If you are familiar with counter top grills, then you pretty much know what a panini press is. The main difference between the two are the addition of a floating hinge. This hinge allows you to stack up a large sandwich onto the grill, and when closing the lid, you won't crush the sandwich. The hinge will automatically adjust to the thickness of the sandwich so that it will gently rest on the bread layers, while toasting them and warming up the insides. That automatic hinge adjustment is why it is called "floating," because it literally floats over your sandwich. You can technically use any countertop grill as a panini press, and many regular hinged grills will advertise that they are panini presses, but without a floating hinge, they are falling short.
To that end, all of the machines listed here will have a floating hinge. They will also have a genuine handle to lower the upper plate slowly and carefully onto the top slice of bread. There are panini presses out there that don't give you this luxury, which can lead to squashed bread, and burned toast. Each one will have easy-to-clean, non-stick grilling plates, and for best results, all of these plates will have to be seasoned first, which means wiping them down with vegetable or olive oil after every washing, so be aware of that. Many types of panini presses have removable grill plates, which makes overall cleaning a bit easier, so if you want the easiest to clean units, look for those types.
Most genuine panini sandwiches are made by using ciabatta, rosetta or other types of Italian bread, but the reality is you can use any type of bread. There may be a bit of trial and error to get your panini toasted correctly, but once you figure that out, there is no sandwich that is tastier, by far. And remember, many can also be grills, so even though your main reason to make this purchase is for great tasting toasted sandwiches, if you want this to be an indoor grill as well, look for the most versatile types. Each of these machines will have a minimum one year limited warranty, unless otherwise stated in the description, and they will also come with basic accessories like a cleaning tool and recipe booklet.
The Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler is one of the best selling units made because of its overall versatility and control. Flip the hinge backwards and it opens up into a two-sided flat grilling surface. With a three year warranty, that's one of the best you can go for.
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If you want one of the best selling panini presses on the market, go with the Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler with versatility and controls which put it on top of our list.
The reason why the Griddler is so popular is because it gives you total temperature control and reversible plates with a flat side for panini bread sandwiches and ridged for regular grilling. You can use the center knob to select panini or grilling, than use a side knob to select the perfect temperature. This function allows you to dial in the correct temp for excellently toasted panini sandwiches, and it also gives you amazing versatility for grilling just about anything else. Better still, the unit actually folds open and converts to a flat griddle, and there is also a selector knob for griddle use too. This unit also comes covered by a three year warranty. You can pay more for a panini sandwich maker, but the Cuisinart Griddler offers the best in both value and function.
The IMUSA, GAU-80102, Electric Panini and Sandwich Maker is the most dedicated panini sandwich maker on this list. You simply plug it in to turn it on and unplug it to turn it off. It is simple, easy and highly effective at making hot panini sandwiches. Read Full Review
If all you care about is making panini bread sandwiches, then check out the IMUSA, GAU-80102, Electric Panini and Sandwich Maker. There is nothing fancy about the this unit; simply plug it in, the flat griddles heat up, put your sandwich between the press, and let it toast until you're satisfied. It has "on" and "ready" indicator lights, and the flat griddle surface will perfectly cover any size sandwich. Although the plates aren't removable, the flat non-stick surface wipes clean with a damp rag. Sure, you could use the IMUSA panini maker as a griddle, but since there are no grease ports, it may not be desirable. After all, cleaning a non-removable flat surface like this would be a real hassle. Bottom line, this unit is dedicated to making a good toasted panini, and to that end you can't go wrong.
The Chef Buddy Non-Stick Grill and Panini Press is the smallest press here and is mainly suitable for one large sandwich or two smaller ones. It has a convertible bottom plate between flat and ridged, and there is a side grease port if you want to grill. It goes on when you plug it in, but it does have an indicator light to show when it is ready to use.
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If you are looking for a low price in a panini press, look no furthur than the Chef Buddy Non-Stick Grill and Panini Press which would work great for a single person or a couple. The Chef Buddy is the smallest unit on our list, which means it will take up the least amount of counter space but it will also only make one single sandwich or two smaller sandwiches at a time. The lower griddle is reversible and can either be used flat for paninis, or ridged for grilling while the upper griddle is ridged. This panini press also has a grease port on the side if you use it as a grill as well as an indicator light which lets you know when the press is heated. The Chef Buddy panini press would make a good starter for a single person or a couple. There is only a 30 day manufacturers warranty for this product, but you can get an extended warranty if you purchase it through a major department stores. Nothing fancy here, just a decent overall unit.
The Frigidaire Professional Stainless 5-in-1 Panini Grill / Griddle is one of the best panini presses, and one of the more versatile grills on this list. It features selectable controls for panini making, grilling and griddle use, and it comes with both flat and ridged grilling plates. If their was no Cuisinart unit, this would have been the best unit on this list. Read Full Review
If you want total control of your panini press, and you are willing to pay for it, then maybe the Frigidaire Professional Stainless 5-in-1 Panini Grill / Griddle is right for your needs. You know this brand as one of the best refrigerator makers out there, but they also make a killer panini press too. This Frigidaire Pro Panini Press gives you the exact type of control as the top rated Griddler does. Selector knobs that let you select panini or grilling, temp knobs that allow you to select the perfect temp, and it even folds flat and has reversible plates so you can turn it into a frying griddle. It's a bit bigger, so you can get more sandwiches on the surface, and it is made completely out of stainless steel. It also costs more, but it doesn't make a better panini press, so you'll have to decide if you want form over function here, and are willing to pay for it. There's no doubt that the Frigidaire is one fine panini press, and it is as versatile a grill as they come, but price doesn't make for a better cooking unit. Unlike the three year warranty of the Cuisinart press, this one only comes with a one year warranty.
The Proctor Silex 25453A Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker is the largest unit here, and is perfect for large appetites, or families. Nothing fancy, just plug it in, let it heat up and press your paninis. Read Full Review
Big and bold, and for a family sized panini maker, the Proctor Silex 25453A Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker is the way to go. This unit is the largest here and capable of making 4 enormous sandwiches at a time. And although it can become a grill, this pick excels at being a panini press first and foremost. It's simple to use, just plug it in, check the power and pre-heat lights to make sure it'sready, and go to town. The plates aren't removable, so you'll always have griddle marks on your panini, and ridges make for a little bit longer cleaning time too. However, if big sandwiches or feeding a family is your thing, the Proctor Silex Panini Press will do the job nicely.