a couple of near duds, I finally figured out how to get them to come out nice and golden brown.
Here are some of the things I've noticed are key (for me anyhow) to getting waffles from scratch that work:
(1) Waffle Batter -- Take it from me, who did this for a looong time, don't ever confuse waffle batter and pancake batter. They're composed of pretty much the same ingredients, but the applications are totally different.
Waffle batter has more egg in it to hold the waffle together. If you skimp on the egg, the waffle won't stick together or come out of the iron in one piece.
Waffle batter is thicker and not as runny as pancake batter. If you put in too much milk, the waffle's innards won't cook correctly and the outside won't get nice and crisp.
(2) The Waffle Iron -- A helpful friend pointed this out from my description of past waffle debacles, the iron needs to be seasoned, or at least well oiled.
If you've had a few disastrous episodes like me, some remediation of your irons is in order. I scrubbed our irons clean and made sure there wasn't any spots of burnt batter left. I greased the iron's surfaces by soaking a paper towel with corn oil and then working it into all the seams with a BBQ skewer. I put the irons into a 250F oven for an hour or so, pulled them out, and let them cool.
The other thing I did was not fiddle with the heat setting on the iron. I put it to medium-dark, left it there, and waited about 10 minutes for the iron to properly warm up.
(3) Making Waffles -- If you've done the batter right, it should be about the consistency of thick gravy. I know some people who like their gravy quite watery, but that's what pancake batter should be like.
I have a ladle with a bowl that is around a cup worth. Ladle up some batter, open up the hotted up iron, plop the batter dead center. The batter should radiate out from the center about 1/2 way to the edge. Drop the top 1/2 of the iron and leave it alone.
At first nothing will happen, but this is the iron heating up the batter. The top half of the iron will probably start to rise and steam will come rolling out from all sides. Resist the temptation to lift the lid and leave the iron alone.
Presently the steam will stop and the lid may drop a bit. Give it a minute, the waffle is crisping up at this point, and you should be able to prise up the top half a bit without pulling the waffle apart. The waffle should look golden, just starting to darken a bit. You can then leave the waffle for another minute or two longer if you like your waffles more brown.
This isn't a totally fool-proof method, but it should work pretty consistently if your batter is set up right. I felt pretty confident this morning and even made up a double batch. Our crew only managed to eat about 1/3 of the total output, but I kept going anyway and baggied the rest for the freezer.