How to Make Macaroni and Cheese Waffles

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Waffled macaroni and cheese might not rank quite as high on the list of "things you must try before you die" as, say, a fresh-from-the-water oyster, or a sliver of Parmesan sliced off of a wheel that has just been opened in front of your eyes, or skinny dipping in mixed company. But it's certainly good enough that it should immediately make your list of second-tier priorities.

That is, of course, if you do it right.

We're pretty thorough when we try to answer the question "will it waffle?" In this case, it meant waffling macaroni in three different ways before finally nailing it.

N.B. The Waffleizer recommends breading the macaroni and cheese in eggs and bread crumbs. His waffles look glorious, but we took a different approach.

Method 1: Waffle Batter

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My first idea was to go with the approach Kenny Shopsin uses with his famous mac and cheese pancakes: just throw macaroni and cheese into batter and cook it as normal.

To up the game a bit, I started with my Bacon, Cheese, and Scallion Waffles as the base, stirring in some fresh mac and cheese that I made on the stovetop, using a basic recipe of cooked macaroni and a roux-based cheese sauce (a tablespoon of flour cooked into a couple tablespoons of butter, a cup of milk whisked in, and 3/4 pound of cheddar cheese stirred in off heat, the whole thing whipped up in a blender with a touch of mustard and hot sauce).

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I folded it together then dropped it into the waffle iron to cook.

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The waffles that came out were...okay. The flour and egg-based batter sort of takes away from the gooey, macaroni-and-cheesiness of the whole thing.

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Don't get me wrong; It's a breakfast I'd eat with reckless abandon—particularly with plenty of hot sauce—but it wasn't quite what I was after.

Method 2: Sandwich

My second method was a big step up. Instead of a batter, I simply sandwiched my macaroni and cheese, along with a couple of extra slices of American cheese, between two slices of white bread that I'd slathered up with a bit of mayo.

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A definite improvement (it probably could have done with some bacon). The mac and cheese stayed gooier, and the bread provided a nice crisp crust.

Still, doesn't anything that's not actually macaroni and cheese distract from the macaroni and cheese? How much macaroni-er and cheesier could I get this?

Method 3: No Filler

This time I tried doing for macaroni and cheese what KFC did for the chicken sandwich with their Double Down: replace the bread with the filling.

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I started by pouring out my macaroni and cheese onto a buttered rimmed baking sheet and placed it in the refrigerator until it set up.

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A half hour later, it came out as a solid brick about a half-inch thick.

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Next, I sliced it into squares with a knife.

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With the help of a metal spatula and the careful application of physics, I was able to get the square out in single slabs. Slabs that just so happened to be about the size and shape of a slice of bread.

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I tried waffling a single slab on its own, but it was nowhere near cheesy enough. Instead, I decided to go with the grilled cheese sandwich approach, spreading a thick layer of grated cheddar cheese in between a couple of mac and cheese slabs.

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Now, you might be afraid that such a monstrosity will stick to the inside of your waffle iron and relegate it to the trash heap, but not so!

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Yes, the cheese oozes out from between the macaroni and cheese slabs and flows in rivulets through the waffle wells. Yes, the cheese breaks and pools of glorious fat start to bubble up.

But! As anyone who has ever made Parmesan crisps or eaten at the venerable Shady Glen in Manchester, CT knows, if you fry cheese for long enough, it'll fuse into a crisp, browned shell that comes right off your cooking surfaces.

After the mac and cheese "sandwich" cooked long enough to brown, it lifted straight out of the waffle iron, clean and easy, the cheese rivulets lifting straight up and hardening into lacy, crisp edges as they cooled slightly.

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This really might be the best way to eat macaroni and cheese ever. The center stays gooey and cheesy, while the edges get crisp and browned.

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If you really want to get down and dirty, you might consider filling those waffle wells with syrup and hot sauce. But don't blame me if you end up unsatisfied with every other aspect of your life after having tasted its glory.

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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