Three best panini presses
Everyone loves a tasty sandwich, but if you want to take lunch to the next level, serve up some paninis. There's something delectable about grilled bread, melted cheese, and your favorite meat and veggie fillings all heated together that can't be beaten.
If you really want to wow family and friends with your panini-making abilities, you have to choose the right panini press. You need to decide whether you want fixed or removable plates, the type of hinge you prefer, and any other product features that would make preparing your favorite pressed sandwiches as easy as possible.
Considerations when choosing panini presses
Fixed vs. removable plates
Panini pressed are available with two different types of plates: those that are permanently fixed in place and those that can be removed. Both plate types can make delicious sandwiches, but they differ in terms of how easy they are to clean.
With a press that has fixed plates, you'll have to lug the entire appliance to the sink and carefully scrub away any melted-on cheese or other debris. If a panini press has removable plates, you can simply take the plates to the sink for cleaning. Some models even have dishwasher-safe plates for extremely easy cleanup.
The other benefit of a press with removable plates is that the plates are often reversible, so you can use the grooved side for grilling and the smooth side to transform the press into a griddle. Fixed-plate panini presses tend to be more affordable, though, so they may be a better option if you're on a budget.
Panini presses have either a standard or a floating hinge. A standard hinge can only close over sandwiches or foods of a certain thickness because there's no adjustability. With a floating hinge, the press provides a great deal of adjustability in terms of what it can close over, so you're able to accommodate sandwiches of any thickness.
In some models, a floating hinge even allows you to open the press all the way to create two parallel cooking surfaces. This is ideal for grilling burgers, chicken, and other cuts of meat and for using the press as a griddle for pancakes and bacon.
Cooking surface area
When you're trying to decide what surface size your panini press needs, consider how many people you usually cook for and the space available in your kitchen.
A small press that can make one or two sandwiches at a time is an ideal option if you're cooking for one or two people. Larger panini presses often accommodate up to four sandwiches at the time; this type works well if you cook for a family or frequently entertain guests. Keep in mind, however, that a larger cooking surface means a larger press overall. If you don't have much space on your countertop or in your cabinet, you may need to go with a smaller press.
Some budget-friendly panini presses only have low, medium, and high heat settings; you aren't able to set a specific temperature. However, you can find models with an adjustable thermostat, which means you can choose a precise temperature for the press. An adjustable thermostat is key if you plan to use your panini press to cook chicken, burgers, steaks, or other cuts of meat. Pay attention to the temperature range that the press allows. Most can go as low as 200°F, but some models can heat all the way up to 500°F.
Panini presses vary in price based on the type of plates and hinges they have. Most range from $20 to $125. Budget-friendly models with fixed plates and a standard hinge usually cost between $20 and $35. Mid-range models with a floating hinge and fixed plates generally run between $35 and $70. High-end panini presses with a floating hinge and removable plates are the most expensive, ranging from $70 to $125.
Q. How should I clean my panini press?
A. If your panini press has removable plates, take them off the grill and clean them by soaking them in soapy water in your kitchen sink. Some presses have dishwasher-safe plates, so you can clean those in the dishwasher. For a press with fixed plates, never submerge the appliance in a sink full of water. Instead, use a wet sponge to wipe down the plates, and then blot with a damp rag.
Q. What can I cook on a panini press besides paninis?
A. A panini press can be used as an indoor grill. Burgers, steaks, chicken breasts, fish, and vegetables are all tasty options.
Panini presses we recommend
Best of the best: Breville Panini Duo Nonstick Panini Press
Our take: A high-quality panini press that heats up in a hurry and can make a variety of foods in addition to sandwiches.
What we like: Features nonstick plates for easy cleanup and a wrappable cord for easy storage. Floating hinge offers four different height options to accommodate extremely thick sandwiches.
What we dislike: Has fixed plates that can make cleanup a pain. Doesn't have an on/off switch or variable temperature controls.
Best bang for your buck: Hamilton Beach Gourmet Sandwich Maker
Our take: A press that heats up quickly and can prepare a variety of recipes but still has a budget-friendly price tag.
What we like: Has a floating hinge to fit sandwiches of nearly any thickness. Features a preheat light to let you know when the press is ready to use. Folds for easy storage.
What we dislike: Plates aren't removable. Doesn't feature an on/off switch or variable temperature controls.
Choice 3: Oster DuraCeramic Panini Maker and Grill
Our take: An affordable panini press that combines durability and versatility.
What we like: Floating hinge opens up flat to make grilling meat and veggies easier. Features some temperature adjustment capabilities. Plate coating is nonstick but still durable and scratch-resistant.
What we dislike: Sandwiches can get pushed out the sides when the lid is closed.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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