Best Panini Press
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.
Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler
IMUSA GAU-80102 Electric Panini
Chef Buddy Grill and Panini Press
Proctor Silex 25453A Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker
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.
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.
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.
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.