Stay Connected

Monday, January 23, 2023

Old-Style Waffle Irons

I wanted to show you something you may not know still exists (and is still manufactured). Before there were electric waffle irons, there were waffle irons that sat directly on a heat source, like a stovetop. The first American stovetop waffle iron was invented in the second half of the 1800s. It wasn't until the early 1900s that a waffle iron attached to its own heating elements was invented. Technology for these early electrified waffle irons improved between 1920 and 1950, giving us the waffle irons we remember from our childhoods.

My own waffle iron is one of those old-fashioned stovetop contraptions. There is no electrical cord and no heating elements. It bakes waffles with the heat from my stove burner. It can also be used over a wood fire, so long as there's a grill for the iron to rest on. (My arms would get tired holding the iron steady over a fire for more than a minute or two.)

The iron consists of two grid paddles connected by a hinge. Each side has a built-in simple thermometer, with just 3 settings, COLD, COOK, HOT. To use the iron, I must first pre-heat both sides on my stove's burner. I turn the iron over a couple of times over the course of 5 minutes or so, until the thermometer's pointer is on COOK for both sides. At this point, I add the batter to the iron and return it to the stovetop. I manually flip the iron over to cook the second side about 2 minutes into cooking. When the steam seeping out from between the two paddles subsides, I know my waffles are baked.

My purpose in showing you my waffle iron is really just for information and entertainment. It's different from what most of know as a waffle iron, so I thought you might enjoy seeing it. Why would someone buy this sort of waffle iron, you may wonder. Here are a few pros to old-style waffle irons:

  • They can't really break or stop working, as there are no electrical cords or elements which could short out. Old-style waffle irons could in theory continue to "work" for centuries. I expect mine will be handed down to one of my kids or sold at an estate sale to be used for many, many more years.
  • They can be used over a fire in the fireplace or a grill outdoors, so in theory it could be taken camping.
  • They're less expensive to purchase than most electrified models.
  • Without an electrical component, they have a slim profile and can be stored in tight spaces. This was important to us when we first received it 35 years ago, as we were living in a small apartment with little kitchen storage.
Still, there are some downsides to a non-electrified waffle iron.

  • There's a learning curve to getting the waffles to come out just right. Without an indicator light to tell you when the iron is heated or the waffles are baked, the cook has to make educated guesses for its use.
  • Because the iron has to be flipped over halfway through cooking, this type needs more attention than electrified units that cook on both sides at the same time.
  • Waffles take a little longer to bake, as the iron has to be flipped on the heat surface to cook both sides.
  • It can't be brought to the table for cooking additional waffles while the family eats the first batch. Some families like to have the electric griddle or waffle maker at the table, so the cook can eat alongside the family.
Anyway, I was making waffles for my family last Friday and thought about how unique my iron is in today's world, and a few of you may not realize these are still in household use.


  1. Wow, I have never seen a waffle iron like that. There must be a skill involved to flip the iron over at precisely the right time. Do they taste better flipped, maybe lighter and thicker?

    Have a good day,

    1. Hi Laura,
      There is a learning curve to the old-fashioned kind of waffle iron. Over the years, I've gotten better with it. But if I'm not paying attention, they're easily burned on one side.
      I hope you had a good day, Laura!

  2. Pretty cool! I've never seen one before. Thinking it might require lots of care to use on a smooth-top stove? My mom bought us one of the electric Presto kind that flips, kind of a home-scale version of the type that hotels often have, now several years ago, and that thing has seen a lot of use!


    1. Hi Cat,
      when I received this, I'm not sure smooth surfaced stoves were even a thing. I've used it on electric coils and on gas, with similar results. But I don't know about glass top stoves.
      What a fun waffle iron your mom gave you. I'm sure it has seen a lot of use. I've never tried the ones at hotel breakfasts, but my kids have and they like the way the waffles turn out.

  3. I've never heard or seen anything like that either but I love the idea. Reminds me of the camping pie makers with two slices of bread and pie filling in the middle. Most often we got burned "crust" because we didn't flip it on time or the fire was too hot.

    I love waffles and my waffle maker (two waffles side by side) that made soft and delicious belgian waffles is slowing down so I replaced it with a new model but those are way too thick. I found mini waffle maker at Aldi at Christmas and it's about as close to a waffle maker that I like. I bought one each for my kids and though it makes only one at a time it makes very good waffles. They had 3 options--Christmas tree, snowflake, or gingerbread man. I later found them reduced in price so I got myself a second one.

    I visit estate sales regulary and have never seen that kind of waffle maker yet. Someday when I least expect it, I'm sure I'll find one but not sure that I will buy it.

    1. Hi Alice,
      You'd mentioned before finding waffle irons at Aldi for your kids, but not that they're fun holiday shapes. Those will be fun for many years to come.

  4. That is quite interesting. I've not seen one of these before either. Thanks for showing it and how it is used.

    It's funny that you posted about this as I had requested a waffle iron for Christmas. I had had one (electric-round) years ago but lost it in our fire 18 years ago. I had never replaced it, making pancakes instead of waffles. But of late, I had begun buying generic frozen waffles at the grocery store and wanted to make them myself. I used my new square electric waffle maker for the first-time last night to make breakfast for dinner. We had chicken (chicken wings leftover from snacks for the ballgames on Sunday) and waffles plus sausage since there were only a few wings. I tried a new recipe and substituted aquafaba for one of the 2 eggs. They were good but didn't puff up quite as much as I expected. I'm going to keep playing around with it and recipes til I get one that produces a nice fluffy waffle. As an aside, this iron has removable plates and a variety of imprints (owl, heart, unicorn, truck). I look forward to using it with my soon to be arriving little granddaughter in the future :)

    1. I'm going to share my tried and true recipe for pancake/waffles.
      2 cups flour
      2 tsp. baking soda
      1 tsp. salt
      2 eggs
      2 cups buttermilk (milk with vinegar is what I use)
      Combine everything together and mix gently. I actually only add about 1 1/2 cups buttermilk to begin and only add the rest if the batter is too thick. The soda and buttermilk should create a foam like structure so don't beat that down. This is a delicious easy homemade pancake/waffle mix.

    2. Hi Lynn,
      Your new waffle iron sounds like it will indeed be a lot of fun to use with your soon granddaughter. In the meantime, you and your husband get to enjoy lots of yummy homemade waffles.

  5. That looks fun. I've seen a similar one at a museum in Colorado. We have a running joke in our family--we have inherited a lot of cast iron cookware (and purchased a few pieces, too) and my husband loves using it for cooking. We were touring an 1800s hotel museum and spotted the waffle maker in their collection and teased my husband, saying that maybe he could slip it under his shirt and sneak out with it to add to his cast iron collection.

    Lili, another benefit of using the cast iron waffle maker is that it's a good arm strength activity!!! Working out while you are cooking .....

    1. Hi Kris,
      oh, how interesting to find something similar in a hotel museum. This is how folks made waffles until the early part of the 20th century. Hard to imagine.
      I hadn't thought about the weight-lifting aspect, although that would mostly apply to using this over a fire. On the stove, I just flip it and it rests on the burner. Not too much of a workout.

  6. I love that waffle iron Lili! I actually love using my cast iron pans and use them more than the newer ones. And I have read that there are health benefits to cast iron. As for waffles, we had them a couple of days ago. I am trying to use up some of my sourdough discard and thought that waffles would be a good way to accomplish that.

    I hope that we all get these January blues over soon. It has been a snowy, cold winter and although I have enjoyed staying in and doing some reading and knitting, I'm ready for some warm sunshine.

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      oh, that's a great idea for using up excess sourdough starter. I need to refresh mine, so I may try using the excess in waffles. Thank you!

  7. I'll join the crowd and say that I haven't seen a waffle maker like that, either. We had an electric waffle maker that we seldom used, so I gave it away when we moved. It took up too much space. So if I had had a waffle maker like yours, I might have kept it.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I can understand not wanting to store a waffle iron, especially as your kids are now grown and perhaps you and your husband don't eat as many waffles as would warrant storing the iron. When all my kids are on their own, I'm not sure I'll be making waffles all that often. But I'll hang onto this iron anyway. It has some sentimental value to me, as it was a gift from my brother.


Thank you for joining the discussion today. Here at creative savv, we strive to maintain a respectful community centered around frugal living. Creative savv would like to continue to be a welcoming and safe place for discussion, and as such reserves the right to remove comments that are inappropriate for the conversation.


Be a voice that helps someone else on their frugal living journey

Are you interested in writing for creative savv?
What's your frugal story?

Do you have a favorite frugal recipe, special insight, DIY project, or tips that could make frugal living more do-able for someone else?

Creative savv is seeking new voices.


share this post