We take a look at three panini presses worth your money in 2019
You’ve popped your kettle on and feel like cooking. Your doctor told you that you should probably be a bit more careful with what you eat so you decide not to go for the deep fat fryer and whip up some fish and chips. There seem to be limited options in your fridge, you only have some bread, ham and cheese. You consider just making an ordinary sandwich but that’s boring. How can you snazz it up a little? Your eyes pass over your electric frying pan, it’s still not healthy enough. How about you finally use that panini press you got from your in-laws? I’m sure we’ve all experienced it, just melting the cheese and searing the outsides of a sandwich doesn’t take much extra time but it transcends it to something truly sublime. If you wish to learn more about the panini press and see our recommendations, then read on.
Benefits of a panini press?
Panini presses are one of the best appliances you can use to cook healthily, despite the name, they are astoundingly versatile machines. Aside from paninis, a panini press can cook foods ranging from eggs and vegetables to meat and seafood. If you are feeling particularly adventurous you can even cook brownies on one! Im-pressed? (Sorry about that, I had to.)
Using a press is easy and food cooked on them is inherently healthier than when prepared by most other cooking options. Already present fats are drained away and the presses rely on little to no oil themselves, yet, somehow, they are still able to provide a perfect crisp or braised finish.
Some uses of a panini press
Here are some foods that you can cook with a panini press:
- Meats: Many different types of meat can be cooked on a panini press, including steaks, chicken and any thin-boneless meats.
- Halloumi: You don’t need a BBQ to get a perfect golden crust on this cheese, you can also use the grill function of a panini press.
- Fruit: You can whip up quick and easy desserts when you heat up fruit such as peaches, figs or pineapples briefly. You just need to slice the fruit, sprinkle on some sugar and serve with cream, cake or as is.
- Omelettes: One last food that can be cooked on a panini press is the good old fashioned omelette. You might think that this recipe is a solution looking for a problem and, well, honestly you might be right. But
- Reheating food – OK, this one is only kind of cooking. But hear me out, have you ever tried to reheat a pizza? I know there are a lot of you who like to eat it cold, but if you want it warmed then a microwave really doesn’t cut it. It makes the base all soggy and doesn’t heat evenly. Heating the oven is better but then you have to wait for an age for it to preheat, using a press can do the same thing in much less time. It’s not just pizza either, you can reheat just about anything on one.
A list of other weird and creative uses of a panini press can be found here.
This is a compact container underneath some panini presses which removes fat from the cooking surface and collects oil from the ingredients during cooking. It is usually removable to allow for easier cleaning of presses.
The best panini presses have 180-degree hinges which allow the two plates of the presses to be laid flat, turning the press into a grill. The grill mode doubles the surface area available for cooking. This mode of use is especially useful for foods like bacon and vegetables, when both sides of the food do not need to be heated simultaneously.
Some presses have a dial which allows you to control the temperature of the plates. Being able to control the temperature is useful for items such as burgers which need a specific, consistent temperature to cook effectively.
The plates of presses can be removable or non-removable. Removable plates tend to be easier to clean as they can just be popped into the dishwasher.
Plates can also be made of different materials such as cast iron, ceramic or a coated non-stick material (like Teflon). All our suggestions have coated non-stick plates as these are the easiest to main and tend to be cheaper, but all three options have their pros and cons:
- Cast iron plates are heavy and their ability to stop sticking depends on how well they are maintained as they need to be periodically seasoned to keep this property. If not properly looked after, cast iron plates may even run the risk of rusting. That being said, cast iron also retains heat better than the other two options and produces the most even heat for cooking, cast iron plates will also last the longest if looked after properly as they are less likely to chip.
- Non-Stick options are the cheapest and do a great job of preventing sticking (as you would expect from the name), their lifespan is the lowest however as the coating can be scratched off or flake over time. This is only usually an issue with improper care or extremely heavy usage.
- Ceramic plates are very light and have good non-stick properties which don’t fade over time. They are also resistant to scratches but they are also very expensive and can chip or crack if you’re not careful.
Cleaning your Panini Press
You are now an expert on presses: you know why to buy one, their many uses and even some of their nifty features. Once you’ve bought the press it is important to be able to clean it properly. Most panini presses aren’t especially difficult to clean, especially if they have removable plates. In this case just wait for the machine to cool down, pop the plates in the dishwasher and you’re done for the day.
For the presses that don’t have detachable plates, it’s a bit of a longer process (but is still very simple). You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions but as a general guide:
- After normal use, all you have to do is wipe the plates down with a wet piece of kitchen towel. If any of the food manages to get burnt on, more extreme measures need to be taken.
- Fill a bowl with warm water and washing up liquid (don’t pour cold water onto the hot plates!) and wipe the plates down, making sure to clean carefully between all the ridges of the pates.
- Sometimes there is a particularly stubborn piece of food, such as cheese stuck on the plate. If this happens then you can dig out some chopsticks and gently scrape the residue off (wrapping it in a soft cloth first). Then just repeat step 2.
Some notes on cleaning:
- Panini presses tend to be oiled before they are shipped (especially those with cast iron plates) to keep the plates in top condition. Before the first use, it’s recommended that you clean your press.
- The easiest way to keep your press clean is simply to clean it immediately after each use. This prevents excess build-up of sediment and should keep your press in tip-top shape. A light coating of oil can be used to prevent sticking but if too much is used then this can be trapped in the grooves.
- The food that sticks to the plate tends to be fillings that spill out the sides of paninis and sandwiches, so cutting back on them a little will save your press and your stomach.
- You should never use a scourer or steel wool on grill plates, especially if they are non-stick.
Best Panini Press for Families
Aigostar Panini maker 30MAZ
The Aigostar Panini maker 30MAZ would be our top pick overall. It is large enough to cook for an entire family yet is compact enough to fit on nearly any table or worktop. The panini press is available for a reasonable price and has a powerful, adjustable heating element to ensure perfect cooking of a variety of recipes. The solid construction should survive the rigours of family life and the large capacity removable oil tray allows for extended cooking sessions before it needs to be cleaned. Some important specifications are:
- Temperature Controller – The powerful 2000W heating element makes cooking fast. Temperature control allows the panini press to be adjusted for a variety of recipes.
- Large non-stick Plates – Aluminium plates have high heat conductivity to cook food quickly and evenly. Large size allows for cooking of 4 sandwiches simultaneously and the non-stick coating makes cleaning hassle-free.
- Stainless steel cover –The stainless steel texture is both stylish and highly durable, making a long-lasting product that is at home in any kitchen.
- Removable drip tray – Grooves in the plates guide oil into the large removable drip tray, ensuring healthier meals and saving time on cleaning the griddle plates.
- Light indicator – A red light warns you when the device is on and a green light when it is heating. This ensures safe operation of the product when cooking.
- Compact design despite large grill plate
- Powerful 2000W heating element
- Adjustable temperature control
- Solid build with metal arms and body
- Attractive modern styling
- 2 Year warranty
- 180-degree hinge
- Plates are not removable
- No timer included
Best Press for Bargain Hunters
Russel Hobbs Grill & Griddle 17888
Large, value press with removable plates
This no-frills press is missing some of the bells and whistles of other presses such as a timer, temperature regulation and removable plates. What the Russel Hobbs Grill & Griddle 17888 loses in features, it makes up for in size and sheer value, coming from a reputable brand and having everything you need to cook a delicious meal. Key features of the press include:
- Large grill plates – 12”x12” non-stick plates allow for cooking of 4 slices or 5 chicken breasts simultaneously.
- 3-in-1 functions – Versatile cooking with three functions supported: Flat panini press, fully opened griddle and angled to allow for a perfect grill.
- Cord wrap – Power cord can be stowed for easy storage when the press is not in use.
- Built-in drip tray – Excess oil can be collected and cleaned quickly and safely.
- 180-degree hinge – Hinge opens to allow plates to lay flat, allowing for an open griddle.
- Large plates
- Light compared to competitors
- Removable plates
- Great Value
- 2 Year Warranty
- 180-degree hinge
- No removable plates
- No heat regulation
- No timer to tell you when food is done
Best All-Rounder with a Vintage style
The one that has it all
This is the most feature-rich of our presses. Alongside the light indicators and adjustable heating, there is also a timer to remind you when your food is done. Additionally, the grill plates are removable this time, allowing even easier cleaning and increased cooking options when compared to the other options on our list. These features do come at a cost and the panini press’s relatively small size means that this press is targeted towards true aficionados. Important specifications include:
- Time Dial – A built-in timer can be set from 0-30 minutes to remind you when your food is cooked. The timer also turns off the press, so you don’t have to worry about burning.
- Removable plates – Grill plates can be removed placed in the dishwasher for easy cleaning. They are also replaceable, with 2 sets being provided (2 grooved and 2 flat).
- 6-in-1 Functions – 5 distinct modes available: Panini press, full grill, contact grill, full griddle, half grill/griddle. Additionally, there is a bonus timer function.
- Indicator Lights – Red light indicates warming (3-5 minutes), the green light that the grill plates have reached the desired temperature.
- 2-Year Warranty – There is a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty and lifetime access to DIEK customer service, giving you peace of mind if you purchase the product.
- Easy to clean removable plates
- Large range of heat regulation
- Attractive, retro styling
- Has a timer
- Multiple plate types available
- 2 Year Warranty
- 180-degree hinge
- Smaller than a lot of other panini presses