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Panini maker indecision

souvenir Jan 2, 2008 03:35 PM

I'm debating the purchase of Cuisinart's Griddler, Breville's Ikon Panini Press (described as a Williams-Sonoma exclusive) or a stovetop panini maker. I have a gas stovetop. I'm attacted to the electric makers because of the ability to heat both sides at once. It also seems as though people find the stovetop varieties harder to clean?

I'd love to hear opinions from those who use their preferred solution frequently. Thanks!

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  1. r
    RGC1982 RE: souvenir Jan 2, 2008 05:06 PM

    I have a stovetop Le Creuset model, which is a grill and a press in two different pieces, and I use it on an electric range. It is very easy to burn the bread on the sandwiches, so you need to move quickly. It also seems not to heat the sandwich through as well because to avoid burning the bread, you find yourself pulling the sandwiches off before they can get heated through. If you are going to do a lot of these, I suggest going for the electric gadget. BTW, the top does heat separately, but the bottom is always hotter, for some reason. I only use mine infrequently, so I can't justify getting yet another appliance.

    1. pepperminta RE: souvenir Jan 2, 2008 07:13 PM

      I have the cuisinart griddler and LOVE it. I love it how the plates are removable (and easy to clean) and how there are plates for making pancakces etc...

      It heats up pretty quickly and makes delicious panini. I've seen it at costco for around $89 - and amazon - usually around $120. not sure of the price now - but i'd recommend it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: pepperminta
        goodhealthgourmet RE: pepperminta Jan 2, 2008 07:59 PM

        you can get it at bed, bath & beyond with a 20% off coupon for around $104.

      2. paulj RE: souvenir Jan 2, 2008 08:24 PM

        I have a Breville, 3 or 4 years old now. It does sandwiches quite well. A nice feature is that you can control the height of the top, either letting it rest on the bread, or hover just above. I also use that feature when 'broiling' stuffed portobello mushrooms - I adjust to top so doesn't touch.

        The plates are smooth, nonstick, so are easy to clean. I have used it to grill things like fish, but due to the smooth plates and close quarters, there is a tendency for the meat to steam more than grill.

        Another nice feature - it stores upright, so I can keep it in a corner at the back of the counter.

        Breville has a unique power plug with a ring shaped grip. That comes in handy when unplugging it.


        1 Reply
        1. re: paulj
          goodhealthgourmet RE: paulj Jan 2, 2008 09:21 PM

          i really liked that unique plug on my breville ikon blender. unfortunately, it was pretty much the ONLY good thing about the blender...i returned it.

          obviously they do a better job with a panini press.

          i just bought the cuisinart griddler a few days ago, but have yet to use it. of course, now your description of all the features/conveniences of the breville has me second-guessing my purchase.

          why oh why must they make buying appliances so complicated? it would be so nice if one of these manufacturers could be consistent, and put out an entire line of reliable products.

        2. jacquelinec RE: souvenir Jan 2, 2008 10:27 PM

          get a cast iron skillet and place buttered piece of foil on top of your sandwich then place your kettle or another similar weight on top. done.

          9 Replies
          1. re: jacquelinec
            RGC1982 RE: jacquelinec Jan 3, 2008 05:57 AM

            This is essentially the same as what I complained about above -- a cast iron (although non-stick) griddle with a "press". It is still a stovetop solution. My LC press is a square piece of coated iron with a stay-cool handle on top. You heat each piece up over a burner -- the grill and the press. A cast iron skillet and another pot placed on top will surely do about the same thing, minus the grill marks, but I don't think you will have any better results than what I do. The pieces just get too hot and the bottom is likely to burn before the interior gets warm. No, I'm suggesting that the OP, who thinking of buying something, stay away from stovetop presses and consider something like the Cuisinart Griddler or even the George Foreman grill. They will do a better and more predictable job because of better heat control. My special press cost something in the neighbood of $40, if I remember correctly, and it was meant to go on top of one of their standard pans -- the square griddle. If you had to buy both pieces it was expensive, and I don't think it is worth it.

            1. re: RGC1982
              Eric in NJ RE: RGC1982 Jan 3, 2008 06:03 AM

              We've been using our George Forman for Panini's and it works very well.

              1. re: Eric in NJ
                Gio RE: Eric in NJ Jan 3, 2008 07:11 AM

                This is what we do as well. And it's not as expensive as the advertised wonder machines.

                1. re: Gio
                  Eric in NJ RE: Gio Jan 3, 2008 08:10 AM

                  Ours was a Christmas gift from 10 years ago :) That's about the only thing I use it for though.

                  1. re: Eric in NJ
                    Gio RE: Eric in NJ Jan 3, 2008 11:49 AM

                    Me too, Eric. I murdered two lovely wild salmon steaks on the dang thing when I first used it. Now it's a Panini press.

                  2. re: Gio
                    eimac RE: Gio Jan 4, 2008 10:58 AM

                    Another vote for the George Forman. Big enough for several sandwiches. I sometime cut a thin Boboli pizza crust in half and make one that way. Fits perfectly on the GF and then i slice it into quarters.

                    1. re: eimac
                      souvenir RE: eimac Jan 4, 2008 04:06 PM

                      Thanks much for sharing your experience! I just can't see it. I want paninis and grilled sandwiches where melted cheese is a major component. That "patented slope" just seems in opposition to the kind of sandwiches I want to make.

                      1. re: souvenir
                        Gio RE: souvenir Jan 5, 2008 04:33 AM

                        Just one more little mention regarding the GF. The slope has nothing to do with the finished sandwich. Cheese gets melted very well, bread nice and golden toasty, everything inside is hot and delicious. I have one of those old-fashioned long handled round sandwich presses from the 50's that was my mothers. It makes wonderful toasted sandwiches on the stove. . I prefer the GF.

                2. re: RGC1982
                  themis RE: RGC1982 Jan 3, 2008 07:06 AM

                  You may just be running your stove too hot --? I have the Batali panini pan/press, which is essentially the same setup. I preheat for a long time on low, pop my sandwich in, and the perfect golden buttery crust, warmed toppings, and melted cheese all the way through. Try low and slow; it takes most of ten minutes for me to get a panini, which is a long time to wait once you start to smell it, but I've never had an issue.

              2. Scrapironchef RE: souvenir Jan 3, 2008 08:16 AM

                I have a Villaware I got a few years ago that does great job. I would like one that has removable plates for cleaning, but I haven't seen a really large one. YOu didn't say how many you're cooking for but keep in mind how many panini at a time you want to make when you buy.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Scrapironchef
                  nofunlatte RE: Scrapironchef Jan 5, 2008 04:37 AM

                  I, too, have a Villaware and I love it! The plates aren't removable, but they aren't all that difficult to clean, either. The heating is even and I do two panini at a time. It also doubles as an indoor grill, though I use it less for that (okay, I'm a charcoal purist and I don't grill many burgers anyway--besides, it has to be below freezing for me to stop grilling!) I know that the Villaware wasn't on the OP's list, but I will say that I am very happy with mine.

                2. s
                  souvenir RE: souvenir Jan 3, 2008 09:23 AM

                  Thanks much to everyone for their comments so far. Most of the time, I would be making one to two paninis (work out of a home office so sandwiches are a frequent lunch-time choice).

                  To jacquelinec- I have used the cast iron pans plus heavy weight method. I have 2 cast iron pans and so would heat them both and then weight down the top one. I really didn't find it a good solution, but thought that part of it might be that these are smooth surfaces rather than grill pan surfaces. RGC1982's dissatisfaction sounds pretty similar to mine.

                  Re: the George Foreman solution
                  One of my friends is currently using one, and she isn't happy with the tilt. She says that it's fine when she's grilling fish, but not so great when she is doing bread and cheese. She has tried various solutions to level it, but thinks it's a pain and is also contemplating a panini maker. Maybe it's just the model she has that has the tilt?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: souvenir
                    blondelle RE: souvenir Jan 3, 2008 09:37 AM

                    Paul, I don't want to hijack this thread but I'm really curious why you didn't like the Ikon blender? It did get great reviews and the people who I spoke to who used them, liked them a lot. Does a great job with ice they said for smoothies.

                    1. re: blondelle
                      goodhealthgourmet RE: blondelle Jan 3, 2008 11:26 AM

                      actually, i was the one who made the blender comment, not paul. the moderators will remove it if i reply here, but you can read about my experience on another page...for the info about the breville, just scroll down to my final post:


                    2. re: souvenir
                      Gio RE: souvenir Jan 3, 2008 11:51 AM

                      Our's tilts too. Sometimes we hold down the lid for the time needed. No big deal.

                    3. m
                      misterbrucie RE: souvenir Jan 5, 2008 09:56 AM

                      I have the cheapest Cuisinart Griddler (non-removable nonstick plates, no adjustable temperature -- the plug is the "on/off" switch). I love it. I have yet to make a less than fabulous panini in it. It's about $40/50 at Target. Very easy to clean, too. My brother has the fancy Griddler ($80/90 from Costco) and loves it too. I've used his and didn't think it made better sandwiches than mine, but the extra options might be nice.

                      (I also have a waffle iron, but sometimes just pour pancake batter into the panini press -- the resulting "panini cakes" look funny but taste great.)

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: misterbrucie
                        Rick RE: misterbrucie Jan 7, 2008 04:44 PM

                        See if this cheap, simple solution works for you. Wrap a brick in aluminum foil, place brick on top of sandwich which is preferably being heated on something cast iron.

                        1. re: Rick
                          souvenir RE: Rick Jan 8, 2008 07:56 AM

                          I have tried this method, and I'm just not satisfied with the outcome. I really want grill marks and that taste contrast. Thanks tho!

                          1. re: souvenir
                            MMRuth RE: souvenir Jan 8, 2008 07:57 AM

                            I use a Le Creuset grill pan, and weigh down bread/sandwiches with a cast iron pan or a full kettle, and I get grill marks and a nice grilled taste.

                            1. re: MMRuth
                              rockandroller1 RE: MMRuth Jan 8, 2008 08:43 AM

                              I work in retail and don't profess to know tons and tons about the products (they don't teach you, but I already know a lot from my own home cooking experience and what I hear from the customers). I work in housewares pretty frequently and people seem most pleased with the Cuisinart model rather than any of the others we sell. I second your concern re: the GF grill and it's tilt, it's just not what you want. The cuisinart one has moveable arms that enable the top to come over flat, which is nice. That's the one I recommend. We sell a knockoff brand and many people have brought it back with problems. You get what you pay for sometimes.

                              1. re: rockandroller1
                                souvenir RE: rockandroller1 Jan 8, 2008 10:33 AM

                                r&r1- Thanks much for reporting on what your customers have said! The Cuisinart Griddler is what I think I am going to buy.

                                1. re: souvenir
                                  rockandroller1 RE: souvenir Jan 8, 2008 11:05 AM

                                  Welcome! Please report back and let us know what you think.

                              2. re: MMRuth
                                souvenir RE: MMRuth Jan 8, 2008 10:31 AM

                                MMRuth- I started out thinking I might go with the LC grill pan, but I've heard about dissatisfaction with it, particularly with cleaning in between the ridges. Do you not have this issue?

                                1. re: souvenir
                                  MMRuth RE: souvenir Jan 8, 2008 10:34 AM

                                  I've had mine for years without problems. I use kosher salt and a paper towel to clean it. I'm not terribly fastidious, though! My kitchen is too small to add another appliance to it, and when I figured out the "weighing down" part, I've been happy with the results.

                                  1. re: MMRuth
                                    souvenir RE: MMRuth Jan 8, 2008 10:54 AM

                                    Hmmm, thanks. I have a pretty good-sized kitchen, but am at the point where space is an issue for me too. That's one reason why I am trying to think this one through so carefully. But the over-riding reason is that I want the solution to be so good, and so easy, that I use it alot. Thanks again.

                                    1. re: souvenir
                                      MMRuth RE: souvenir Jan 8, 2008 10:56 AM

                                      Not at all - good luck and let us know what you end up doing and how it goes. I also use the grill pan for meat, fish and vegetables.

                        2. m
                          msv RE: souvenir Jan 8, 2008 10:48 AM

                          I had a Krups, which is the best machine for the job, but really hard to clean even with its nonstick surface. I don't like the Forman grill for sandwiches, although I think it's good for meat or vegetables. I bought a Cuisinart Griddler, and I'm pretty happy with it. You can make 2 large paninis at one time, which is all we need, cleanup is a snap and I like cooking on it, too.

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