Multiple cooking options. Removable nonstick plates. Streamlined press handle. Versatile; can be used in the open position for numerous grilled creations.
Pricey. A few reports of quality concerns, including uneven heat and poor hinges.
Folds up for storage when not in use, so users can easily tuck it away. Height can be adjusted depending on the size and shape of your sandwich. The green preheat light turns on when the unit is ready to use.
Plates are fixed in place. Temperature cannot be adjusted. No on/off switch.
Can be used as a press or opened 180 degrees for grilling. Equipped with non-skid feet for stable countertop use. No need to grease non-stick plates prior to use. Convenient compact size.
Takes longer than expected to reach optimal temperatures.
Has a cool-touch handle. 1000W heating element warms plates within seconds and offers even heating corner to corner. Indicator lights let you know when grill is ready for use.
Mixed reports on how long it takes for the panini press to heat up.
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Whether it’s the perfect combination of turkey and pesto, steak and cheddar, chicken with bacon, or some other delicious sandwich recipe, a panini press – sometimes called a sandwich press – turns a ho-hum lunch into a work of culinary art.
A panini press is a small electric grill that cooks a food item – such as a hot sandwich – from both sides simultaneously. However, panini presses aren’t limited to sandwich-making. You can also cook bacon, reheat pizza, and grill a burger or chicken breast on a panini press, to name just a few options.
There are quite a few panini presses available, and the various features, benefits, and downsides of these products can be confusing. That’s where we step in. Knowing a few key details can help you choose the panini press that will serve your household best.
The ridged grill plates on a panini press are responsible for the characteristic stripes you see on panini sandwiches. These are called panini press plates, and they are perhaps the most important component of the panini press.
The two most common materials used for panini press plates are cast iron and nonstick metal. Here’s a look at the notable traits of each plate material.
Cast iron panini press plates take longer to heat up. However, the plates hold fast to their heat once they reach temperature. The material is extremely durable, and with seasoning, the surface becomes somewhat nonstick. Panini presses with cast iron plates tend to cost more than those with nonstick plates. Notably, they are also heavier and should not be placed in the dishwasher.
Nonstick plates make cleanup a breeze, and your sandwich won’t stick to the plate’s surface. You won’t need to use cooking oil or sprays on the plates, either. However, the nonstick surface can scratch or chip if treated roughly. Nonstick plates normally are dishwasher safe, but after multiple trips through the dishwasher, the nonstick coating sometimes wears away.
Low-end panini presses generally have fixed plates, meaning you cannot turn them over or remove them for cleaning. In most cases, both the upper and lower plates have ridges. High-end panini presses, on the other hand, generally have removable plates. Conveniently, you can remove these plates for cleaning. The plates are often reversible with a ridged side for grilling and a smooth side for use as a griddle.
The type of hinge a panini press has affects your sandwich-making process to an extent. Panini presses generally have either a traditional hinge or a floating hinge.
With a traditionally hinged panini press, you can open the lid far enough to insert your sandwich, but you cannot actually disconnect the upper and lower plates. This limits the thickness of your paninis.
With a floating-hinge panini press, you can open the press all the way to create two flat surfaces for cooking. This greatly increases the versatility of your appliance, because now you can not only use the device for grilling sandwiches and other foods, but you can also open it fully and use both sides as open grills. In essence, your cooking surface doubles.
For example, if your panini press has a reversible grill/griddle plate, you can use one side of the open press as a griddle and the other side as a grill. It’s the perfect surface for preparing a breakfast of bacon and eggs.
Some floating hinges have indicators marking the best height for various cooking functions. Others let you set the height however you’d like. Remember that the grill plates need to actually touch the food if you want those characteristic panini grill marks.
Every panini press gets hot, but some take it further than that. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you shop for a panini press.
The least-expensive panini presses typically don’t allow you to set a specific temperature. However, they may have an indicator light that turns on when the plates reach full heat. If you only use the press occasionally, you’ll likely find this sufficient, and you’ll save a little money, too.
A panini press with an adjustable temperature allows you to cook a wide range of foods. The most popular panini presses let you set a specific temperature, typically between 200°F and 450°F. With this type of press, you can prepare burgers and chicken breasts in addition to paninis.
Some panini presses have a variable-range heat dial. This type of dial is a lot like the light/dark dial you see on a toaster. You cannot select a specific numeric temperature, but you do have some general control over the heat.
The highest-end panini presses allow you to set specific temperatures on each side of an open grill. With this kind of versatility, you can prepare an entire meal on the device. For example, you could grill a chicken breast on one side at higher heat while grilling vegetables on the other side at a lower temperature. You can also choose to heat just one side of the press. This is a useful feature if you only want to grill your sandwich on one side or if you need just one plate for open grilling.
How big should you go with your new panini press? That’s up to you. You’ll find small panini presses with room for just one or two sandwiches at a time, and you’ll find large panini presses with enough space for four sandwiches. Of course, the larger the panini press, the more room it takes up in storage, the heavier it is, and the larger the plates you’ll need to clean.
If you only cook for one or two people at a time, we suggest a smaller panini press. If you have a large family or want to prepare several burgers, eggs, or sandwiches in one cooking session, you’d probably be happiest with a larger panini press.
You could buy a simple panini press for under $30 or a top-of-the-line panini press for more than $100. Here are some general guidelines about panini press prices.
You’ll find many smaller panini presses here, many of which do not offer adjustable temperature or the ability to open both sides to create more cooking space. If your primary goal is to make sandwiches for one or two people, a press in this price range could be all you need.
As you move up in price, you’ll find an increasing number of panini presses with more of the “creature comfort” features you might desire, such as a larger cooking surface, adjustable temperature, a floating hinge, or an attractive exterior. You’ll also find more panini presses from reputable brands like Hamilton Beach and Oster.
High-quality panini presses from the likes of Breville and Cuisinart are found here, as well as restaurant-grade presses that could be used in a professional setting. These presses are larger and more versatile than those found in the lower price brackets. For some households, they would be more than enough. For others, a deluxe panini press in this price range just might hit the spot.
If you don’t relish the thought of cleaning a greasy grill, choose a panini press with removable plates. You can soak them in a sink full of soapy water to help lift off the grime, or if they’re dishwasher safe, you can pop them directly in your dishwasher.
Use a cleaning brush or scraper after cooking burgers. Many sandwich presses come with such a tool to make cleanup easier.
Make the most of your meals by finding great panini recipes. Some panini presses come with a recipe book. You can also find a wealth of delicious cooking ideas online.
The quality of the handle on your panini press matters. Ergonomic handles are easy and comfortable to use. Insulated handles protect your skin from too much heat exposure.
Consider a panini press that locks shut. This feature not only helps protect curious fingers and paws as your food is cooking, it also makes it easier to store the panini press on its side when not in use, saving you some kitchen space.