Panini Press Buying Advice: What to Look For

by on May 25, 2010

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People ask me all the time for advice on buying a panini press. It’s understandable that a lot of folks are a little stumped when it comes to shopping for them.  There are a slew of different models, with all different features, at price points ranging from $20 to more than $200. How do you know if you’re getting a “good” one?

To help you navigate the sea of panini press options out there, I’m adding a new post – Panini Buying Advice: What to Look For – to my Panini 101 series. I’ve defined the key features that I’ve found to be most valuable in the grills I use and I’ve done a little of the legwork for you to find some models that offer them.

Just so we’re all clear, I’m talking about presses or grills (manufacturers often use the word interchangeably) that are 1) electric and 2) specifically designed to make panini. Many of you will ask about George Foreman and other types of “indoor grills”. I definitely think these are great to use and you can still use my feature recommendations as a guide to choosing one. But my focus will be on electric panini presses.

Please note: I’m recommending features to look for in a panini press, not endorsing any specific models. I’ve identified a handful of models that offer my recommended features to get you started with a few options as you choose a press.

FEATURES TO LOOK FOR

There are four key features that I really appreciate in a panini press:

  • Floating hinge
  • Adjustable thermostat
  • Grill surface area
  • Removable plates

I’ll describe each feature, why you might or might not want it, and recommendations for models that offer it.

Hamilton Beach Gourmet Panini Press (Photo: Amazon)

Floating Hinge

This sounds all hi-tech and fancy, but all it means is that you can close the grill at varying heights. So the grill can accommodate a tall sandwich made on a baguette as well as a shorter grilled cheese sandwich. If I’m grilling open-face panini, I can set the upper plate to hover above them without making direct contact. Most panini grills I’ve seen have this feature. The models I’ll list under this feature are on the more affordable end of the spectrum, in the $40-$80 range. They have the floating hinge but none of the other key features I’ll discuss later.

Basic models, with floating hinges, to consider: Breville Panini Duo Press, Cuisinart Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press and Hamilton Beach Gourmet Panini Press (pictured).

Breville Panini Press (Photo: Williams-Sonoma)

Adjustable Thermostat

Now we’re getting into the features that are sometimes only available in the higher-end panini grill models. An adjustable thermostat is particularly helpful if you plan to grill a lot of different types of foods – perhaps beyond just panini. For example, I often use my panini grills to make burgers. I like to grill my burgers at a higher temperature than for sandwiches so that ability to adjust the temperature is key. If you are looking for a grill to make mostly just panini then you can save a little money and do just fine without the adjustable thermostat feature. But if you’d like the added versatility of being able to control the heat on a variety of foods consider a model that offers this feature.

Models to consider with adjustable thermostats: Breville Panini Press (pictured), Cuisinart Griddler 4-in-1 Grill/Griddle and Panini Press and DeLonghi U-Retro Panini Grill.

DeLonghi U-Retro Panini Grill (Photo: Amazon)

Grill Surface Area

Some folks will prefer a smaller grill due to space constraints in their kitchen. A large grill surface area is particularly desirable to those who like to make a lot of panini at once. Generally speaking, the most notable difference between an inexpensive grill and a higher-end one is its size. I tend to use my smaller grill most often as I usually make just one or two panini at a time. But when I’m grilling many sandwiches at once or a lot of vegetables I definitely appreciate the space my larger grill offers.

Models to consider, by grill surface area size: Cuisinart Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press is a smaller grill; Breville Panini Duo Press is mid-sized; and Breville Panini Press, Cuisinart Griddler 4-in-1 Grill/Griddle and Panini Press and DeLonghi U-Retro Panini Grill (pictured) are among the largest.

Cuisinart Griddler 4-in-1 Grill/Griddle and Panini Press (Photo: Amazon)

Removable Plates

This last feature isn’t an absolute must-have, but it’s definitely a nice-to-have. Panini fillings have a tendency to ooze out of the bread and onto the grill grates, so clean-up can sometimes be a bit of a chore. If your grill has removable plates, the job is much easier. Often you can just stick them into the dishwasher. You usually can find removable plates on some of the higher-end “indoor grills” (and also this George Foreman grill) but I only know of one machine actually labeled as a panini grill that currently offers it, and that’s the Cuisinart Griddler 4-in-1 Grill/Griddle and Panini Press. Again, if you’re looking at a grill doesn’t have this feature it shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but it’s definitely helpful.

Model to consider with removable plates: Cuisinart Griddler 4-in-1 Grill/Griddle and Panini Press (pictured)

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If you already own a panini press, which features and/or model(s) do you like most and why?

* * *

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:






>Ready to buy a panini press? Check out my Panini Press Buying Guide for the features to look for.

>Want more panini recipes? See my Recipe Index for a list of all recipes on Panini Happy.

>Traveling to a new city soon? Browse Panini Happy’s Great American Sandwich Guide to find the best sandwiches across the country!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kristi May 26, 2010 at 9:52 am

I have the Cuisinart Gridder (the last one) and I love it, infact, I just used it last night for a panini. It’s perfect for everything, not just paninis. You can open it flat with the griddle to make bfast items (pancakes, bacon, eggs), you can close it with the grill to cook chicken (quick because it cooks from both sides), I love it! Clean up is simple, you just pop the plates off, and they’re dishwasher safe. It really comes in so handy.

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2 tia May 28, 2010 at 10:51 am

Same thing here. I got mine last year and love it. yay for the Cuisinart griddlers!
.-= tia´s last blog ..DB: Piece Montée, deconstructed =-.

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3 RoboGourmet May 26, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Cast iron Lodge Logic grill pan and matching press. Sure, it’s not quite as easy to use as a standalone press, but I like that it’s simple and serves double duty as grill pan and panini press. Pretty cheap as well, at about $34 for the pair.

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4 Julie May 30, 2010 at 1:01 pm

I have the Cuisinart Griddler and really like it! I found it at Costco for a great price with a coupon and haven’t regretted it one bit! I keep it out on the counter to encourage using it and we use it many times a week. I don’t have one complaint about the griddler and would recommend it to others.

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5 Lindsey Jones June 1, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I’m pretty glad I found your blog! I am addicted to sandwiches of the pressed kind. I’m always using our toaster oven at work to create the best sandwiches possibly while in an office kitchen. You have given me tons of inspiration!

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6 Ena December 11, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Does anyone have any reviews for the Giada Panini Maker that I saw at Target? It is the same size as the larger Breville at Williams-Sonoma, has a floating hinge, High/Low heat settings, locking cover for stand-up storage, power and ready-to-cook light, non-stick plates, attractive brushed stainless, AND is only $60! The Breville “Oprah Special” has a more settings and has a tilt option to let grease drain off…but do you really need that? Seems like you would only if you were cooking really fatty foods…i.e. bacon? Giada’s model is half the price! I would appreciate any info or comparison that anyone has. Thanks!

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7 Kathy December 11, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Hi Ena,

I’ve never tried Giada’s panini maker, but I’ve used the Brevilles and can say that the advantage to the adjustable temperature settings and tilt option is that you can use the grill for more than just panini. I often grill burgers, chicken and vegetables on my panini grill and it’s helpful to have the tilt and option to adjust the temp. If you’re planning to primarily grill sandwiches then I’m sure Giada’s grill would be a fine option.

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8 CountryCook March 2, 2011 at 10:02 am

I have the original GeorgeForeman G5 Grill it has interchangeable plates with a top plate panini press and it works great…..only downfall would be the bottom plate is a choice between a grill plate or a flat plate so you don’t get the same “design” on top and bottom of sandwich but since my family eats them rather than looks at them, noone cares! It also allows us to change out plates to bake, grill, and even make waffles all for the same price as a Panini Grill…..

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9 Roxana April 1, 2011 at 8:39 am

I have a commercial panini grill and then I have two other ones. I make pressed sandwiches now for a living in my food truck. The commercial grill is hard to use. I still haven’t gotten the hang of it or the right temps for sandwiches. On the other hand, I purchased a GE Panini grill because I hadn’t purchase my big panini grill. I’ve been using the GE for about 3 weeks and it hasn’t let me down. the sandwiches are crisp. I keep the temp between 375 and 400. I made a huge pressed sandwich for one of my customers, 8 0z. of roast beef, 4 oz. of cheese and two huge tomato slices. Pressed the sandwich in about 4 minutes. It also opens up like a griddle. So if you want an inexpensive panini grill for around $50 try the GE. I found mine at WallyWorld

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10 Trent December 30, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Just got my press for Christmas and I’m hooked. Pretty sure I’ve cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner on it since. I’m just starting to try creative/unconventional dishes on it and so for haven’t struck out yet. From health conscious wraps to succulent and sinful grilled cheese.. It’s amazing. Thank you so much Maw-in-law, this BCS bowl season will never be the same. I’m cooking everything imaginable on it which means Pizza Hut will have one less Cotton Bowl party delivery to worry about.

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11 MissD January 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Just found your blog and love it! I have the Cuisinart Griddler 4-in-1 Grill/Griddle and Panini Press and use it at least once a day, sometimes twice or more on the weekends. It has saved so much time for cooking meals or for making quick grilled-veggie sides. It’s unfortunate it doesn’t have the floating hinge but I honestly can’t complain. It is the most-used appliance that I own and I look forward to trying out your recipes on the site!

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12 Kathy F. June 21, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I have the cuisinart griddler ….also purchased the optional waffle plates…so it is used quite often.

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13 LindaG January 9, 2014 at 5:36 am

My Husband gave me the Breville Panini Press for my 70th Birthday and we love it. We have discovered so many ways to use it. My Husband (who doesn’t cook a lot) has enjoyed trying many different things to use it for. Some include: frozen Burritos, Corn Dogs, Taquitos, and different kinds of meat sandwiches he gets from the store. One of my favorite breakfasts is two Eggos with cream cheese and jelly between them. The press warms the cream cheese and brings out the flavor of the jelly. I don’t need any syrup or anything else on it except the butter I use to toast it. Be careful not to press it to hard or the jelly will squeeze out. Yum! I didn’t know very much about Panini’s until I saw your website. Thank you so much for all the great foods we are discovering.

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