A panini press is not just for sandwiches! Glorious as those sandwiches will be, a panini press is so versatile you can even bake a cake in one! It’s gotta be one of the most useful appliances you could have, and after reading this review, you will want one.
I’ve been sniffing around at a few panini presses and came up with these five which should cater to all budgets and cooking skills:
A panini press is very easy to use, and you could use it all day for all your meals if you wanted to. Bacon and omelette or waffles for breakfast, a hearty sandwich (of course) for lunch, and grilled chicken or lamb chops with vegies for dinner, including a sweet treat for dessert. It’s got you covered, and you only have one pan to wipe down.
Probably the thing I love best about a panini press is that it cooks in half the time since it cooks both sides of the food at once. So, if your lifestyle is hectic, a panini press will save you a heap of time.
Panini presses are also easy for kids to use, so you can teach them how to make the ultimate burger or a complete meal on one appliance – now that’s going to save you even more time.
A panini press is also great for people who don’t have a reliable oven or stove, or as a backup if either stop working. No need to get out that camp stove!
So now that your life is looking a whole lot easier with a panini press, what do you look for and what features are worth paying for?
Floating Hinged Lid
The most recognizable feature of a panini press is its floating hinged lid, which enables you to cook food of different thicknesses. A good feature to have is a locking capability on the hinge so you can float the lid above food like pizza or bruschetta to melt the tops without flattening the food.
Before we get into the hot plate features, it’s a good idea to clarify the difference between a grill and a griddle.
A grill has raised ridges and produces those nice stripy ‘grill marks’ on your food. A grill is a healthier option for cooking fatty foods as it allows the fat to drain away from the food.
A griddle is a flat, smooth surface, great for pancakes and things that may break up on a grill.
A panini press will come with one or the other, and in most cases, both. Being able to remove the plates to clean them means you won’t be spending the time you saved in cooking on cleaning the hotplates.
Hot Plate Coating
The original panini presses were made of cast iron, which gets nice and hot, but technology has given us a few options that are easier to clean. Generally, you will have a choice of either a non-stick Teflon or a non-stick ceramic coating. Either will do a good job, though a ceramic surface is noted for faster cooking times.
Both are easy to clean, but some people may not want to use Teflon coated appliances. Grill cleaning tools or brushes are a good investment if you are going to buy a panini press, and some models already come with them.
Other things to think about when buying a panini press are what thickness of sandwich or other food it can cope with, does it get hot enough to sear meat properly, what else will it cook, and how long does it take to do the tasks it’s built for.
Some panini press models don’t have any fancy controls and are just turned on or off at the power outlet. This can cause a problem if you forget to turn it off, especially if you have children using it. To achieve good results, temperature controls are important if you are cooking more than sandwiches.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Panini Press
Butter Your Hotplates, Not Your Sandwich
Any of you who have tried to butter one of the outer sides of your sandwich know what a pain it can be to do the other side. Well, there’s no need to worry about that any more. You might try a combination of olive oil and butter for more flavor.
Ingredient Order Matters
The gourmet cook inside me is screaming ‘order matters!’ If you’ve spent good money getting yourself a nice panini press, you don’t want to end up with second rate, soggy sandwiches. Layering your ingredients in the right order is the maker or breaker of a good sandwich, so always put your wetter ingredients in the middle. You can reduce sogginess further by putting meat or cheese at the top or bottom to seal off the porousness of the bread. Common sense prevails here.
There are some ingredients like lettuce that will not withstand the heat no matter where you layer them, so put these in after the sandwich is cooked.
Always Clean Your Panini Press Straight Away
All pans will clean up better while they are still warm, so before it goes stone cold, give your panini press a quick wipe with a damp cloth, and wash it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid using spray oils as they get into places that are difficult to clean and can build up.
So, without further ado, let’s see what these five panini presses can offer you.
Watch the VIDEO about to Use a Panini Press
If you are looking at a panini press that you can use to create a whole meal, or perhaps can be relied on to cater to almost all your day to day cooking needs, then this one would be a good choice.
With five cooking options, this panini press is great value. It includes a contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle and half grill/half griddle, so it has the potential to be used a lot by both the most enthusiastic cook, and the rush’n-go-let’s-get-dinner-over-with type. Cuisinart claim you can get a meal on the table in 15 minutes, including clean up!
With non-stick Teflon grill and griddle plates, it gives you many cooking options. Each hot plate is 9″ x 11″ giving you almost 200 square inches total cooking surface. There are separate temperature controls for the griddle and grill so that you can choose a specific temperature for the griddle, and a range of warm through sear for the grill.
For one or two people, you can grill your meat and vegetables, and cook your pancakes on the griddle for dessert simultaneously. Use the ‘warm’ setting to hold those pancakes while you eat your supper.
Clean up is easy- simply remove the hotplates and either wash them by hand or put them in the dishwasher. It also comes with a clean and scrape tool to get into the grill grooves.
Removable and reversible hot plates
Hinge release lever gives option of press or open grill/griddle
Comes with a cleaning/scraping tool
Bigger and bulkier than other panini presses and doesn’t store upright
Teflon coating may not suit some people
2. George Foreman GRP4842MB Multi-Plate Evolve Grill, (Ceramic Grilling Plates, and Waffle Plates Included), Black
The George Foreman GRP4842MB Multi-Plate Evolve Grill listed here comes with three ceramic non-stick hotplates: grill, griddle, and waffle. All the models include the first two hot plates plus varying combinations of either waffle, muffin or omelette plates. Whichever one you choose, you don’t have to do without the other plates; they can be purchased separately so you can have the whole gamut.
I especially love the omelette plates because they give you a nice oval shape that makes the omelette stay put. Because it doesn’t spread all over the pan, you can cook three at once (all different if you wish) and get food into all the kids’ stomachs without them having to wait.
This panini press is great for creative cooks, but if you’re not the creative type (yet!), it will get you into making things you may not have attempted before, like homemade waffles. It’s a great choice for people who like to be adventurous with their food but are short on time.
High 500oF searing temperature
Additional plates sold separately
The ceramic hot plates are PTFE and PFOA free
Wipe clean digital display
No open grill option
Drip tray is separate sitting in front of the press and may be knocked out of place.
If you just want a sandwich press without all the bells and whistles, then this one is an excellent choice. It has large and deep 8″ x 10″ plates, and a floating lid that will press and float so you can do open sandwiches, pizza, etc., as well. Though, after watching the video above, you’re sure to find a few other things you can do with this simple appliance.
There are no fancy controls, only a power light to tell you it is on, so you will have to remember to switch it off when you’ve finished using it.
It is easy to clean, and for the price, it’s a handy addition to your kitchen and will, like all panini presses, make your life easier if you use it to its full potential.
Grills sandwiches of any thickness
Hot plates not removeable
Not designed to cook meat
I love the stylish design of this panini press. Stainless-steel looks flash in any kitchen, but if your kitchen is a clean, minimalist style, this panini press will look great on your counter top.
I like that this model has a thermostat so you can use it for extended times without overheating or overloading it, which is ideal for large families or cooking for a crowd.
This Delonghi contact grill is big on simplicity, practicality with no compromise on design, so if you just want to get on with the job and still have an aesthetically pleasing appliance sitting in your kitchen, this one will be just right for you.
Grills meat and fish
Tilted grill surface to drain excess fat
Drip cup and easy clean up
No open grill option
Hot plates not removeable
For the money, this panini press is great value! Although it is smaller than the other models above, cooking space and options are expanded by giving you the choice of open grilling. You can cook meat and vegetables as well as sandwiches on this press.
The adjustable legs allowing you to tilt the grill at an angle to drain the fat, together with the ceramic hot plates free from PTFEs and PFOAs make this panini press a healthy cooking choice. So, if you are looking at a panini press for healthier eating options, and are on a budget, then this could be a good fit.
Open grill option
Cleaning tool included
Well, I think I have made things difficult for myself as all these panini presses are great in more than one way, but if I had to choose (which I must), the gourmet in me would go for the Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler. I like how I have control over the cooking temperatures and varied options for both grilling and griddle cooking at the same time. Oh, and yes, it does sandwiches as well!
Now having said that, I also think that for the money, the Oster DuraCeramic Panini Maker and Grill is a great second choice especially if you’re on a budget. It has most of the features of the more expensive panini presses for less than half the price, so it’s well worth a try.