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would you buy a panini press

I had the world's most incredible grilled cheese and veggie sandwich the other day. Obviously made in a panini press.

Is this a worthwhile purchase or is it one of those single use items that will just take up space in a condo kitchen?

Now if you do love your panini press, could you recommend a brand or model to me?

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  1. I was looking at these a few months ago, and, although I can't remember any brands, there were some that were "multi-taskers" - they could flip open and be used as pancake/egg griddles, and some even add waffle type surfaces. I didn't end up buying anything, but there are options if you're willing to investigate.

    1. I have a Delonghi panini grill and we use it constantly. In addition to sandwiches, we will also brush garlic infused olive oil on bread and grill that by itself. It makes great bread sticks and croutons. I would give up many things before I'd give up that grill. AND mine was probabl no more than $40. No need for the $100 ones.

      1. I've definitely given a panini machine as a gift that's still(years later) raved about.
        In my home I use my grill pan w/ my tea kettle sitting on top. Works great.

        1. I have a large (covers two burners) cast iron grill (grill on one side, griddle on the other), and I use it and a heavy cast iron bacon press to make panini sandwiches. I can't afford the space that a stand-alone panini press requires. Besides, I've had some very happy accidents result from my method. An avocado slice fell out of a sandwich I was turning one day, and who knew grilled avocados taste great? Charred grill marks and all. That would never have happened with a panini press!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Caroline1

            I do the same, use the cover from my cast-iron Dutch oven. But I've been wanting one of the multi-use ones for a while (I just love small appliances). Maybe if they go on sale for the holidays.....

          2. I got a Villaware panini press as a gift a couple of years ago and I really love it. I don't use it all that much, but it's a welcome addition to my menagerie of appliances. In addition to sandwiches, I've grilled chicken breasts and pork cutlets.

            BTW, you might want to try the Cookware board as well.

            1 Reply
            1. re: nofunlatte

              I was given a Le Creuset grill pan a few years ago, plus a heavy lid piece that also has the grill marks. Believe it or not, I haven't yet used it, but am thinking about hauling it out this week to try my hand at panini. The good this about the pan and lid version is that without the lid, it's just a standard heavy grill pan. If you're concerned that you won't use a panini maker enough to justify its purchase, at least the grill pan will vastly increase the odds that it will get use, even if not for panini. The fact that I haven't used mine has more to do with the fact that it got buried in a low cupboard with pull-out drawers, than any other reason. A lot of my gadgets easily become out of sight, out of mind ... but that's just me.

            2. I have a Cuisinart Griddler that functions as a grill and a panini press, like the multitasker that FrankD describes. I actually use it more as a grill than a press. it does a good job of cooking things like chicken breasts and chops because it cooks them at a high heat from below and above at the same time so they come out still juicy. It has a Panini-style handle so the top sits flat on top of whatever you’re cooking. The cooking plates come out for cleaning and they're interchangeable. I seem to remember getting it on sale at Kohls for just under $100.

              My kitchen is large but unfortunately without a large amount of counter or storage space so anything I buy has to earn its keep. A panini press would come under the same heading as those baffling gadgets like s'mores makers, hot dog cookers, frozen drink whirlers, quesadilla grills and so on.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mandycat

                We've had a Griddler for four years now, and I love it. We have a small kitchen with limited storage space, so we don't have room for something that we would only use occasionally or has limited purpose. For us, the Griddler has been a keeper.

              2. I make panini's often. My family loves them and one of my fav blogs is dedicated to all things panini. I don't own a press, don't need another counter gadget.

                A large griddle pan with another heat friendly weight is all you need.

                3 Replies
                    1. re: bayoucook

                      Oh, the little joys in life! I just looked at the site and will be going back later. I LOVE PANINI.

                  1. I do think a special press is just more clutter than I need for my countertop. I do like the lines on my grilled sandwiches, though, and we use our large George Foreman grill to make grilled sandwiches.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: mattwarner

                      I have found it to be a useful electric.. you can even spatchcock and grill a game hen in one of the things..

                      1. re: mattwarner

                        We were given a George Foreman a few years back and use it mostly for sandwiches. Works great.

                        1. re: mojoeater

                          I already had a LeCreuset ridged grill pan that does well making panini (one side at a time, of course-with a little weight on top). Otherwise, I'd consider some kind of panini/grill.

                      2. I had similar questions to yours two years ago. It took me a while to make a decision.

                        Here is the first thread I posted and advice I received. I think the info is still pretty current.
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/475551

                        I forgot to go back and post about in that thread what I ended up doing, but I did post in this thread, which I think also has useful info:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/581758

                        So, 18 months or so after purchase, I/we still use the panini press several times a week, not only for panini, but also for things like grilled bread slices, and quesadillas. The inexpensive Cuisinart model we bought is still functioning well. It is so easy to use and clean that sometimes I do wish I had the kind with both ridged and smooth plates. Mine has fixed plates with ridges. I thought I would keep using cast iron pans for grilled sandwiches when I didn't want ridges. Instead I've pretty much switched to making grilled cheese sandwiches in the panini maker.

                        Before we moved into our current house with a much larger kitchen, we were in a condo with a very small kitchen. Putting myself back in that situation, I think I would still buy a panini press, but I would look for one with an upright locking mechanism so that it would take up less space on the counter. We use it often enough that it does live out on a counter.

                        Hope this is useful to you, -sou

                        1. I have the smaller Cuisinart panini press, bought because it was on sale for only about $40 a while back. Yes, it's pretty much a uni-tasker, but it does what it does VERY well, is easy to clean, really grills (unlike those stupid George Foreman things; that one is in the basement gathering dust) and folds up nicely and stores in about four inches of shelf space, on its side.

                          1. I have a Cuisinart panini press and love it. Made tomato, basil, and mozzarella panini all summer long. Now moving in to more fall like sandwiches. I have a fair amount of cabinet space, but there are a lot of other things I would probably give up first.

                            1. I have a small kitchen. After my toaster oven died (a Delonghi) I ended up buying a regular toaster, and Breville panini grill. Neither is direct replacement, but, 4 or 5 yrs later I still haven't bought a replacement oven.

                              While I don't use the Breville a whole lot these days, it does not take up much space. It stands on end at the back of a counter under a cabinet. It's not indispensable, but I don't regret spending the money.

                              1. I have two square grill pans, which I use for other things, that both have separate panini presses, actually ridged grill presses. If you think you will use an electric panini maker a lot, go for it. I hear they are pretty fool proof. If you want to try a manual stovetop press, you can learn to do it easily.

                                The first time I tried to use a grill pan and press, I burned the bread. I learned that you need to have the sandwich assembled before you put it in the pan. The pan was too hot, and I left the bottom of the bread on too long. Also, the press needs to be heated thoroughly, so it needs to go in the pan while the pan is heating. Have a good place to rest the hot press while you are putting the assembled sandwiches in, and work quickly. Use low heat. Low and slow is the way to go. You will ruin one or two until you get the technique down. You can even flip the sandwich, although that is supposedly not needed. If you can get this down, you won't have another countertop appliance to deal with, and you;ll have a great way to cook other foods stovetop. When not making panini, the grill press helps when you are doing any kind of stovetop grilling by increasing contact with the cooking surfaces.

                                I don't think I will buy a machine because I can now do it manually, Manual is one of those things that seemed simple, yet it was just a little tougher to do with the right technique when I tried it. Once learned, it was very easy and predictable.

                                1. our local goodwill has so many george foreman grills for very little money.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    I don't have a panini grill but do have a large GF that get's little use. I would be hesitant to ever buy a panini grill for the same reason. If I want to do paninis the GF will sub niecly.

                                  2. I love paninis, but I received a panini press as a gift a couple of years ago and I tell you, it's the bane of my existence. It's heavy and unwieldy. I just don't see why I can't just use a grill pan and something heavy, say, a cast iron skillet with a weight in it instead of the expensive special purpose pan+ weight.

                                    I've pleaded with my husband to let me give the monster to Goodwill but he feels sentimental about it because it was a gift.

                                    Gift, schmift, I want it out of my kitchen.

                                    ~TDQ

                                    17 Replies
                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      Mine was only about $30-40 if I remember correctly and we use it several times a week, sometimes even a couple of times a day. Right now we're heating some soup and will toast sourdough with olive oil on the panini, cut into one inch slices for dunking. But if I didn't feel that way, it would get the heave-ho. Put it under your husband's side of the bed :)

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I probably should have mentioned also that the following 3 items live on top of my stove: a cast iron skillet, a burner-top cast iron griddle/grill pan, a tea kettle. If I want to make a panini, I just flip the burner-top thing to the grill side, plop the panini down, put the cast iron pan on top, and if I want even more weight, kettle filled with water, in the cast iron Not as elegant for sure, but everything I need is right there all the time, without having to dig under my cabinet. The only "extra" step is filling the kettle with water, although, it usually seems to have water in it.

                                        coliver, I like the way you think, except that I worry about all of the things that I'm sentimental about that my husband has been begging me to discard might appear under my side of the bed the next morning. And believe me, he's a tolerant man, so, it would be a giant pile~ ;-).

                                        By the way, I love this burner top griddle/grill thingie. You can't fit much on it, but I probably use it twice a day to heat up tortillas, roasted potatoes, Canadian bacon, polenta, make pancakes, make grilled cheese, you name it. I love it.

                                        ~TDQ

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          Guess I'm lucky, and break the gender stereotype mold, because I'm more inclined to give the heave-ho and my husband is the keeper of most things. How about a picture of you "burner top griddle/grill thingie"?

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Scroll down to the one called "Lodge Logic Single Burner Reversible Griddle, 10-1/2 inch Square, Pre-Seasoned" http://www.castirondepot.com/page/gri...

                                            It fits perfectly over the one of the back burners over our gas stove.

                                            ~TDQ

                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              These has my interest for an entirely different reason. Do you think I could cook a steak on this? If I got it really, really hot? There are times when I don't have access to an outdoor grille and had looked out indoor ones. The only one that comes close to hot enough, still under 500 degrees, is an All-Clad one and it $300. I just can't justify that. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Yikes, $300! Hmmm...I was wondering what we were going to have for dinner tonight. Maybe we'll try steak on this griddle thing and report back. :) It gets pretty darn hot, and it heats pretty evenly, but my guess is it depends on how big and hot your gas burner is. We keep it on our back burner (to be out of the way), but if I were going to try steak on it, I'd move it to one of the bigger, front burners.

                                                I shall report back.

                                                ~TDQ

                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  Excellent. I posted about this recently and got the advice about using a cast iron skillet and getting it smoking hot. The lodge thingy (I spell it with a Y!) sounds really good. Will look forward to your report, ma'am.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    So, here's the deal, as an indoor solution for cooking steaks, this reversible griddle it works pretty well if you like your steaks thick and seared on the outside, but v. rare inside. We don't like ours quite that rare so we finished them off under the broiler. But they looked beautiful with pronounced griddle lines and were super juicy. You could buy thinner steaks and have them turn out less rare without having to broil. Ours were an inch thick.

                                                    Oh, and it does generate a lot of smoke, so, if you don't have a hood fan, or if you have a sensitive smoke alarm, it could be problematic.

                                                    Too tired to take photos. Sorry about that. Hope this helps! My husband was delighted at having to sacrifice one meal to chowhounding/science, especially since I didn't insist he wait to eat while I photographed, like I do during COTM.

                                                    ~TDQ

                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      Oh, TDQ, that's excellent! Thanks for the "sacrifice." We actually like steaks practically still breathing :) And $60 is WAY better than $300!!!! I SHALL be getting one. Yay! THIS is the kind of things I really value about Chowhound. Thanks again.
                                                      PS: Now I wonder about other meats :)

                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        It's supposed to be heavy, it applies pressure as well as heat. I'm not sure what's unwieldly about something that essentially has a single moving part. In any case, my wife and I stepped into a cafe in London to get out of the rain and I had a brie and fresh basil panini that I had to replicate when we returned home. I bought a Breville panini machine and since then I've made dozens of variations and also use it for very quick quesadillas. It's one of my favorite appliances.

                                        1. re: ferret

                                          You are absolutely right, it does apply weight. That's why I think my cast iron pan + tea kettle full of water that already live on my stovetop work just fine.

                                          What makes it difficult to deal with (ie., what makes it unwieldy) is that it's this very heavy thing with a long skinny handle that has to be stored in a cabinet somewhere because I don't have room on my stove. I'm personally not strong enough to pull it out of the cupboard one handed, so, I have to get on both knees, crawl into the cupboard, and drag it out using both hands.

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            Fair enough, mine stands on end (like a tall chrome purse) so it easily sits in a lower cabinet and can be pulled out as needed. The obvious advantage is that you get the same degree of doneness on both sides in one action. Depending on what I'm grilling I can fit 2 or 3 sandwiches on it and be done in under 5 minutes rather than the 10-15 it might take on the stove.

                                            1. re: ferret

                                              That tall chrome purse set-up sounds more practical than mine. I think it sounds like you have an electric one and I have the classic pan+press?

                                              That's a neat trick that you can make a lot of panini at one time, which would be good if you had a lot of people to serve. We're a small household with limited storage, so, we don't find it that useful, especially since we have a work-around.

                                              I guess if you made a lot of sandwiches, made them often, had lots of storage, or just a practical space-efficient panini maker, and didn't have a convenient work-around, it would make good sense.

                                              I have the feeling this is just really going to depend on your particular situation.

                                              This is the one we have http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/produ...

                                              ~TDQ

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  A work-around, meaning, some other way to solve the panini problem.

                                                  P.S. I hope you like your grill pan!

                                                  ~TDQ

                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                    Aha! I thought this was some piece of equipment I was actually missing, god forbid :)

                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  This is the Breville 'chrome purse' that BBB carries
                                                  http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/produ...
                                                  Mine is an earlier model with similar specs. It stands neatly on the back end, with the cord stored in the base. I like the height control feature.