Pumping Iron in the Waffle Lab, or, Another Day in the Vintage Test Kitchen.

I have this sexy early 1920s Griswold cast iron waffle iron that makes a beautiful hearts and star waffles.

I wasn't sure that it would work with an electric coil stove. It took me many tries to get this right, not just because of the iron, but I was also testing my own whole grain gluten-free waffle batter adapted from a 1920s recipe. As you can see, I had many fails:


Still a big fat NOPE.

Was I tempted to order a non-stick waffle iron via my Amazon Prime for something non-stick and new? No way!

This waffle iron is a beauty, and it's also very heavy. I got an EXCELLENT work-out yesterday. You don't just place it on the stove-top, pour in the batter and then wait. You have to keep flipping the waffle irons to ensure even heating on both sides, and when you do so you have to clamp down on the handles very tightly. I did test waffles for about six hours straight, so I'm not sure how many reps that equals but I loved it and looking forward to more! I am totally serious about old-fashioned cookery and housework being good exercise.

I learned a lot yesterday and it wasn't without lots of smoke and even a FLAME on the electric coil of my stove but I finally got both the waffle iron usage and batter right. So, for those who are interested: 

What I learned from a full day of trial and error with making waffles with a 1920s Griswold No. 18 low frame/base cast iron waffle iron on an electric stove-top.

Before you cook, make sure there is enough seasoning to make the irons non-stick. Then, for extra good measure, spray some cooking oil on both sides.  However, don't apply too much oil, even via spray, or else it may leak out as you flip the irons over and that will cause a smokey mess or fire! I always keep a fire extinguisher under my kitchen sink as well as baking soda handy which can be used to put out very small grease fires.

The outer coils on the irons do not get hot but the rest is VERY hot. Be very careful and wear mitts as needed.

Use medium heat (#4 on my electric stove).

Pre-heat both sides! If you don't you may have a perfect-looking waffle on one side and a disaster on the other. Allow about six minutes on each side for preheating in three minute increments. When drops of water sizzle it's ready for the batter.

When the irons are open and you are getting ready to put in your batter, recognize that there is no safety lock holding the iron upright. There was no such thing as the Consumer Products Safety Commission in 1922. To be safe, keep one hand on standby, not exactly "holding" it in the upright position but by the iron handle to prevent the hot and heavy iron from crashing on your other hand as you pour in the batter.

Don't overfill! Fortunately there is a spill guard around the base, but it's not a perfect fit so you want to avoid batter dripping onto the heat source and causing a smokey mess.

Don't underfill! If you do you won't be able to gently lift the edges of the waffle to release and remove it in one piece.

Keep flipping this baby! I give about three minutes on each side before flipping again. You will need to hold the handles tightly as you do. As I already stated, this truly is pumping iron.

Don't peek! If you lift too soon you will break the waffle apart.

You will see steam coming out from the sides of the irons for the first couple of minutes. It takes about twelve minutes on my stove for each waffle to be ready at which point it will separate from the iron easily if you take a fork and gently release it along the edges.

Oh! And my gluten-free whole grain waffle recipe along with the original will be in my book Thrifty Vintage Gluten-Free Recipes!


  1. I loved this story of your stubborn attempts to get it right, and the physical labor involved in doing that. 6 hours, wow! Well, the outcome looks great, and is now making me long for waffles, though, I admit, mine will be made in a modern, coated electric waffle iron. But I applaud your love of the old gadgets, and I'm wedded to those I have, such as my 60s percolator. My husband prefers our modern drip coffee maker, but when I feel like treating myself, I go perk, and serve a cup in one of my beige and turquoise star pattern cups, also from the 50s or 60s. I bought a whole set with dinner plates, cereal bowls, creamer, sugar bowl and even gravy boat for next to nothing in a thrift shop some years back. Now I see sets like these in vintage shops for quite a bit of money, and that makes me smile secretly every time! I do so love thrift stores and yard sales!

    1. Aw, thanks! I love the challenge because I know it's worth it in the end, plus waffles! :)

      As for your 60s percolator I have a vintage one as well and have been having percolated coffee every morning for at least ten years. The sounds of it whooshing make it an experience!

      That secret smile of having found a great score years ago and seeing what it sells for now--I can relate! It's wonderful that you can take joy in these pleasures that so many can't appreciate. I'm there, too.

  2. Oh, I like that!! Even without those impressive waffles, that's a beautiful piece of machinery! Keep flexing those "guns," Averyl :-)

    1. Since you're a doctor...:)

      Believe it or not, I have had chronic wrist tendonitis (from writing, repetitive desk work and typing mostly) since the 1990s. In my early 20s I went to the gym and pumped iron. In my late 20s I had to stop. Except for some stretches that I still do today, physical therapy always made my flare-ups worse, even when they had me lift one pound dumbbells! I felt so lame and was very distraught. I was treated as if I was hopeless and worse, a weakling! I finally accepted it and was always careful not to type much in one sitting and not lift anything heavy.

      When I started to do more housework as exercise, I learned to scrub and clean using my upper arms and not put the pressure on my wrists. When I would shovel snow, I made sure I used my legs and upper arms. For groceries I always got paper bags so I could use my arms to hold them from the bottom instead of straining my wrists from handles. And while married, my ex-husband did most of the heavy lifting/shoveling and carrying of things.

      So, back to cast iron! After my divorce last summer I bought a small iron skillet at a yard sale. Compared to stainless it was still heavy. When I first used it, I had to use both hands to lift it. It didn't take long for me to be able to lift it with one hand and NOT have a flare-up. Then I bought a larger skillet. Same thing. Then my gigantic oven sized skillet which I still need two hands but there was a time when I wouldn't have had the strength to lift it at all. Even Tiny Tim's Aspen bedding- those huge compacted bags are super heavy and now I can haul them like a country girl, ha.

      The waffle iron was kind of a test: would I have a flare-up after? I do not! I can feel that my guns got a workout and I am totally ready for more!

      That is my long-winded way to say how grateful I am that I discovered what I think of as gentle physical therapy. I plan to write more about this in my book The Retro Diet since the book will be a personal account. I want to give other people hope that sometimes old-fashioned housework and cookery can lead to healthy physical changes!

    2. I'm so sorry that you had that issue, Averyl! I am very impressed with how well you rehabbed yourself, country girl!

  3. Averyl, what a long and great workout! The reward being those amazing and yummy waffles! I can see a little butter and syrup, and what a meal!! Anyone know a good place to buy a percolator? Amazon? I am ready to experience that sound in the mornings. Reminds me of a classic movie.

    1. Donna, thanks! And yes! I bought this on Amazon when I was between vintage percolators a few years ago. This is the review I left:

      The percolator for those who loved the original mid-century versions

      I like to be able to see the perking action in the top bubble (not that I sit and stare, but it's a pleasing sight!) Many new percolators don't have that but the one I linked to does. You can use that until you find a beautiful vintage model at a yard sale. :)

  4. Oh, your final waffles look fantastic, Averyl!!

    When I was 6 years old back in the mid 60's my dad had me make him coffee every morning before he went to work. I don't know why I did and not my mother. Although, it just occurred to me that the reason is probably because I have 3 younger siblings so...she had her hands full. ;) I have never tried percolated coffee, though, but have thought about it for awhile. I may just have to buy a percolator.

    Also, I've been having some problems the past few years with pain in my wrists and fingers. Not constant I have to be careful how I hold heavy things in the kitchen. I am greatly looking forward to your gentle physical therapy explanations in your book!

    1. Thanks!!

      I think you'll love having a percolator. You'll save money, too, because you don't need to buy filters. That's less waste, too.

      I'm sorry to hear you've been having wrist and finger pain. You should have it looked at. I don't want to imply that medical attention/PT isn't a good solution for some people. But I'm glad to know my experience might help you!


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