Sandwich makers used to dominate the scene, but as people get more discriminating and particular with their preferences, technology made a way for Panini presses.
A Panini is essentially a sandwich only that it can be identified with its ridged surface or grill marks, basically because of the shape of the griddle pan it is cooked in. The term "press" is used because you press both the pan tops and bottoms to even out the heat distribution to toast the sandwich inside.
Panini presses are usually used to cook grilled cheese sandwiches, which is ideal to melt the cheese inside and provide the right toast or crunch on the outside.
Today, there are a variety of Panini presses available in the market to suit each preference in price, size and added functionalities.
Panini Maker Quick Comparison Table
The Top 5 Panini Presses
We rounded up our picks for the best Panini presses available in the market today by weighing up the following criteria: price, functionality, user-friendliness and expert analysis.
After careful deliberation and actual testing, here are our top 5 picks for the best Panini presses:
5: Oster CKSTPM-6001 DuraCeramic Panini Press and Indoor Grill
Ceramic Plates for Safe and Faster Cooking
This product boasts of the DuraCeramic coating that is used on its plates, which is free from the harmful PTFE and PFOA chemicals usually found in nonstick pans. Knowing that your Panini press won't let you be exposed to this kind of toxicity is already a plus point.
The ceramic coating is also known for its nonstick properties, which makes your cooking not only safe but also healthier due to needing less grease and oil to cook your meals. Aside from its non-grease property, its plates are also scratch-resistant and easy to clean. No more worries about food stains and burnt morsels sticking to your pan's surface.
It can also give more bang for your buck by serving as a grill as well. You don't need to purchase another appliance as you can toast and grill using the same product, making it cost efficient and versatile. Ceramics are also 8 times more durable than other nonstick coatings.
Aside from its dual main functionality, it also has a number of useful features like an adjustable control for achieving the right cooking temperature, built-in indicators which light up when your Panini press is ready to use, and adjustable feet when using the grill option. It also has a floating hinge function which can easily adjust to the thickness of the sandwich, making sure that the heat is evenly distributed all throughout.
One of the downsides of the product is its top griddle pan doesn't fully flatten to 180 degrees, making only the bottom pan usable for grilling. The griddles cannot also be detached, making it difficult to clean the entire unit thoroughly. There are no other adjustable controls other than the temperature, which can be quite tricky to use since it is turned manually instead of using a digital input for the temperature.
4: Frigidaire Professional 5-in-1 Stainless Panini Griddle/Grill
Customizable Dual Temperature Setting and Reversible Griddles
For our #4 pick we've chosen the Frigidaire's 5-in-1 Stainless Panini Grill. It features highly customizable temperature settings, which allow you to set different temperatures for each of the top and bottom griddles to grill two kinds of food at once. The griddle pans open up to give you more space to cook or grill. When used as a panini press, it allows you to use its SpaceWise™ height selections, which can be adjusted according to the thickness of the food.
This product is seriously versatile. You can use it as a contact grill, a dual griddle, a dual grill, a half griddle half-grill and as a panini press. Its reversible cooking plates allow you to use any of the 5 options with ease. It also has 3 adjustable knobs which can be used to precisely control the desired temperature for each plate and which allow you to cook different kinds of food at once. This saves you both time and energy.
Since the pans are removable, they are easy to clean - they are also dishwasher-safe. There is a drip pan beneath the plates to collect excess oil from your food. Step this way for healthier meals!
The design is spot-on. Its adjustable knobs and height selections are useful in achieving the desired quality of cooking you want in your food.
Overall, it is a good buy despite being the most expensive on our list, especially when considering its adjustable controls and the versatility of its functions.
It could have been given a perfect rating if it included a waffle griddle.
It also has a non-stick coating, which makes it flake or peel over time.
3: George Foreman GRP4842R 3-in-1 Evolve Grill System (Panini Press, Grill and Waffle Maker)
Multi-functional with Ceramic Based Coating Griddles and Digital Controls
What those other panini presses lack, our #3 pick more than makes up for. The George Foreman GRP4842R 3-in-1 Evolve Grill System is modern when it comes to design and functionalities. It's a multi-purpose kitchen appliance that it efficient and reliable.
Its controls are digital, allowing for a more precise temperature adjustment for faster and efficient cooking. Its plates are also ceramic-based for safer cooking, higher quality and a longer product lifespan.
Improved versatility and modern functionality are what this product brings panini/grill enthusiasts. Its multi-function capabilities allow you to grill a variety of foods such as vegetables, poultry and steak. Its removable griddle plates can be swapped with waffle plates for a different dish in minutes. You may also purchase other plate styles like those with muffin holes or flats for more diversity in the dishes you can whip.
Ceramic nonstick coating lets you cook foods with less grease, giving you healthier versions of your favorite meals. It is also scratch resistant and easy to clean, which emphasizes on the product's quality and engineering craftsmanship.
Another noteworthy function is the Sear, which allows you to cook steaks using the optimum temperature of 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also equipped with a built-in timer so you can attend to other matters while cooking.
Moderately priced, we think this is a good buy considering its digital controls, Sear Function, and a variety of different plate types for a more extensive selection of foods to cook.
There's some potentially misleading promotion - depends where you look - that seems to center around which plates are included in the box, which also varies. Some customers get waffle pans without ceramic coating, only the usual nonstick ones, while some have the muffin trays instead. All a bit odd.
The tilt isn't enough as it tends to push the food when you close it.
2: Hamilton Beach 25460A Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker
Simple and Straightforward Function
Our #2 pick may lack the other value added functions of those already mentioned, but what adds to their versatility doesn't subtract from the straightforwardness of this product. After all, this is a panini press buying guide.
The Hamilton Beach Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker attracted praise from our reviewers for its efficiency, compactness, quality and affordability.
It is easy to use, with no complicated mechanisms to adjust. It also stores conveniently in an upright position, making it a big space saver. It also has a floating top pan so it can adjust to the thickness of your Panini and cook it evenly and through.
It also has power and preheat lights for you to know when it is ready to cook. It is also the most affordable on the list.
You cannot remove the plates, so it lacks the versatility of our other top picks and also makes it difficult to clean up from heavy use.
Some reviewers mentioned the top plate becoming hotter than the bottom, resulting in uneven cooking. It lacks the grill functions of other panini presses.
1: IMUSA GAU-80102 Electric Panini and Sandwich Maker
Simple Panini and Grill with Pre-set Temperature
Just like our #2 pick, this product is straightforward in its function - to toast sandwiches. It doesn't introduce any frills, but delivers what it promises - evenly toasted, cooked-through sandwiches and paninis, making it our number 1 pick because it strikes the right balance among its function, price and performance.
This product is simply built with a power cord of considerable length, a red indicator LED (to let you know it is heating up), a green indicator LED (to signify that the product is ready to use), and a lever to lock it in an upright position - a great space saving feature. It doesn't have any adjustable controls for temperature, but it heats up fast and it will tell you if it arrived at its desired temperature.
The quality of its nonstick surface is noteworthy, which is evident on how it toasts bread and sandwiches evenly across its entire 120 square inches of cooking space. We can attest to its durability - it will still perform after several years.
We also appreciate its flat surface, which allows better and even cooking, unlike with the other models that are rather ridged, sometimes burning the surface of the sandwich easily but the fillings are not yet warm enough or cooked through.
The price tag is also reasonable.
Some may find this lacking in sophistication compared with other panini presses that have removable and interchangeable pans to cook other foods aside from sandwiches and paninis.
Extra care should also be observed at all times when using the product as it can get too hot, even the handles and the edges. It also lacks an on/off switch which may cause some safety issues.