They are toasted, compact, and sumptuous in their melty goodness – they are the venerable Panini. Not to be confused with your plain old grilled cheese, the Panini is a culinary contribution that comes from Italy, but the days of having to visit a reputable Italian restaurant for lunch to get one are long gone. Thanks to the advent of the Panini maker, you can enjoy these delightful grilled sandwiches right in your home.
However, while this kitchen appliance is considered a true luxury, if you pick the right Panini maker, it can be used for more than just pressed sandwiches. As Alton Brown says, the best kitchen tools are also multi-tools. The Panini press is one such multi-tool. You use it to make perfect crispy bacon, juicy burgers, and even some amazing French toast. Unfortunately, if you don’t know what to look for when hunting down the best Panini press, you are going to get something that has a fraction of the uses and still doesn’t give you those perfect pressed sandwiches that you crave.
That being said, what do you need to look for when buying the BEST Panini press?
2018 Panini Presses Comparison Chart
Breville BSG520XL Panini Duo
Flat bottom plate for fast, thorough cooking; ribbed top plate creates grill marks
Floating hinge; 4 height settings; on/ready lights; nonslip feet; locking storage clip
Measures 13 by 11-3/4 by 5-1/4 inches; 1-year limited warranty
1500-watt panini press with nonstick, scratch-resistant Quantanium cooking surface
Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler
5-in-1 countertop unit works as a contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle and half grill/half griddle
Brushed stainless-steel housing; sturdy panini-style handle; floating cover to adjust to thickness of food
11.50″ x 13.50″ x 7.12″
Oster ECO DuraCeramic Panini Maker
Unique, innovative DuraCeramic non-stick ceramic coating, lasts 4 times longer, won’t flake or peel and is PFOA and PTFE free
Cooks up to 20% faster to save energy and time
15 x 6.8 x 13.6 in
Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Six cooking options in one: contact grill, panini press, full griddle, full grill, half grill, half griddle, top melt
Removable, reversible and nonstick grill/griddle plates
Adjustable top cover with 6 presets & grilling surface – 240 square inches open
13.3 lbs (16.4 lbs shipping weight)
Proctor Silex Panini Press
Great tasting panini at home
Grills sandwiches of any thickness
12″ x 8.5″ nonstick grids
ultra light plastic but durable/sturdy
Our Top Picks for the Top Panini Makers
If you want your Panini press to not only make great grilled sandwiches, but also want a real multi-tool in the kitchen, the Smart Grill by Breville is the way to go. Not only does it come with completely removable and dishwasher-safe plates, but it comes with a drip tray for all your greasiest foods.
With adjustable heat settings and six different height settings for the floating hinge, you can cook pretty much anything, no matter how ridiculously tall it is. However, even if you don’t want to press your food, The Smart Grill also opens flat for full BBQ grill mode.
Click the red buttons for all of information you need on the current availability.
The DeLonghi has almost everything you would want in a great Panini press as well as a contact grill. It has a high rising floating hinge that allows it to accommodate tall food, and its adjustable thermostat allows you to cook your sandwiches as well as your meat to your perfect specifications while still getting those great grill marks. However, the one thing that it doesn’t have is removable plates. The non-stick surface does allow for easy for easy clean up via wiping off and it does have a grease drain, but not as easy to clean as removable plates.
The T-Fal may not have the heat control of other grills that allow you to put the grill on specific temperatures, but it does have six setting for specific food such as sandwiches, red meat, burger, sausage, fish, and poultry. However, what sets it apart from the pack is that it automatically adapts its grilling cycles to adjust to the thickness of the food. This means that your sandwich will never have near-burned bread without the cheese even melted in the middle again.
The great part is that it actually works quite well. The adjustable floating hinges let you put some pretty tall food in and it has audible beeps for the specific cooking settings. As well as having a drip tray, the T-Fal also has removable plates for easy cleaning.
The Cusinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe is, like many Cusinart Panini presses, is multiple grilling tools in one neat package. The best part about multi-grills is that they almost exclusively come with removable plates to go with its number of grilling options. However, the real benefit of this model is that it only has one set of reversible removable plates so you don’t have to keep track of a number of different plate options. As it turns in a grill, a griddle, and a Panini press, the Griddler Deluxe also comes with fully adjustable dual-zone temperature control for the best controlled cook you can get.
The Breville Panini Duo is a step down from the previously featured Breville model, but you get the comparable functionally for a fraction of the price. While it lacks removable places, it does have all the other basic features of a great Panini press. The floating hinge, while not adjustable, rises high so you can get the perfect press on your food while the four heat settings are enough for almost anything that you need to cook. Essentially, this is the Panini press for those that want to keep things simple without going outside of their price range.
Features to Consider
Ease of Cleaning
All of the above are important to a Panini press that functions well. However, many of the features are often up to personal preference. Also, keep in mind that a name panini maker brand, while a little bit more expensive, will actually be a leader in the industry and provide you with (probably) a better scrumptiously deliciously hot, toasted sandwich: Cuisinart, Hamilton Beach, Breville, Krupps, Frigidaire, and of course, George Foreman.
While the terms are often used interchangeably by manufacturers, don’t make the mistakeof choosing a “grill” over a real “Panini press.” Typically the real difference comes down to the hinge type. The herald of a grill is a lid attached by a pivot hinge that makes the lid close down in the same way a cabinet door opens and closes. Unfortunately, while this may be fine for some grilled foods, it does not accommodate for size. If you put a particularly hefty Panini in such a model, you get one side of the sandwich that borders on burnt while the other is barely toasted, or worse, a sandwich that slides apart after closing the lid and creates an unmitigated disaster.
The hinge of a perfect Panini press will be a floating hinge, one that when lifted up will take the entire top and lift it up in the air. This allows you to put even the mightiest Scooby Doo-level sandwiches in the maker and have them cook perfectly. As the floating hinge presses flat and venly each time, it makes for the perfect kitchen cooking tool.
Naturally, the surface area that a Panini maker will be cooking on is one of the most important features. However, across the many different models out there, plates really only come in two types of material – cast iron and non-stick. You may also very rarely see ceramic presses.
For cast iron, it tends to be the sturdier plate material and it is significantly more resistant to scratches and other damage. The trade off is that cast iron makes for a heavier press and they tend to be more expensive.
Alternatively, non-stick plates are lighter and make the press a cheaper purchase, but the non-stick coating that you covet will wear away over time, leaving flakes stuck to your food as it gets older as well as more food stuck.
So which plate material is best? If you want your Panini press to do more than just make sandwiches, cast iron is a must, but if your press is going to be used for the occasional sandwich, non-stick will work just fine.
Cooking is fun. Eating is fun. Cleaning up after is less fun. Again, when it comes to how easy a press is to clean, plate material comes into play again. Non-stick plates typically require less scrubbing while cast iron needs to be dried very thoroughly afterwards to prevent rust. However, the most important feature that you will want when choosing a Panini press is that the plates are removable. It is much easier to remove and clean plates rather than fumble with the entire machine over the sink.
Another helpful feature is a drip tray to catch any grease. This won’t be a problem if you are only making pressed sandwiches, but if you want to use it for other things, having a drip tray, whether it is built-in or separate, as well as angled plates to guide the drip, is a feature that can’t be underestimated in its usefulness.
A variety of heat settings on a Panini press can be both a hindrance and a boon. On one hand, presses that come with preset temperatures are often the most reliable for cooking sandwiches. The presets are there to ensure that the sandwiches are neither cold in the center nor burnt to a crisp.
On the other hand, a press with a range of temperature options allows for more flexibility with the machine. Both models are good, and often when choosing, it is up to personal preference. Often you can cook a number of other things using a preset temperature, it just takes some experimentation to get the cook times right.
The safety of a Panini press is often a second thought, but with many presses able to reach temperatures of up to 500 degrees, that is more than enough to cause serious injury. When it comes to safety features, the most important one is insulated handles. This allows you to open and close the machine without oven mitts. Since you don’t often equate the handle of a press as hot, it is easy to forget that it might be.
Another good feature, particularly if you have kids, is that the plates aren’t exposed on the exterior. This makes it more difficult for kids to reach up and burn themselves on exposed sides. Finally, a locking feature is pretty handy, too, though less for safety and more for storage. It is particularly important if you have removable plates and store your press up high to save space. You never want to get conked on the head with a loose cast iron plate.
It’s important to not only get the Best Panini Press but to also be safe. Enjoy the best paninis and sandwiches any time you’d like with peace of mind.
PRO-TIP: Some of the easiest presses to work with have removable plates!
America’s Greatest Regional Sandwiches to Try in Panini Form
America is the land of great sandwiches, and every state has their staple. Sometimes it even comes down to individual cities. However, while you should always give the original creation of each region’s delicious sandwiches a try if you get the chance, that doesn’t mean you have to always travel there to get that great regional flavor. Furthermore, since you have that great Panini press ready and waiting, you can make it better by making it toasty. However, not all regional sandwiches thrive in a Panini environment. So what amazing regional sandwiches should you be trying in your Panini press?
Pastrami on Rye
As the beloved sandwich, well, one of many beloved sandwiches in New York City, there is nothing that can brighten up your day better than a simple pastrami on rye. Of course, their other favorite sandwich, the Reuben, transfers pretty well to Panini form as well. However, if there is one thing better than warm pastrami slathered in brown mustard, it is encasing it all in a nice, toasty rye shell with your Panini maker. Of course, since Panini presses are only so heroic, you probably can’t stuff this sandwich as full of pastrami as they do in NYC.
Not all regional sandwiches transfer well to Panini form. Imagine a lobster roll from Maine, all that unpleasantly warm lobster and mayo, it is enough to make you shudder. However, Miami’s Cubano sandwich is probably the most worthy of your Panini press because it is basically a Panini to begin with! The Cubano combines roasted pork, ham, salami, pickles, and mustard between two hearty slices of bread. The finishing touch on the sandwich sees it pan fried to get that nice toasty exterior. However, you don’t need to toss it in a pan when you already have a handy Panini press all ready to go.
Traditional Philly cheesesteaks are cooked on a big old flattop grill with a mess of peppers, onions, and mushrooms before melting cheese over it. Sometimes a nice cheese sauce is involved, too. However, cheese sauce and Paninis aren’t really good friends. Usually it just makes the bread a little mushy instead of toasty. While you will still need to cook your meats and veggies up before you put them into your roll, you can use the Panini press to both toast the bread and get your cheese or cheeses of choice all nice and gooey.
The Gerber is a sandwich you might have never heard of unless you’ve had extensive stays in the St. Louis area, but for those who have had it, it is a fast favorite. Traditionally, it is an open faced sandwich, but that doesn’t quite translate to the Panini press. However, when you put it together, it is still just as good. The Gerber is made by giving French bread a hearty slather of garlic butter then topping it with ham and provolone, or more natively, provel cheese. It is usually sprinkled with a little bit of paprika before toasting. However, if you are doing a closed sandwich, raw paprika in the center isn’t going to be as tasty. Our recommendation? Sprinkle the paprika with the garlic butter so it has a chance to warm up first and imbibe its flavor to the sandwich without just getting lost in the cheese.
You probably won’t find this tasty little treat on any restaurant menu, but rest assured that starting in Massachusetts and spreading to many households across the United States, the Fluffernutter is a lunch staple. It is a simple sandwich and really just a new take on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. However, you know what also make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich more awesome? Putting it in a Panini press, and with the Fluffernutter, it becomes more so. As a sandwich made from peanut butter and marshmallow fluff on white bread, when the peanut butter and marshmallow start to heat up, magic starts to happen. After all, what is more magical than melted peanut butter and melted marshmallow? Together, there are no better sandwich bedfellows.
The Vermonter, like its broad name might suggest, has a variety of different incarnations in its home state of Vermont. However, some ingredients different from sandwich slinger to sandwich slinger, most of the time it stays the same. The Vermonter is made up of turkey, ham, sharp cheddar, honey, mustard, and thinly sliced apples. It’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s cheesy, and the only thing it is missing is that great crunch from some toasty bread. The nice thing about the Vermonter is you can try it with so many different variations of the same ingredients. Instead of cheddar, you can add brie or goat cheese. Instead of ham, you can get even more powerful salty flavor from prosciutto or even bacon. Of course, if you stray too much, at some point it might stop being a Vermonter, but it will still probably be a damn good Panini regardless.
No one can quite agree which region it comes from, whether it is Memphis or Mississippi, there isn’t much point arguing over the origins of a sandwich that is just dying to be made into a Panini. The peanut butter melts, the bananas get warm and creamy by proxy, and the bacon inside just sets everything off with an awesome salty crunch. While this certainly isn’t a regional Panini that is good for the waist line, it is pretty good for the soul.
10 ImPRESSive Things Your Panini Press Can Do Other Than Make Panini’s
When you decide to buy a Panini press, typically you only have one thing on your mind – those gooey, warm, toasted pressed sandwiches known as Panini’s. Usually, you buy a Panini press for that sole purpose, but a good kitchen tool is a multi-tool. Something you can use for more than one type of food. Thankfully, even if you don’t think of it, most Panini press creators do and create their product in such a way so that you can use it for more than just sandwiches.
However, while your impressive Panini press can make quite the impression on your sandwiches, what are other things you can do with it?
It is not a far leap from pressed sandwiches to quesadilla. In fact, if you have mastered your Taco Bell quesadilla copycat recipe, it may be the very first thing you do with your Panini press. Like the Panini, there are hundreds of different ways to enjoy quesadilla with recipes ranging from super healthy to decadent junk food. However, unlike making a quesadilla in a skillet or trying to blunder through it with an oven, there is no better way to get those nice grill marks than with a Panini press.
If you haven’t sampled the simple pleasure that is grilled peaches, then we’re sad to say that you haven’t fully lived yet. While weaker fruit like pears or cherries may be best drowned in a flavorful drink, juicy and more robust fruit like peaches, pineapple, and even strawberries are sturdy enough to stand up to a little heat. Since they are primarily packed with natural sugar, they caramelize and your get a fascinating new flavor. However, doing it on the grill only gets that good even caramelization on one side, so why not make it perfect in your Panini maker?
Everyone knows how easy it is to cook awesome bacon on a Panini press, but that is far from the only breakfast treat you can cook on there. It is actually easier to cook great hash browns in a Panini press then in the oven or on the skillet. You want them nice and crispy, and a Panini press is a way to do that evenly.
Pressed Tofu and Other Vegetarian Goodies
Panini’s are great, but if it hasn’t happened already, there may come a day when you decide you want to treat your body a little better. However, even if that lofty New Year’s resolution doesn’t work out, you can still get a lot of use out of your Panini press during that time. You can use it on a number of healthy options, but vegetables and tofu work out the best.
Tofu, for example, absorbs more flavor the more water that is pressed out of it, so not only can you do that by toasting it, but you can press the moisture out just by sitting it in there and leaving the machine off. As for vegetables, you get those excellent char marks for flavor, and vegetables that are cooked without all the nutrients being boiled out of them.
This is one of those foods that you think wouldn’t work in a Panini press, but totally does. You just have to make sure not to overfill it or you will have omelet oozing out the sides. Just beat some eggs, mix in your fixings, pour, and press. Be sure to properly grease the plates before, though.
Don’t fancy going outside in the snow to enjoy one of your favorite summer grill foods? With a Panini press, meat, fruit, and vegetable-laden kababs can be an any season food when you press them. However, you still have to soak the skewers (if you are using the wooden ones) because most Panini presses that don’t have temperature control get pretty hot.
If you can toast a sandwich and cook an omelet on your Panini maker, then naturally you can make French toast, a food that is something close to a combination of a two. However, the fact that you can make easy French toast on your Panini press opens up a whole new world of opportunities. From French toast made of any bread you can dream of to the lucrative French toast sandwich, the culinary future of your Panini maker is in your hands.
Before you get all kinds of crazy ideas, not all cookie recipes will work in a Panini maker. Some cookies need to rise as they bake and putting them in a Panini Press means that they will come out as crumbs. Cookies like chocolate chip work alright, but they don’t look the best. The best cookie recipe is a simple waffle cone batter or a sugar cookie. The waffle cone bakes up perfectly and sugar cookies get nice and toasty. They taste good, too, providing you don’t like the fluffy kind of sugar cookies. Really if you are making pressed cookies, typically you have another idea for them in mind like filling them with ice cream or some kind of delicious frosting.
The general rule of thumb for weird things to do with a Panini press is if you can put it on a skillet or a grill, you can press it. Crab cakes fall into that category. Typically you cook them up on a skillet, but if you don’t press too hard, a Panini press works just as well. If anything, it makes them nice and compact while still just the right amount of fluffy.
So many homemade pizza recipes require you to cook the crust at the same time you are heating up all the other ingredients, and that is fine if you want soggy pizza crust. In order to get nice crisp crust throughout, it needs to be cooked before hand, but keeping it flat in the baking process is a real task. You know what takes all the challenge out of it? Cooking your dough in the Panini press. (An idea we got from this awesome blog!) Not only do you get nice crisp, flat, awesome-tasting pizza crust, but the ridges hold sauce and ingredients so they don’t go all over the place.
14 Mouth-Watering Sandwiches You Need to Try in Your Panini Press
Sandwiches, well, they are food that you eat, but Panini’s are food you get excited about. Toasty and warm, packed full of gooey melted cheese, and the perfect vessel for delivering big flavors, you can’t go wrong picking a Panini for any meal. However, if you are still visiting your favorite Panini-serving restaurant, you are missing out on a world of flavor. With a Panini press, you are afforded so much more creativity. If you have yet to get onboard, here are 14 Panini wonders that you have been missing out on.
The Caprese Panini
Typically you enjoy caprese cold on some nice bruschetta, but melted in a Panini? Well, that is so much better. Brushing the inside of your baguette or other crusty bread with olive oil, you layer slices of fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil leaves together and toast. Want to amp up the flavor even more? Use smoked mozzarella, or add in either turkey, prosciutto, or anchovy filets.
The Lobster Roll Panini
This isn’t the same delectable roll you’d find served from a shack on the coast of Maine, but it provides the same flavors with none of the mayonnaise. After combining chopped lobster with minced shallots, melted butter, chopped tarragon, and lemon juice. The important part of this Panini is that unless you want the insides to spill outside, you need to use a thick roll, like a baguette, and hollow out the interior. This allows you to press the sandwich and your flavorful interior stays right where it belongs.
The Chorizo Manchego Panini
This Spanish-inspired Panini has you brushing the inside of your bread with quince paste or fig jam then adding in manchego cheese, spicy chorizo, and apples. You can also use pears instead for a bigger boost of sweetness.
The Pumpernickel Panini
In the mood for something different? The German-inspired Pumpernickel Panini features whole-grain mustard spread across two slices of pumpernickel bread alongside liverwurst and thick slices of Muenster. It may be cooked the Italian way, but you could not find a more German sandwich.
The Cuban Panini
The beloved sandwich of Cuba, or at very least, Miami, the Cuban combines yellow mustard, dill pickle, ham, roast pork, and Swiss cheese inside of Cuban bread or any other soft sub rolls you can find to create a taste sensation. The best thing is that this Panini isn’t so different from the original thing. Typically, Cubans are fried up in a skillet so you still get the same melted interior and crispy exterior without all the grease. If you are particularly daring or hungry, add in some sliced turkey or replace the pickles with jalapenos if you want something with more kick to it.
The Apple Brie Panini
Among the pretentious restaurants that serve a Panini option for lunch, the apple brie Panini has become the king. Yet, there is no denying that it is a match made in heaven, but you don’t need to pay $12 for one simple sandwich you can make yourself with a Panini press. Spreading bread with a thick slather of Dijon mustard, all you need to do then is add in some brie and apples, then cook until golden. Easy, right?
The Spicy Italian Panini
An Italian-style sandwich like the Panini greatly benefits from Italian tastes. Layer together ham, salami, capicollo, banana peppers, and provolone cheese inside a crusty ciabatta roll and press. The great thing about this sandwich is that you can add in whatever you have around like bell peppers, tomato, pepperoni, jalapeno, and whatever else you think might taste great.
The Three Cheese Panini
Don’t let your Panini press go to waste making boring old grilled cheese sandwiches. Instead, put mozzarella, fontina, and asiago inside a ciabatta roll with a few basil leaves and enjoy the most flavorful grilled cheese of your life. You can also go bigger by including a good pesto and/or some sun-dried tomatoes.
Turkey and Avocado Panini
If you are looking for something a little more healthy than three different cheeses melted together, if there is such a person out there, this Panini provides a healthier option. Combining sliced ripe avocado, roast turkey, arugula, and goat cheese, put the mix on your favorite whole grain bread and toast. It’s no cheese fiesta, but it is still really good.
Nutella Bacon French Toast Panini
Yeah, you read that right. A nutella bacon French toast Panini. Cinnamon French toast, perhaps even made from that lovely cinnamon swirl raisin bread they have out there, slathered in nutella, layered with bacon, and then pressed together in your Panini press. It’s… A revelation to eat.
Buffalo Chicken Panini
Sometimes you just need the flavor of chicken wings in your mouth, and this Panini can provide. Combining shredded chicken with Buffalo wing sauce, caramelized onions, and blue cheese provides the perfect chicken wing flavor all melted inside your sandwich. Like the aforementioned lobster roll, this might be a mix that thrives in a hollowed out roll so that it doesn’t all ooze out.
Cheddar, Apple, and Horseradish Panini
Cheese and apples are popular Panini fare, but add the sharp bite of spicy horseradish to it and you can completely reinvigorate an old recipe. Combine these three ingredients on a hearty country-style bread and get to toasting. You can coat the outside with melted butter for a richer flavor or even grill the apples beforehand with your Panini press.
Peach and Bacon Panini
Salty, sweet, and the perfect summer sandwich – That’s what this recipe makes. Did you know that Panini presses are also the best way to grill fresh peaches? Well, you do now. Grill the peaches in halves, slice them, and then layer them on a baguette or ciabatta with crispy bacon and mozzarella cheese for a refreshing new combination of flavors.
Too bad the holidays are over and the leftovers are all gone, this would be a good way to eat up all that extra turkey. This recipe is simple, layer turkey, Swiss cheese, and cranberry sauce onto some thick potato bread and toast. You can also use sourdough bread, but whatever bread you use, you can also toss in some gravy, Dijon mustard, and perhaps a little leftover stuffing to make it a true feast.