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Who doesn’t like a nice crispy sandwich? Something about the toasted bread, loaded with flavorful fillings, just screams “delicious lunch!”
Don’t you agree?
If so, then you’re going to need one of the models below to help you achieve just that.
Originating in Italy, panini means small bread, but something other than sliced bread – think of ciabatta or a baguette. The bread is then cut horizontally, and filled with meats and cheeses.
Nowadays, the options for fillings are endless, and these grilled sandwiches can be purchased at almost any deli.
If you’re serious about your sandwiches, but are tired of only buying them when you’re out and about, or if perhaps you’d like to save some money, you’ll want to invest in one of the options below.
Yes, you could just use your oven, or your might even accomplish this with a George Foreman Grill. But if you want authentic restaurant quality, you need equipment designed specifically for making this type of sandwich.
Foodal’s Top Picks
#1. Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler
This is our top choice in terms of desired features such like functionality, temperature control and cleanup.
This model also happens to be an Amazon bestseller, with over 5,000 positive reviews (at the time of this writing)!
We love that it’s a 5-in-1 tool, and includes all the little things that make cooking more enjoyable, such as a drip pan and removable cooking plates.
#2. Breville BSG520XL Panini Duo 1500-Watt Nonstick Panini Press
We are calling this our “no fuss” pick. If you want a machine that is made well, that will toast anything you put in it (bread, wraps, burritos, etc.) and works as a griddle and a grill, then this is a great option.
It doesn’t come with removable cooking plates, but it is nonstick, so cleanup is pretty easy. It does have a floating hinge, making it perfect for larger sandwiches. And, it can be stored standing up, a big plus for those with limited space.
#3. Cuisinart GR-1 Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press
This is a more basic Cuisinart model. Its sole purpose is for making sandwiches, unlike the other Cuisinart model mentioned, which can cook just about everything.
If you plan to make a lot of melts, then this is going to be a good option for you.
#4. Oster DuraCeramic Panini Maker and Grill
This one is a great option for those who want the most affordable product. If that’s you, the Oster is wonderful.
It’s nonstick, and made from ceramic rather than Teflon, which can emit toxic fumes when heated at a high temperature (most low-priced models don’t take toxicity into account, so Oster gets extra points for that).
This model also opens to a full grill, so you can cook other things on it such as meat and vegetables.
#5. Hamilton Beach 25462Z Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker
Another great option for those looking for a lower price point, the Hamilton model heats up hot, delicious sandwiches of any size quickly, and wipes down clean.
It is a little more expensive than the Oster model mentioned above, but I would assume that’s due to its larger size.
#6. IMUSA, GAU-80102, Electric Panini and Sandwich Maker, Nonstick Panels
This model is a lot different than the others on the list. The main difference is the fact that both cooking plates are flat.
In other words, it has the griddle variety of cooking plates rather than the grill variety.
That being said, you will not get those classic grill marks on your sandwich. But I still encourage you to consider this model, as multiple users rave about it, saying that it cooks more evenly than the models that do have grilling plates.
This is a very popular option, at a reasonable price.
Choosing a Panini Press
When looking for the perfect model, there are four things I like to consider:
- Does it have a floating hinge? This determines whether it will be able to accommodate different sized breads.
- Can the cooking plates be removed? This makes for easy cleanup.
- Does it come with a grill plate and a griddle plate? This option is great for preparing other things besides sandwiches.
- And finally, does it have a temperature control? This is really handy if you plan to cook other things with your appliance, such as meat and poultry.
Let’s go though each feature and why it’s important.
This just means it can accommodate sandwiches of different heights.
Say you want to make an authentic panini on a ciabatta loaf, and you also want to make traditional grilled cheese. Then you will want to make sure the model you pick has this feature, so the appliance will be able to close.
All of the options on this list include this feature, as it’s pretty standard with these appliances.
Removable Cooking Plates
The real benefit of this feature is the cleanup. Removable plates can easily be hand washed or thrown in the dishwasher.
Although most of the models say “nonstick,” sometimes it’s just easier to clean up melted cheese when you can hold the plate in your hand and give it a good scrub.
Now, this may not be a deal breaker and it won’t affect your sub, but it is a nice feature to have. This is a higher end feature, and only the Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler has it.
Grill vs. Griddle
A classic model is going to have a grill on top (so you can get those grill marks) and a griddle on the bottom for even cooking. However, the options and varieties are all over the board.
You can get one with both the grill and the griddle, or ones with just the grill or the griddle. I like having both, since it gives me the option to cook a variety of different foods in addition to melted sandwiches.
Some users say that the cooking isn’t as great when you have two grill plates. They complain that it’s not an even cook, and that they’re only good for the marks, not the flavor. What this comes down to is user preference.
I like having the ability to make pancakes on the griddle surface, but if you already have one, this might not be as important to you.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it is important if you plan to use your appliance to cook other things, mainly meat, as you’ll want to be able to cook it at a higher temperature.
Typically the models with the word “grill” in the title come with temperature controls, as they are multi-functional. Like I said before, this is really important only if you hope to make other things besides sandwiches and wraps.
Best for Functionality: Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler
This beautiful countertop grill comes loaded with features, and offers all the functions you might desire when it comes to sandwich making.
It’s actually very rare to find a model that comes with temperature controls. The Cuisinart comes with dual temperature controls, which range from 200°F to 425°F, letting you fine tune the heat depending on the bread you’ll be using.
This is perfect if you have a personal preference regarding the doneness of your toast. For example, I like my sandwich lightly toasted, but I know others like theirs to be really crispy.
We also appreciate the removable cooking plates,which make this small appliance a breeze to clean. Just pop them out and stick them in the dishwasher. The plates are reversible, too – one side is a grill (with the ridges), and the other is a griddle (smooth).
It also features a hinge, perfect for large or small breads, or even the open-face style for those watching their carb intake.
When you buy this model, you not only get a tool that makes sandwiches, you also get a grill (half or full) that’s perfect for cooking up burgers or vegetables, as well as a griddle (half or full) that’s perfect for making Sunday morning pancakes.
The Fuss-Free Option: Breville BSG520XL Duo 1500-Watt
Breville is one of the top brands on the market when it comes to cooking appliances, and they know how to make high quality products that are reasonably priced.
This grill comes with some really great features, such as a locking mechanism that allows you to store it upright without it falling open.
It also comes with 4 different height settings, so you can adjust it to the size and thickness of your bread.
The top plate of this option is a grill, so you get those traditional sandwich marks, and the bottom is a griddle. Although the plates are not removable, they are nonstick and can easily be cleaned with a wet paper towel.
The only concern users have reported is that there is no on/off switch. This means you have to unplug the unit every time you finish using it.
However, Breville is not alone in terms of the missing on/off button, as most models don’t have this feature.
Our Single Purpose Option: Cuisinart GR-1 Griddler
This is the second Cuisinart model on this list, and users seem to really like it. In fact, they rave about the sandwiches this machine makes.
Cuisinart states that it’s the best at making restaurant-style sandwiches at home, and home cooks seem to agree. That being said, it’s not a multiple feature grill like some of the others we’ve listed.
But, it does have a floating hinge, for thin and thick bread, which is important if you plan on making a few different varieties.
It doesn’t have removable cooking plates, and the temperature is set automatically.
In the end, I do think it’s a good option with hundreds of reviews, and it comes in at a mid-range price range.
Best for Affordability: Oster DuraCeramic Panini Maker and Grill
This appliance is one of the lowest priced, good quality options on the market.
It includes easy to clean plates, not removable but nonstick. It features two grill plates for making sandwiches, and like I mentioned above, it does open up to a full grill with a temperature control.
Users really like that it gets the job done quickly, because you can increase the temperature. The nonstick lining seems to hold up just as well as it does for other options that are twice as expensive as this model.
In terms of negative reviews, a few users stated that they wished this appliance was a little bigger. However, Oster now makes an extra large version.
Best for Size: Hamilton Beach 25462Z
The dimensions of this grill are rather large for its category, coming in at 12.88″ x 5.75″ x 13.75″, with 10″ x 8″ nonstick grids.
This is a great option if size is a concern for you, if you have a big family or you want to make multiple sandwiches at once.
The Hamilton is moderately priced, a little more expensive than the Oster, but still on the lower end.
It’s nonstick and easily wipes clean, it has a floating hinge for making sandwiches of different sizes with ease, and it also offers a pre-heat light to let you know when to start cooking.
It features a side lock, so it can be locked and stored upright, saving counter space. Unfortunately it does not come with a drip pan, or removable plates.
If those features are important to you, you’ll have to go with a more expensive model like the Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler, which offers both of those features along with the other features mentioned above.
Best Ridge-Free Option: IMUSA, GAU-80102
What sets this model apart from the rest on the list is the fact that it has no ridges. The cooking plates are both flat, so technically it belongs in the griddle category.
If you’re worried about not having those popular grill marks, trust me, you won’t miss them.
They actually make it harder to cook your sandwich evenly throughout. With the flat nonstick plates, you get thorough cooking and easier clean up.
Although the plates are not removable, there are no grooves for anything – such as melted cheese – to get stuck in. This option does have a top with hinges, making it a good option for a variety of different heights.
I really like how clean this model looks as well. It’s stainless steel, you can tell that it’s designed well, and I’m confident that it will last a very long time. Also, it’s mid-priced so it won’t break the bank.
I hope you feel inspired to finally get a press of your own, and let your creativity go wild when it comes to sandwich making. The varieties and combinations you can create are endless, whether savory or sweet, fancy or basic.
If you have one of the models mentioned on this list, you seriously can’t go wrong. And if you’re anything like me, it’s nice to be able to have exactly what you want on your sandwiches (no extra charge!). You’ll probably end up saving some money in the long run by making these at home.
About Sarah Hagstrom
Sarah is a health food advocate and loves to spend her time whipping up something healthy and delicious in the kitchen and then sharing either on Foodal or on her own blog "The Seasonal Diet" (www.theseasonaldiet.com). She lives in Sunny San Diego with her husband, where they enjoy running on the beach and weekend adventures.