Panini grills? If you have one, do you use it/like it?
I never thought I'd even consider adding yet another countertop electric appliance to my kitchen ... we already have way too many. But, we do use most of them frequently and I recently heard a chef talking about how he wouldn't want to go without a panini grill in his home kitchen.
Now, I am considering asking the family to get one for Christmas. What does everyone think? Just another appliance cluttering up the kitchen, or a useful tool that you really use?
The Cuisinart Griddler Express is what our local store has listed in their online catalog. Not only a panini grill, but also grills meats, veggies, etc. (Maybe they all do?) We grill a lot in the summer, but are vegetarians so only tofu and veggies. Not sure if we'd use the grill function in this appliance for much beyond the paninis.
If you do recommend a panini grill, do you have recommendations on which model to purchase? Something like the above?
We have one, but hardly ever remember to use it. I really enjoy panini, but usually just use the cast iron frying pan to grill sandwiches instead of dragging out the panini thing. We have a very small kitchen- it might be different if we could leave it out all the time, but it really isn't worth the trouble. YMMV.
We love the Cuisinart Griddler. My husband is retired so he does most of the cooking now and he uses it at least once a week when making our meals.
I'll be watching this topic because I was seized by the urge to get one yesterday too. I looked at the Cuisinart that had interchangeable flat and ridged grill plates and a larger Caphalon that seemed much sturdier but only had ridged plates. Both had plates that were removable for cleaning.
As it is, I walked out of the store without either. Like you, I'm not sure I want one more appliance to store. And I've got a stove top grill pan and ridged top for pressing panini -- it just doesn't evenly grill the top of the sandwich as, no matter how incendiary I heat the lid, it loses heat immediately.
I have the grill you've linked to. Honestly, I hardly ever remember to use it. I think its strength is really in grilling sandwiches, so if you're not a panini die hard, you'll do fine without it.
Frankly, I didn't love it for grilled veggies. It took longer with more fussing than just a really good saute in cast iron.
I'd say if you're hedging to invest in a good cast iron pan. This isn't a tiny appliance to store.
Thanks for all the replies, thus far. Looks like the Griddler is a good option ... if I think I'd actually remember to use it! If I'm only going to make paninis a few times a year, then maybe not so much. But, yummmm, grilled cheese! Don't we all need yet another excuse to eat more grilled cheese?!
I'll continue to check in on this thread, so I hope people continue to post their opinions.
I have a Breville Ikon 400 grill and LOVE it! Without hyperbole, I use daily. My husband has become a panini junkie; as we both cannot develop major coronary disease, I also grill asparagus, shrimp, zucchini, Boca burgers, salmon burgers, fish and chicken. I actually grill asparagus nightly.
The Breville heats up to 450 and sears tuna nicely. The removable plates are dishwasher safe. There are 2 grill plates and 1 griddle plate (I prefer this one for fish). The culinary options are endless. It does not open flat as the Cuisinart Griddler. However, it has ample grill space and can be used as an open grill, if needed. I prefer the build quality of the Breville over the Cuisinart. The Cuisinart controls were plastic and felt very toy-like. The Breville feels more kitchen-worthy in construction.
I hoped I would like the panini grill; I was not prepared to love it. I am totally hooked. I have not even breached the world of quesadillas. The Breville has become my go to gift, also. My sister and husband call each other with their panini accomplishments. If you have a remote interest in a countertop grill/panini maker and you have time for a new addiction, BUY ONE STAT!
(added promo for Breville Ikon 400...Bed, Bath and Beyond is clearing them out. Last one I bought as a gift was $70 less than Amazon's price. Local BBB had one drop shipped from another region's inventory; I paid $10 shipping but was able to use a 20% coupon).
I've got a Breville. I use it about 3-4 times a month. It's nice for grilled cheese and quesadilla's but would be useless for steaks and such. The surface is flat and not removeable, so you don't get any grill marks and it's cleaned in place. This was a gift and if I had to choose one myself I'd get one that has different surfaces (flat/griddle) that could be removed for cleaning.
How about a nice grill pan? You already said you have too many appliances.
There are many advantages like being able to use it for more than one thing, ease of clean up, and ease of storage. All you need is a weight on top of the sandwich and you've got a panini maker, I mean a steak cooker, I mean a vegetable griller... see what I mean? And to top it all off I can all but absolutely guarantee that a grill pan is far, far cheaper.
My husband bought this smaller Breville grill about 6 months ago. Like you, we debated as to whether or not we could fit another appliance into our small kitchen, but it was a great buy. We don't use it *that* regularly, but it makes the best paninis and cuban-style sandwiches (much better than flat grilling in a frying pan - I like the crunchy ridges) and is therefore completely worth the kitchen real estate.
The reason we picked this one is that it has a great, sturdy floating lid with various height settings and a lock to keep the lid closed. It also has a temp control that does get very hot when necessary and is deep, but narrow, for easier storage. Make sure that you get one with a good floating lid, though, because otherwise the lid will squish all the ingredients out of one side of your sandwiches. This particular model doesn't have removeable plates, but we really only intend to use it for grilling sandwiches, so that feature wasn't high on the list.
Another tip for you - if you're making a panini with melty things inside, then loosely wrap your sandwiches in parchment paper before pressing them. The paper can withstand the heat, you'll get the same end product, and clean-up will be nonexistent.
We have the Cuisinart you originally mentioned- the Griddler Express. I did a similar search for opinions on panini makers before buying it., and have now had it for about 8-9 months. We've been very happy with it.
Originally, I thought I was interested in a model with removable plates, because of easier cleaning and the option to have smooth plates as well as ridged ones. But we already have cast iron pans for things like traditional grilled cheese so the smooth plates weren't as high a priority for me as an easy solution that made great paninis with grill marks.
After reading comments from people who are able to make paninis by using two pans and weighing them down with a brick, I tried it, but did not have great success with this method, and so returned to searching for a panini maker. I read some comments that fixed plates generally deliver a more consistent heat. I had been thinking that a model with fixed plates might be hard to clean, but this hasn't turned out to be the case. Given our uses, it has been very easy to clean.
We use it for grilled bread, sandwiches, quesadillas, and warming tortillas. It does have a floating hinge and works well for everything from the very flat tortilla to very thick bread slices. It typically is used for say 5-15 minutes at a time, for serving 1-4 people, and rarely need to set the heat at more than the medium level. Whichever model you choose, I do recommend a model with adjustable heat settings.
It lives out on a counter. If it didn't, I'm not sure we would use it as often as we do. It's one of five appliances that live out on our counters all the time. Another model I was interested in was by Breville, and it had a locking mechanism so that it could be stored or sit out upright and would take up less space. If space is a concern, you might consider this.
I also thought of this model as a kind of easy trial run to figure out if we'd really use a panini maker often enough to warrant purchasing one. It was at our local Costco for $39.99 and was covered by their 100% satisfaction guaranteed policy. I was a bit nervous that it wouldn't perform well enough because the price point was so much lower than the other models I was considering. Happily the experience so far has been all good.
Hope my experience is helpful to you, -sou
Some good suggestions here and I really like the tip regarding the parchment paper and would like to include in my "tips" section of my blog (chefwannabee.com). My recommendation is the DeLonghi Pannini Grill. We both sell it and use it. Has the features mentioned by others, is quite versatile (hamburgers, fish, steak as well as grilled sandwiches), easy to clean and stores easily as well. Check some online sources from great deals.
Your Smart Kitchen
I have the Cuisinart, and enjoy it. For a couple of years, we made panini constantly. It made for a fun, casual "party" even, with different breads and fillings set out for guests to make their own sandwiches. I've occasionally used it in the flat mode to make bacon and eggs for breakfast - not sure that it's any easier than a couple of frying pans, but a nice option.
And for Thanksgiving, we butterflied a couple of Cornish game hens and did them in the press, which worked surprisingly well.
Thanks for all of this great advice. I'm thinking Santa might be bring a Panini grill to our house, after all. Just reading about all the things people are cooking in them is making me hungry!
Well, my husband and daughter went out and purchased the Cuisinart Griddler (not the Griddler Express) for Christmas. It has both smooth and grill plates, which obviously are removable. We've made paninis twice, and they were both really yummy. I'm looking forward to trying some salmon or shrimp on it, as well as grilling up some veggies and veggie burgers.
The appliance itself seems kind of cheesy. It just has that cheap feel to it; the grill plates don't have a tight fit, and the lid needs a little help getting horizontal so that it doesn't push the top layer of your panini forward when closing the lid and slide it off the bottom layer thereby making a melty mess. It also doesn't stand up on end, so it takes a slight bit of extra counter-space when not in use. But, it seems to be performing well. It heats evenly, is easy to clean, leaves pretty grill marks, etc.
If I had purchased it myself, I would have checked other models to see if they offered more solid construction or at least checked at Costco to compare prices. But, the hubby isn't a big fan of shopping so he went to the local home/kitchen specialty store and bought it.
So far, so good. I think it is an appliance that we'll use a lot.
I have fallen in love with panini. I make them often. I use the ridged side of a cast iron griddle, spray the bread lightly with a non-stick (such as Pam), and use a bacon press. Turn the sandwiches to get the nice crisp outside on both sides and to get the fillings good and hot. Clean-up is not an issue, and the griddle gets a lot of other work (both sides...pancakes, cottage fried potatoes, steaks, etc. Also using it "dry" as a "comal" it is perfect for making tortillas or English muffins). The bacon press gets a lot of use, too as does the bacon press. I got the griddle at World Market. It was $19 and the ridges are a little closer together than the much more expensive Lodge alternative (a plus, IMHO). You can get a bacon press for the cost of a fast food burger combo at Academy.
I suppose buying another appliance would be okay if you were sure to use it often enough to justify spending $70 for something that is good for nothing else. I used to make panini in a cast iron skillet. I would place another skillet on top to press it, turning the sandwich once to toast both sides. Then I saw a simple trick on Good Eats: Heat both skillets first and you have an instant panini press for no additional capital investment (assuming you alreadyhave two skillets). Why didn't I think of that?
Like you said, you already have too many countertop appliances.
We bought ours about a year ago, thinking it would be useful on occasion. My husband uses it daily! He won't eat a sandwich that isn't heated any more. Go figure.
We use our panini grill (DeLonghi and quite inexpensive) constantly - at least several times a week. In addition to sandwiches, we'll make garlic toast for dinner by brushing both sides with garlic infused olive oil, grilling til brown and then slicing in perhaps 1" slices. Taking that same approach, we use it for making croutons. Can't imagine not having it. It's small enough that I can store it in the cabinet just under where I use it. I'm not into having a tons of stuff on the counters. But I'd move the toast if I had to use the space for the panini grill.