If you love sinking your teeth into a warm, mouthwatering sandwich with perfectly melted cheeses and succulent toppings, a Panini is probably your go-to sandwich pick; however, while they are certainly delicious, buying a Panini at your favorite sandwich shop can not only be inconvenient, but it can also be downright expensive. Sure, it’s nice to splurge every once in a while, but after a while, the cost of those sandwiches can definitely start to add up.
Fortunately, there is a way that you can enjoy a freshly made Panini without having to run to that sandwich store. How? – With a Panini press! With this small kitchen appliance, you can make your favorite warm Panini sandwiches at home whenever you want to. Buying a Panini press can be a bit of a challenge, though. There are so many different options out there, which can make it difficult to select the best option for your needs. To help you find the best Panini maker possible, we have assembled this buyer’s guide to lead you on your search.
Types of Panini Presses
There are three main types of Panini Presses:
- Basic Panini press
- Panini press with removable plates
- Hinged countertop grills
Basic Panini Press
A basic Panini press is usually a small appliance that is outfitted with a weighted lid that gently pushes the food that is placed on the press into closer contact with the cooking surface. The majority of basic Panini presses have ridged plates that cannot be removed. These plates leave those tantalizing grill marks that Panini’s are so famous for. Both the upper and lower plates of the basic Panini press are heated.
Panini Press with Removable Plates
A step above the basic Panini press is the Panini press with removable plates. As the name suggests, these appliances boast removable plates, which often have a smooth surface on one side and a ridged surface on the other side. The removable plates allow you to do a little bit more with your Panini maker than just make a sandwich, such as grill a steak or sear vegetables. Some manufacturers have even started to offer options for different plates, such as waffle plates.
Hinged Countertop Grills
A hinged countertop grill tends to offer more versatility than the standard Panini press. They can be used just like a Panini press in that they can cook both surfaces of food at the same time, or they can be opened flat, which doubles the amount of cooking area. Some hinged countertop grills have removable and reversible plates, while others have fixed plates.
Panini Press Considerations
When determining what type of Panini press will best suit your needs, it’s important to take a few factors into consideration. These factors will help you find a product that will allow you to enjoy maximum results.
Just a Panini or More?
Do you plan on using your Panini press only to make sandwiches, or would you like to use it to make other foods? This is an important factor to consider because if you want to cook more than just sandwiches, you want to choose a Panini press that has dual sided plates that can be flipped and allow you to cook on either a slatted or a flat surface.
Grill Surface Area
How much surface area do you want or need to grill on? The surface area of the grill will directly affect the overall size of the Panini press. If you are limited on counter space, your best bet will be to choose a Panini press that has a smaller grill surface area, as the unit will be smaller and it won’t require as much room to use. However, if you want to have a lot of space to cook several sandwiches or other types of large food items (a steak, for example,) the large surface area that a hinged countertop grill offers is a good idea.
The footprint, or the amount of space that the Panini press will take up is an important factor to consider. As mentioned above, the smaller the appliance is, the less space it will require on your countertop. However, though you may have enough space to accommodate a larger Panini press, make sure you determine if you want it to be a permanent fixture in your kitchen, or if you want to stow it away when it isn’t being used. If you want to store it, the footprint is important because you want to make sure that you have enough space to tuck it away.
No, the looks certainly aren’t everything when it comes to appliances; however, the look of a Panini press is important, especially if you are going to make it a fixed appliance in your kitchen. Generally speaking, the nicer a Panini press looks, the higher quality it will be; however, this is not always the case, so please don’t judge a Panini press solely on its looks.
Ease of Use
How easy is the Panini press to set up and clean? You don’t want to struggle when you are making your food, and you certainly don’t want to struggle when you are cleaning up afterword. Cheese can melt, grease can drip and sauces can spatter. You want to make sure that your Panini press is as easy to clean up as it is to set up.
How much are you looking to spend on your Panini press? The price of this small kitchen appliance can vary significantly, from under $50 to upwards of $100 or more. Generally, the larger the press is and the more features it offers, the more expensive it will be.
Panini Press Features
Like most products, Panini presses can be outfitted with certain features. These features are designed to improve your experience and making cooking easier and more enjoyable. Depending on your needs, these features can be very advantageous; however, if you don’t need them, you will end up paying more for something that you aren’t going to use or won’t benefit from.
An Adjustable Thermostat
Some Panini presses operate at one heat. You simply plug them in, the surface heats up and your food cooks. However, if you want to have more control over the surface temperature, you should look for a Panini press that features an adjustable thermostat. This feature will allow you to select the temperature that you want to cook your foods, which can be particularly useful if you plan on using the press to cook different types of food.
There is nothing worse than setting up a Panini press and dreaming about the beautiful masterpiece that it is going to create, only to find that it is stuck on the plates when you go to take it out. Not only is your sandwich ruined, but you have a huge mess to clean up. Sure, you can spray a non-stick cooking spray onto the surface of the plates to avoid sticking; however, nobody is perfect and there are bound to be time when you forget to spray the plates. Buying a Panini press that features non-stick plates will give you peace of mind knowing that your food won’t stick to the surface of the plates, even when you forget to spray them.
Panini presses that have removable plates may also be able to accommodate additional plates. As mentioned above, some manufacturers are making waffle plates for their Panini presses that can have removable surface plates. These extra plates add one more dimension to the Panini press and up its cooking ability.
Making food in a Panini press can get messy at times. A drip tray will catch any oil, sauce, butter or anything else that may start to drip out of the appliance while you are cooking, making cleanup a whole lot easier on you.
A warranty will give you added peace of mind when you buy a Panini press. Should you find that something goes wrong or that you are unhappy with the appliance, the manufacturer will replace or refund your Panini press (make sure you check the stipulations of the warranty.) This can provide you with added security when you are investing in this small kitchen appliance.
Best Panini Press Brands
There are several manufactures that make Panini presses, which can make trying to find the right one for your needs like trying to find a needle in a haystack. To help you sort through the different brands, we tested them ourselves and conducted extensive research. After our thorough assessment, we determined that the following brands are the best of the best.
Waring is an Italian-based manufacturer that makes exquisite Panini presses. We liked how multi-faceted their presses were, how many features they offered and how easy they were to use. We also liked that we had the ability to cook a wide range of foods on Waring Panini presses, not just sandwiches, which we think gives you much more bang for your buck.
Cuisinart is a highly regarded manufacturer of small kitchen appliances. They offer a wide variety of Panini presses, and we really liked the different options that they offered. We also liked that their price range was very affordable.
Breville is another well-known name in the small appliance industry. This company makes a variety of Panini presses that are sure to suit the needs of all consumers. We particularly liked that their Panini presses offered adjustable heights, which allowed us to easily make our sandwiches in varying heights, which we found made the process a lot easier and more enjoyable.