Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing ones. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
And while we’ve covered many kinds of grills before — including tiny apartment-types, a smokeless Queer Eye solution, and 13 backyard-ready beasts — here we’ve rounded up some revelatory panini makers, as praised by the most enthusiastic reviewers on Amazon.
Best-rated panini press
“Easy to use,” “easy to clean,” and “highly recommended” are all phrases reviewers frequently use to describe the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler, which can be used to make paninis and other hot, pressed sandwiches. “You gotta get one of these,” insists one of the over 11,000 reviewers. “Until we got this, I didn’t even know what a panini was. Now [it’s] a fifth food group (along with chocolate, bacon, coffee, and beer).” This panini press “beats the Foreman grill by about ten miles,” says another reviewer. A café owner claims this multipurpose machine is so good, in fact, that it’s capable of cranking out sandwiches, “eight hours a day, seven days a week … I’ve had $600 commercial grills that did not perform better than this unit.” Or as someone else puts it, plainly and simply: “Stop reading reviews and BUY IT! This thing is like a luxury car; no details were missed.”
Best-rated (less expensive) panini press
Hamilton Beach’s gourmet sandwich maker gets props for a “very, very basic” interface that “makes a great panini or quick grilled cheese in no time.” The press’s simple, no-frills setup is a large part of its appeal to many satisfied customers, with one reviewer explaining, “It [does] exactly what it says it does … There are no buttons and [it] only has one setting. It gets very hot very fast.” Echoing the concerns of many cynics, another reviewer admits, “I was worried this would turn into Yet Another Unused Kitchen Gadget, but I’ve actually been using it and wanting to use it every chance I get.” Then there’s the guy who “bought this for my wife as a second Christmas present.” While he “was kind of worried that she might hit me in the head with it, it turns out she loves it.” As does another avid supporter, who screams, in all-caps, “AH I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. BEST IMPULSE PURCHASE I HAVE EVER MADE!”
And now for some micro-picks for every type of panini press you might be looking for.
Best nonstick panini press
One reviewer calls this dedicated panini maker from Breville “an EXCELLENT panini maker. I have used many other brands in the past and NONE come even close to the quality of the paninis [this one makes]. Cleaning is a breeze, and I do NOT use any oil [or] butter on the plates as the surfaces are [an] excellent nonstick material.” Some reviewers are wary of the smooth lower surface, but many more say it ensures an even level of heat and pairs with its grill-top grooves perfectly. “This little machine is impressive — perfect sandwiches every time!” one person exclaims. “If you want grill-marks on both sides, just flip your sandwich.” Griddles are much easier to maintain as well, according to a reviewer who adds, “When the chipper Aussie in Breville’s [demonstration] video showed that ‘all you need to do is wipe down the Panini Duo with a wet paper towel after it cools,’ I thought it was a ridiculous claim. My thought was, ‘Yeah right, and I’m Mary Queen of Scots.’ Well, crown me and call me Mary, because Breville’s claim is legit. The press is a snap to clean.”
Best panini press and grill
Embedded heating elements, a slick LCD screen, and a temperature-sensitive griddle has reviewers going to bat for Breville’s gorgeous Smart Grill, “a monster in size and substance” that is “not a toy.” “Even though this Breville cost as much as several of the small=name brand models, it has been well worth it for my family and [me],” writes one reviewer. “I am just sorry I procrastinated on ordering it for so long.” A lengthier breakdown puts it best, however: “As an experienced cook, I’ve been through my share of George Foremans, Cuisinarts, and Kitchen Aid grills and panini presses. With each purchase of [the] ‘latest and greatest,’ there was always disappointment as they were either too flimsy, plates shook, lid felt floppy, or uneven pressure was applied to paninis because the lid wouldn’t close flat. I mean, how hard could it be to just design one appliance that served both purposes with both style and function? This grill/griddle does it all.”
Best miniature panini press
Writer Nikita Richardson has raved about this miniature waffle maker before, but according to Amazon reviewers, the Dash Mini Maker can also press a perfectly fine panini in a pinch. (The fact that it can’t make full-size panini is why this gadget isn’t our best-rated, less expensive pick, even though it’s the cheapest option here.) The grill’s unique size and shape also leads one reviewer to make a strange yet salient point: “If you have one of those co-workers [who] likes to steal paninis out of the staff fridge, but who also has a strong aversion to waffles due to an undisclosed, waffle-related childhood trauma, you are in luck my friend because NOW your paninis can have the protection of looking like a waffle. No more sad lunches for you! Folks, this is the thinking man’s waffle maker, you simply can’t go wrong … What will the zany product engineers at DASH think of next?!” Another reviewer adds, “This little baby is the bee’s knees for my breakfast grilled cheese … Press down lightly, wait about a minute, press down harder, presto, magic: a perfect cheese panini.”
Best George Foreman grill that’s also a panini press
The same day one reviewer received their George Foreman grill, “I grilled a steak, [that had] beautiful grill-marks and cooked so quickly. But THEN I discovered paninis! OMG. Perfection on the GF grill. Tomorrow I’m going to try a bacon, egg, and cheese panini.” The George Foreman features a signature fat reduction slope and removable plates that are “very low-maintenance.” “It is SOOOO nice to take the plates off, clean them in the sink, and that’s it,” writes another reviewer. “The plates easily clip back into the unit, and you are off grilling paninis, salmon, and quick burgers again.” Lavish declarations of love hammer its universal appeal home, too, from “here it is — my savior,” to, “beats buying an $8 grilled cheese sandwich at Panera!” And then, this: “Other reviews will get more technical so I won’t go into all that but trust me, this thing will change your life.”
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