“Which panini press do you recommend – the Breville or the Cuisinart?” It’s a question that Panini Happy readers have asked me by e-mail and on Facebook for years. There are, of course, many brands of panini makers on the market. The Breville Panini Press and Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler happen to be two of the most popular models.
Until now, I could only give my opinion on the Breville panini press, which is the one I’ve owned since I started this blog. About a week ago, however, I finally bought the Cuisinart grill so I could find out how it compared to the Breville. All this time I assumed the two functioned in essentially the same way – and they do, to an extent. But there are some pretty significant differences that, depending on how you’d like to use your grill, may sway you to one model over the other.
Read on for the advantages I’ve observed for each grill. I do have a slight preference between the two, which I’ll share at the end.
Easier to Clean: Cuisinart
The most notable advantage that the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler has over the Breville Panini Press is its removable plates. This feature makes the Cuisinart very easy to clean – you just pop out the plates and wash them in the sink or in the dishwasher. The Breville has fixed plates so clean-up isn’t quite as easy (although it’s not difficult either – stay tuned for an upcoming post about cleaning the panini press!). Breville does offer a grill with removable plates, the Breville Smart Grill & Griddle, but that model costs about $200 more than the Cuisinart.
Better for Healthy Grilling: Breville
Two aspects of the Breville grill’s design make it a better choice for healthy grilling. First, the front edge of the grill is sloped, allowing fat to flow off of the grill and into the drip tray below. Second, the Breville allows you to adjust the tilt of the grates, further assisting in fat drainage. Of course, if you prefer your meats “extra juicy” you can always lower the little feet on the bottom of the grill to create a flat surface.
The edges of the Cuisinart grill are raised, rather than sloped, so it does not drain fat as easily. It also does not have a tilt feature – the grill remains flat at all times. There is a drip tray beneath the grill but I have yet to figure out how fat is able to drip into it.
Most Versatile: Cuisinart
As you know, I believe you can cook most anything on a panini grill. But the Cuisinart grill makes it much easier with its interchangeable plates. It comes with ridged grill and flat griddle plates and you can also buy waffle plates separately. Additionally, you can release the hinge on the upper grate and open it all the way to create two flat cooking surfaces. I successfully griddled some homemade English muffins last weekend on the Cuisinart.
The Breville is purely a grill, with no interchangeable plates or hinge release features. You can get creative with ramekins and other approaches to use it beyond grilling, but for true multi-purpose use the Cuisinart has a clear advantage.
Top Plate Control: Breville
The Breville Panini Press has an adjustable height feature that lets you decide how high to position the top plate. You can choose to let the top plate rest right on top of the food with a bit of pressure for, say, pressing a sandwich. Or, if you’re grilling a burger or something else you’d rather not give a squeeze to you can raise the height accordingly. I have grilled open-face sandwiches on the Breville, hovering the top plate just above the food without actually touching it.
The absence of this height control on the Cuisinart was something I noticed right away. There is no way to make the top plate hover above the food, it must rest on top. I didn’t realize how much I utilize height control on the grill until I didn’t have it.
Price Advantage: Cuisinart
Sales notwithstanding, on most days (at this writing) the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler, at $99.95 at most stores, is about $20 cheaper than the Breville Panini Press. Considering that it technically does more than the Breville, with the interchangeable plates and all, one could argue that you get more for your money with the Cuisinart.
Practicality Points: It’s a Draw
Good thing I checked for a locking mechanism on the lid before I pulled the Cuisinart out of its box for the first time – otherwise the entire thing would have flung open. The Cuisinart lid does not lock closed, while the Breville lid does. This means that, when locked, you can pick up the Breville by its handle and transport it in one hand, say, from your pantry to your countertop as I regularly do. With the Cuisinart you need to use both hands to pick up the machine from its base. Not a big deal, but a difference nonetheless.
Another small but notable difference: the newest version of the Breville Panini Press no longer has actual temperature markers on its dial. Instead it shows an adjustable temperature scale from “Sandwich” to “Sear”. The Cuisinart, on the other hand, does allow you to set specific temperatures (just like my older Breville model does). In most cases, not knowing the exact temperature isn’t going to make much difference to your grilling. But, as someone who writes recipes for panini makers, it sure would be nice to be able to say “set your grill to 375°F” and know that everyone would be at the same temperature.
* * *
Which panini press should you buy? You really can’t go wrong with either of these two models. They’re both excellent grills. But since you asked my opinion (well, many of you have asked), I still prefer the Breville Panini Press for the way I like to grill, which is with control over the height of the top plate and easy fat drainage. I do love how easy it is to clean the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler, and if I didn’t already own a griddle and waffle iron the versatility of the Cuisinart grill would probably have easily won me over.
For more of my panini press buying advice, including features to look for, check out this post.
NOTE: As you may know, Breville has sponsored giveaways on Panini Happy in the past but I wrote this review completely on my own initiative and received absolutely no compensation. I purchased the Cuisinart Griddler myself and my Breville Panini Press was given to me as a gift from my sister.