The 5 Best Panini Presses
A panini press, also known as a sandwich maker or sandwich press, can help you make a delicious meal that looks like it came straight from a restaurant. Panini is an Italian word meaning grilled sandwich, and these sandwiches can have a variety of ingredients, from sweet to savory. Nowadays, panini makers have a slew of features that allow you to use them to cook everything from vegetables to pork chops. With so many options to choose from, we here at Wise Bread decided to take the guesswork out of buying a panini press by narrowing it down to the top five. (See also: Ultra-Quick Dessert Paninis)
What Is a Panini Press?
A panini press uses two heated plates to put pressure on the bread of a sandwich as it cooks. The sandwich comes out pressed and toasted. The plates are typically made of glass-ceramic, cast iron, or teflon-coated material. Most modern day panini presses have settings to also grill meats and vegetables.
Best 5 Panini Presses
Cuisinart GR-1 Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press
The Cuisinart GR-1 Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press is extremely easy to use. It comes with "Power On" and "Ready to Cook" indicator lights that ensures anyone can operate it without having to read the instructions. It is not equipped with a temperature control, which takes the guesswork out of making a sandwich but may not be as desirable to cooks who want a little more control.
The upper and lower grill plates measure 11x7 inches and are non-removable. Despite that fact, many reviewers found its nonstick surface easy to clean. Simply wait until it cools down, and then wipe with a damp cloth. It also comes with a built-in cleaning tool to help with the messier jobs.
The real selling point of this panini press is the fact that it has a floating hinge, which can adjust to handle extra thick sandwiches. The size of this appliance allows it to accommodate roughly two sandwiches at a time. The light brushed stainless steel housing makes for an attractive design. It also has a drip spout to drain away grease for the health conscious individuals out there. (See also: Grilled Eggplant Panini Recipe)
The Cuisinart GR-1 comes with a three-year limited warranty, instructions, a cleaning tool and recipes.
Current Price: $49.95 at Amazon
Breville Panini Press & Grill
The sloped front to Breville Panini Press & Grill along with the added tilt feature make it a perfect choice for healthy grilling. Adjusting the tilt of the grates allows fat to more easily drain into the drip tray. You also have the option of laying the grates flat to seal in moisture and make for juicier meats.
The nonstick cast-aluminum plates heat up quickly, with one reviewer claiming that you have a perfectly cooked steak in just four minutes. There are no temperature markers on this grill. Instead, there is an adjustable scale that ranges from "sandwich" to "sear." This makes it easy to use, but chefs who like to know exact temperatures may be frustrated.
The Breville Panini Press and Grill has an adjustable height feature which allows you to position the top plate higher for thicker sandwiches. You can also hover the top plate above the food if you're making an open faced sandwich or a burger that you don't want to be too squished. Another appealing feature is the locking lid, which makes it easy to pick the grill up by its handle for easy transport.
The fixed plates on this grill make clean up slightly more difficult than grills with removable plates, but the nonstick surface is easy enough to simply wipe down with a damp cloth.
Current Price: $119.99 at Amazon
VillaWare NDVLPAPFS1-SHP Panini Grill
While this brand may not be as well known as the others, this VillaWare Panini Grill comes with many appealing features. The large 11x9 inch grilling plates come with multiple heat settings, and the dial allows you to set the temperature of your foods for extra control in the kitchen. The plates are nonstick and removable as well as dishwasher safe, which makes them extremely easy to clean.
You can use this grill in the open position to prepare meats and vegetables, or in the classic closed position for paninis and sandwiches. An adjustable hinged lid allows for the cooking of extra thick sandwiches and the sloped grilling plates drain fat into the drip tray for healthier grilling. You can also lay the plates flat if you like your meat extra juicy. (See also: New Ways to Top Your Burgers)
Reviewers found this grill very easy to use due to the one button with simple to understand indicator lights. The one negative seems to be a power cord that is on the short side, meaning you may be limited in where you can place this item in your kitchen.
Current Price: $59.95 at Amazon
Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N
The Cuisinart Griddler GR-4N is extremely versatile. It can be used in the open position as a regular grill, the closed position as a standard panini maker, and, due to the reversible plates, can even be used as a griddle for making pancakes and eggs. The adjustable hinge accommodates extra thick sandwiches, and reviewers say the cooking surface heats food evenly. The grilling surface is also large enough to cook four burger patties at once.
The easy to remove, dishwasher safe grill plates mean that clean up is extremely simple. The plates snap out easily with a press of the plate release button. It has an integrated drip trap, which is also dishwasher safe.
Two temperature controls and a function selector mean it may not be as easy to use as some of the other grills on this list, but it offers the picky chef a lot of cooking and heating options.
This grill comes with a 3-year limited warranty, cleaning tool, and recipes.
Current Price: $99.95 at Amazon
Hamilton Beach 25450 Gourmet Panini Press
The least expensive option on this list, the Hamilton Beach 25450 Panini Press offers few frills but gets the job done very well. The adjustable, floating lid locks in place to accommodate anything from the thinnest meats to the thickest sandwiches. This locking feature also gives you the option to hover the top lid over the food for open faced sandwiches or burgers. (See also: Vegan Grill Recipes)
The plates are non-removable, making clean up slightly more difficult, but the nonstick coated surface are easy to wipe down once the unit has cooled. It comes with power and preheat lights and does not offer specific temperature control options.
If you are looking for a simple, easy-to-use panini press at a great price, this is the option for you. Experienced home chefs looking for lots of buttons and cooking options may want to stick with one of the more expensive grills on this list.
This grill comes with a 2-year limited warranty.
Current Price: $33.99 at Amazon