The Best Panini Press – Consumer Reports
From making delicious sandwiches to grilling up foods in a matter of minutes, a panini press is a super handy kitchen tool. A Panini is an Italian name for sandwiches, distinguished by its ridged surface or grill marks due to the plates’ edges resembling a grill’s lines, and the usage of specific pieces of bread such as Focaccia or Ciabatta. The term “press” is used to describe pressing the top and bottom pan to even out the heat distribution and toast the food.
The Panini Press is an electrical unit with a movable upper lid and hot plates used to press food to the base plate for a crisp finish and grill marks. Panini Press is not just limited to quickly cook sandwiches. Whether you want to toast your panini bread to crispy golden perfection or create a signature sandwich, grilling meat, vegetable, roasting burger, and reheating pizzas, the options are endless. Preheat the grill to the requisite temperature, place the food on the plate, press the lid, and set the timer according to the recipe. Easy-Peasy.
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Panini Press Applications
The usage of the panini press is as varied as the machine itself. You can use the machine to make sandwiches, grill small quantities of meat and vegetables, melt quesadillas, and even prepare hash browns. Most Panini Press models also function as a grill, where the press can be flattened with the lid facing upwards, giving you two flat surfaces to prepare your food. Some variants also function as a contact grill, allowing you to cook meats and vegetables from both sides simultaneously.
Some advanced Panini Press brands allow you to use the press as a griddle by removing and replacing the grill plates with ones that have a flat surface. You can also operate them as entirely separate plates, while others allow you to flip the panini/grill plates over to save on space. Some high-end models also have the option to split the plates, so you can operate one grill and one griddle simultaneously.
Features to Consider While Buying a Panini Press?
There are a plethora of panini press models available in the market with different features, sizes, functionalities, and price points to suit each requirement.
Floating Hinge: A floating hinge refers to the press lid’s ability to move up and down to accommodate foods of different sizes. A panini press without a floating hinge has limited functionality. While you can fit your standard grilled cheese or a tuna melt comfortably, it will be difficult to add additional ingredients or use a thicker bread to close the press and get the desired result.
Some Panini Press variants come with an auto-balancing top, while others are equipped with a torsion spring hinge to keep the top plate securely placed. Few high-end Panini Press models come with explicit height settings to line up according to different press or sandwich styles. Some models are also equipped with a lockable hinge so that the plate comes close enough to the food item without touching it. Think about when you want to heat up your pizza pieces without ruining their toppings.
Ergonomic Handles: Yesteryear Panini Press models used to have grill handles that were high and difficult to reach when the lids are open. While it was manageable for tall people, it was a safety risk for people with shorter heights as they need to reach up and over the hot grill plates to close the lid. Latest Panini Press models feature lower-profile designs and ergonomic, easy-to-reach handles that eliminate reaching and stretching and ensure user safety.
Adjustable Thermostat: Different recipes and products are generally cooked at different temperatures. An adjustable thermostat comes in handy if you use the Panini Press to cook different types of foods. The majority of the models are equipped with adjustable temperature control with a standard operating range of 120 – 570 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows performing multiple operations with the device, from warming tortillas or grilling meat to seasoning and cleaning.
Grill Surface Area: A large grill surface area is desirable to those who like to prepare a lot of Paninis or other food items at once, while few users prefer appliances with a smaller surface area due to space constraints. Select the model based on the requirement and space you have. You should also check if the appliance opens flat to double your grilling surface.
Removable Plates: Panini fillings have a tendency to ooze out of the bread and onto the grill grates when pressed, so clean-up can sometimes be a bit of a chore. Removable plates make the job more convenient and also ensure more thorough cleaning. The plates can also be put in the dishwasher for added convenience.
Plate material: The Plate material directly affects the Panini press’s performance. The most common types of material used in the Panini press are aluminum, iron, and non-stick Ceramic.
Aluminum heats quickly, cooks fast, and is cheaper, however, aluminum plates cool fast and consume more oil or sprays for grilling. Iron plates have better heat maintenance and tend to be sturdier and resistant to scratches but are heavier and more expensive. Iron plates are long-lasting if appropriately maintained, but they take more time to heat and require to be seasoned regularly.
Non-stick plates heat up quickly and don’t need excess oil for grilling. Non-stick material prevents grilled foods from sticking on the grilling plates making the cleaning process more comfortable. Non-stick coating plates are lighter but wear away with time, and their surface damage very fast.
If you plan to make a lot of sandwiches or put other types of food into the grill regularly, you may want to consider a model with cast iron plates. On the other hand, if you will only use the device to make the occasional sandwich, then a non-stick coating model should be enough.
Type of Plates: If you prefer ridges on both sides of the sandwich bread, consider a press with ridges on both sides of the plates. If you like to have grilled marks on only one side, then look for a model that comes with a griddle on the bottom and a grooved plate on the top. The griddle produces even heat and is more versatile than the ridged surface. You also select a dual press that contains grooved and smooth plates divided in half.
Heating Zone: Heating zones refer to the surface where the food items are placed for pressing. Most panini press comes with two zones that allow you to grill both the upper and lower food items’ surfaces. A panini press with dual heating zones saves you the trouble and energy of constantly turning your foods during grilling. Presses with a single heating zone also do a fine grilling job but probably consume more power.
Storage: Storing your press in an upright position helps in saving space. Many of these panini presses are equipped with locking features and a cable storage area at the unit’s bottom to make storage easy and safe.
Ease of Cleaning: It is essential to find a cooking appliance that is easy to clean. Panini Press models with a non-stick coating are easy to clean as they prevent food from sticking. Some models come with detachable plates that can be put into a dishwasher.
Safety Features: Panini presses can get incredibly hot, with some models reaching temperatures upwards of 500 degrees, which may cause severe injuries if not handled carefully. Look for models with insulated handles since they will allow you to open and close the press without using any oven mitts or towels. Some models may have exposed edges where the cooking plates are not covered, so always keep this in mind to keep them out of kids’ reach.
Also, look for a press that has a locking mechanism since you’re going to want to make sure that it will stay closed when not in use. This will also help store the press as it can be kept in a standing position without worrying about the press falling open.
Tips to use a Panini Press
Cheese limit: Be careful with the amount of cheese you are putting between your pieces of bread as it oozes out of the sandwich when pushed between the sides.
Use a plastic spatula: Use a plastic spatula to remove the sandwich from the panini maker. It makes sandwich removal easier and protects your panini maker surface’s non-stick covering, which might damage if you use a steel spatula.
How to Clean a Panini Press
Make sure to clean the panini grill after every use to keep it running efficiently. Carbon build-up accumulated on the grill plates reduces the grill’s effectiveness, and blobs of melted or burned food prevent even cooking and may also pose a safety risk.
After using the Panini press, remove the food deposits and then wipe clean the plates with a wet paper towel. Non-stick plates are prone to damage and should be cleaned as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Always unplug the unit for safety. Overheating of the coatings on the grill can burn it. Use brushes and degreasers to remove sediment and food build-up from the appliance. You can also use warm water with dish wash soap to thoroughly clean grill plates while still warm but not hot. Please do not use cold water on warm panini grill plates.
Ensure to season cast iron grill plates after several heavy cleanings. Wipe the outside of the Panini Press with a damp cloth. Please ensure to remove and thoroughly clean the drip tray and check if they are completely dry before replacing it.
Best Panini Press Maker Reviews
1. Cuisinart GR-4NP1 5-in-1 Griddler
With five distinct cooking choices, the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler can handle everything from panini to pancakes, sausages to grilled cheese, and steaks to hamburgers. With the help of a floating cover and reversible plates, the multi-functional press can be converted into a contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, or half grill/half griddle.
Made from brushed stainless-steel housing, the 5-in-1 Griddler comes with a selector knob that allows you to choose the grill or griddle function. Red and green indicator lights alert users when the Griddler is ready to cook. The Griddler is simple to use and easy to clean with the removable and reversible dishwasher-safe non-stick cooking plates.
The device features a sturdy panini-style handle lid that stays cool while cooking. The Griddler is BPA free and comes with gourmet recipes and scraping tools. This grill/griddle features an integrated drip tray that collects the liquids that drain from the grill, whether open or closed. Since the drip tray remains hidden, it gives the Griddler a smaller footprint and a neater appearance.
The Cuisinart Griddler’s multifunctional design approach makes it the ultimate in kitchen versatility– all neatly packaged into a small storage profile. The compact grill is affordable and gets the job done without a lot of fancy extras. If you are looking for a do-it-all griddle, grill, sandwich press, and even waffle maker, this Cuisinart appliance is worth considering.
- Heavy-Duty Griddle
- Large cooking surface
- Small storage footprint.
- Multiple applications in one appliance
- Non-stick plates;
- Can be used to make waffles
- Buttons holding the grill plates are made from plastic and look flimsy
- While the manufacture warranty is three years, some users complained that they need to ship the entire product back to avail it.
- Uneven heat distribution
2. Hamilton Beach Electric Panini Press Grill with Locking Lid
The Hamilton Beach 25450 Panini Press is a Gourmet sandwich maker designed for home use. Featuring a sturdy chrome housing, this hot sandwich maker features a café style floating lid that evenly presses any size sandwich. You can use the machine to create savory sandwiches, quesadillas, and sweet fruit turnovers.
Hamilton Beach 25450 Panini Maker can be stored either vertically or horizontally as per your needs. The non-stick top and bottom Panini press grids heat and brown the sandwich, giving you warm, crisp results without flipping the food items. As per the manufacturer, the Panini Press should be preheated for 6 minutes before use; the built-in light will turn green when it is ready to cook. Ensure that the ingredients are spread out evenly on the plates to get the desired results.
The Hamilton Beach Panini Press’ top lid can be locked to warm pizzas or create bruschetta or open-face sandwiches, and you can even open the sandwich maker 180 degrees. The unit weighs 1 pound and comes with a 2-year warranty. The upright storage ensures that it easily fits in your kitchen cabinet or discreetly on your countertop.
- Robust design
- Quick, even heating
- Lockable lid
- Easy clean-up
- Cannot be used to fry eggs or pancakes due to fine ribbing on the plates
- No on/off switch
- Small Power Cord
Why buy – The Hamilton Beach Panini Press is super simple to use and clean up. The compact machine heats up quickly, cooks evenly, and offers excellent value for the money.
3. iSiLER 4 Slice Panini Press Grill, Sandwich Maker
The iSiLER 4 Slice Panini Press Grill boasts 1200 W high-power output with uniform heating technology that helps you create authentic, great-tasting grilled food. The 3-in-1 product features 2 large cooking plates that can be flattened 180 degrees to double the capacity; you can also open it to 90 degrees to grill one side if there are space concerns or close it to make contact grill, saving you time and labor. The multi-functional maker can efficiently meet all your indoor grilling needs. Whether you wish to grill burgers, steaks, sandwiches, paninis, vegetables, and more, meets any and all indoor grilling needs.
The iSiLER Panini Press includes food-grade aluminum non-stick cooking plates that ensure reliable results. A unique oil outlet effortlessly drains extra grease, and food residue can be quickly cleaned. The device features intelligent temperature control prevents overheating, and the heating temperature won’t exceed the pre-set value.
The upper housing can be conveniently opened and closed via the floating hinge by sliding the right handle switch. Coated with a non-stick, abrasion, and scratch-resistant grilling surface, it’s easy to clean and requires less oil or butter for healthy grilling. The power cord can be stored tidily in the base.
- 1200 W High-Power Output
- Premium Stainless-Steel Upper Housing
- Special Oil Outlets for Better Grease Draining
- Compact space-saving design
- Easy to Use.
- Heats up very quickly and toasts evenly
- The panini maker is pretty small
Why Buy: The versatile iSiLER Panini Press is a well-designed and affordable device. It is the perfect option if counter space is a bit of a concern.
The De’Longhi CGH800 delivers fast, even grilling and toasting with double-sided contact cooking plates. Featuring a height-adjustable hinge, the Panini Press maker can accommodate food of any size.
The De’Longhi CGH800 features an adjustable thermostat and easy-view temperature range window that enables precise, customized grilling and toasting. The Panini Press comes with a slightly tilted grill surface that channels the grease and oil to drain away from your food, making it healthier and better-tasting. The device comes with an easy wipe non-stick grill plate.
The De’Longhi Contact Grill comes with a fully embedded plate that delivers consistent and thoroughly grilled and toasted foods, as it distributes heat evenly to avoid any overly hot or cold spots. The machine comes with cool-touch handles that allow for easy movement once grilling or toasting is complete. It also includes an on/off indicator light and a safety locking system for convenient, upright storage.
- The press heats up very quickly.
- Holds heat
- Cooks evenly
- Easy to clean
- It doesn’t have any kind of beak, so the grease sometimes dribbles back under the lip and goes all over the countertop.
- When lifted post-cooking, the top lid will drip grease and condensed steam from the hinge area onto your counter.
- The press’s adjustable top needs to be manually adjusted; hence it requires a robust set of tongs because you may not know it needs to be adjusted until after the unit is hot.
Why buy – The De’Longhi unit looks excellent, cook or grill just about anything, and doesn’t completely break the bank.
5. BELLA (13267) Electric Panini Press Sandwich Maker
The BELLA 13267 is a versatile Panini Press that can efficiently cook paninis, sandwiches, burgers, chicken drumsticks & even hash browns and veggies. This stainless-steel panini press can also be used as a contact grill. Preheat the grill by plugging it in, a ready indicator light lets you know when to get grilling.
The BELLA Panini Press is equipped with a height-adjustable locking mechanism that allows you to grill a wide array of sandwiches, including open-faced melts. This space-saving grill can be stored upright for cupboard or countertop storage. The non-stick plates get heated evenly, giving you the option to cook anything you’d like. The multifunction machine also includes a drip tray for trapping unwanted grease and quick & easy clean-up. It also provides temperature dial controls that can be used to adjust the heat from low to high.
- Non-stick coating
- Low on maintenance
- Easy to clean and store
- No temp adjustment
- The drip tray doesn’t stay attached very well
- Non-removable plates
Why Buy: Nice size, nice price, easy to use, and clean and store. What’s not to like?
Bonus – Seasoning a Panini Grill
Seasoning your Panini press’s plates is essential to prevent rusting and reduce sticking. Regularly seasoned plates lessen the amount of non-stick sprays and oils required while cooking.
To season, preheat the grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the preheat light comes off, put a small quantity of oil on the grill center. Use a dry cloth to spread the oil around, ensuring that it evenly covers the machine’s top and bottom. Let heat for 15 – 20 minutes or until all oil has been burnished.