Southern cooks used to say that you should be able to carry a waffle on a pin. What that means is that the waffle should have a super-crisp exterior and a light, fluffy interior.
Cooks Illustrated magazine founder Christopher Kimball describes the perfect waffle as "like a just-cooked souffle encased in a flavorful crust."
How to achieve that ideal? Here are some tips, from Kimball's The Cook's Bible: The Best of American Home Cooking (Little, Brown, $29.95) and other experts:
Butter or oil is essential to achieving a crisp crust, so it's not advisable to try to reduce the fat in most waffle recipes. Use butter, not oil, for best flavor and texture.
A thicker batter than you're used to using for pancakes is ideal to produce the moist center while the outside cooks crisp. You may wish to experiment with cutting back on the liquid in many standard waffle recipes.
Separating the eggs, beating the whites and folding them into the batter just before cooking produces a much lighter waffle.
Quick cooking is key; otherwise, the waffle's interior will be overcooked. Preheat your waffle iron (greasing the grids is not usually necessary; the oil will burn and produce smoke), and set it at a fairly high temperature, if it's adjustable. You want your waffles to be truly brown, not golden. Check after 3 minutes of cooking.
Though waffles can be held on a rack in a 200-degree oven for a few minutes, they toughen quickly.