After our last one stopped working, my family was without a waffle iron for a while, so I snagged one at a yard sale earlier this month. Over the weekend, I decided to try an idea that I’d seen on Pinterest many times — cooking frozen potato tots using the waffle iron.

The idea is to put the frozen tots on the waffle iron, close the lid, and come back to crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside, smooshed-together tots that look like a waffle but taste like a hash brown.

It's supposed to cut down on the time needed to cook the tots, which take 20 to 25 minutes in the oven, to make the tots crispier, and offer a creative way to serve the potato side dish. 

frozen tater tots in the waffle iron

For my experiment, I used Alexia Crispy Seasoned Potato Puffs with Roasted Garlic and Cracked Black Pepper. I tried three times to get this right.

smushed tater tots in the waffle iron

For the first try, I brushed olive oil on the waffle iron to help keep the potato puffs from sticking. After pre-heating the iron, I placed the puffs on the waffle iron and shut the lid. The first thing I realized was that the top would not shut all the way on the frozen tots. I had to push down, every 15 seconds or so, for about two minutes until the lid closed all the way.

messy waffle iron

After leaving them on for about five minutes, I lifted the lid. It was a mushy mess. Some were stuck on the bottom. Some were stuck on the top. I closed the lid for another three minutes before taking them out. 

unappetizing tater tots on plate

The potatoes never got crisp, and I was left with something very unappetizing.The waffle iron was also left a mess after my first try.

better results with frozen tater tots in waffle iron

For my second try, I switched from olive oil to non-stick spray. Most of the instructions I had read said to use non-stick. I also only covered half the waffle iron with puffs so I didn’t have to clean up the entire iron if it was a mess again.

This time, after spending the time crushing them down so I could close the lid, I let them stay in about eight minutes. As you can see, the results were a little better. There was some resemblance to a waffle in the second attempt, but I realized I needed to put more puffs on, and it wasn’t very crisp.

I loaded the puffs up on the third attempt, and left the lid on for a full 10 minutes after I got the puffs flat enough to close the lid. I didn’t open it at all. 

tater waffle on a plate

The last attempt was the most successful, even though half of it ended up on the top and half ended up on the bottom. The extra cooking time made it a little crisper.

However, the waffle iron still came up quite a mess. There were little flakes of potato in all the crevices that were hard to get out.

I came to the conclusion that for this to work, non-stick is a better choice than oil, the waffle iron needs to be loaded with puffs, and it takes a good 12 minutes (at least in my iron) to get something close to edible. But, the time it takes to clean the mess left behind made the whole thing not worth doing again for me. I’d rather put the puffs on a baking sheet and put them in my toaster oven for 20 to 25 minutes than go through the process of making these again. It seems much more simple and much less messy.

Have any of you tried this method of cooking tater tots with more success than I had?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.