Whether you live on sandwiches or you're trying to expand your culinary horizons, a panini press can turn a regular lunch into a gourmet one. The best panini presses toast your bread to crunchy perfection, and some even have the versatility to cook waffles, omelettes, grilled meats, and more. But, like so many kitchen gadgets, there are a lot of options to choose from — and all are not created equal.
To find the perfect press for you, you first need to determine your budget. Today's models vary drastically in price depending on their level of features. You can get a fully equipped, temperature-controlled model that has both a grill plate and griddle plate for a range of cooking needs, or you can opt for a utilitarian model that specializes in toasting just breads. Of course, the most budget-friendly route is to choose a traditional, hand-held cast iron grill press that works with the skillet you already own.
From there, you'll want to think about the kinds of sandwiches you'll be making. If you plan on using a variety of breads, from ciabatta to baguettes to tortillas, a model with a floating hinge is going to allow you to adjust to the thickness of the food. Also worth considering: how easy will it be to clean? A panini press with dishwasher-safe, removable plates is the way to go for the most hassle-free cleanup.
With that in mind, it's time to shop. All of the options below come highly rated on Amazon, and our first pick, the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler, even has more than 11,000 customer reviews.
1.The Most Versatile Panini Press
Boasting a 4.4-star rating and more than 11,000 customer reviews, the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler is a fan favorite for a reason. It features a five-in-one countertop that can function as both a contact grill or full grill, a panini press, a full griddle, or a half grill, half griddle. So, whether you want to make hamburgers, grilled cheese, pancakes, or a perfectly toasty panini, this grill-griddle has got you covered. The unit's floating hinges let you adjust to the thickness of your food, and the reversible, removable plates are non-stick, dishwasher-safe, and BPA-free. The plates also drain any grease into an integrated drip tray.
There are three adjustable temperature controls so you can ensure whatever you are cooking is in the optimal cooking range. Plus, there's a dishwasher-safe scraping tool to get any melted cheese off the plates with ease.
Fans say: "I started wanting a panini press and got an appliance that does a lot more."
2. The Best For Cafe-Quality Sandwiches
Breville's Panini Duo is the perfect gadget for anyone looking to make exclusively sandwiches, whether they're open-style melts or pressed artisanal breads. The 1500-watt panini press heats up quickly, and features a flat bottom plate for even cooking, and a ribbed top plate for the classic grill marks a panini deserves. Thanks to the floating hinge, you can customize to any sandwich height. While there are no removable plates, the non-stick, scratch-resistant Quantanium cooking surface is easy to clean — you simply use a damp cloth to wipe it off.
Fans say: "Bought 2 of these for our small café. We sell a lot of Panini's during the day 6 days a week and these Breville makers are still going strong. It heats the Panini all the way through and the clean up is easy. Really good investment if you are a Panini connoisseur."
3. The Best Panini Press With Ceramic Plates
There's something to be said for a panini press with ceramic plates, since the non-stick surface lets you cook without adding grease, and is both PTFE- and PFOA-free. The George Foreman Multi-Plate Evolve Grill comes with durable ceramic plates that are removable and dishwasher-safe. Use the set's waffle plate for tasty breakfast treats, then sub in the grill plate for meats and veggies. Plus, you can lay the grill flat for toasty paninis (and the floating hinge adjusts to the size of your bread). The digital control panel is easy to use and lets you customize your heat settings for a range of cooking options — and there's even a burst feature that lets you raise the temperature of the grill to 500 degrees for 90 seconds to give you the perfect toast or sear.
Fans says: "We are pleased with our purchase of the George Foreman. We've been inspired to make paninis, waffles, hash browns, veggie burgers and more. We've had this grill for several weeks now and so far we're really enjoying how quick and easy it is."
4. The Best Cheap Panini Press
The Hamilton Beach Electric Panini Press is perfect for anyone who wants to make toasty sandwiches and quesadillas, and doesn't plan to use it more broadly than that. The no-frills press comes with a floating lid that evenly presses any sized sandwich. Its nonstick top and bottom grids are easy to clean, and since it can be stored upright, it's a cinch to stow away in a kitchen cabinet. The one drawback is that it requires about six minutes of preheating, but the built-in ready light will turn green when the press is ready for use.
Fans say: "I had been on the search for a panini maker for quite a bit now, finally decided to purchase this one. I'm so glad I did, both my husband and I work and sometimes making dinner can become a hassle. With this, we can just come home put a sandwich together really quick and have it feel like it was a restaurant-style panini. I also love that you can fit two sandwiches at a time."
5. The Best Cast Iron Panini Press
The Lodge Cast Iron Square Ribbed Panini Press is a great way to add the perfect finishing touch to your panini or sear to your meat, without having to buy a more cumbersome countertop appliance. The sturdy cast iron press has solid one-piece construction so it's an item you'll have in your kitchen for decades. The U.S.-made handheld press offers even heating and heat retention, plus it comes seasoned with oil that only gets better with each use. To clean, simply hand wash, dry, and rub with oil.
Fans say: "This press makes the best panini ever! I agree with the reviewer who said sometimes the simplest tools work the best. Rivals any panini you could get in a restaurant at a fraction of the cost, and you don't have another spacehog appliance to store that only does one thing."
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