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 some backyard-ready beasts — here, we’ve rounded up the best 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
You’re probably familiar with a George Foreman grill for, well, grilling, but reviewers say it’s their secret weapon for paninis, too. One customer calls it a “kickass panini machine,” and is “back to basics” because “this panini machine cooks everything you want and more.” It has nonstick, removable plates for easy cleaning — plus, the plates are also dishwasher-safe — and it’s big enough to make sandwiches for four at once. One customer loves it so much she uses “it almost every day for grilled cheese paninis,” especially because it’s not a hassle to clean because of those removable plates. And one more customer agrees, “This is the best grilled cheese machine ever made.” She doesn’t actually know what a “panini” is — “sounds Italian,” she ponders — but for all sorts of grilled sandwiches (ahem, paninis), it’s great. If you think four paninis at once is too many, you can also get this George Foreman grill in different sizes, including a miniature two-serving grill, a big five-serving grill, even a platinum version.
Best nonstick panini press
Hamilton Beach’s gourmet sandwich maker gets props from one reviewer for its “very, very basic” interface that “makes a great panini or quick grilled cheese in no time.” The simple, no-frills setup is a large part of its appeal to many satisfied customers, with one 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.” Dozens of reviewers also call out the nonstick grill, which is “nice and easy to clean. Even if a little cheese oozes out, it wipes right off with a paper towel. Nothing sticks to the surface at all,” writes another reviewer. And if you need any further convincing that this panini press is worth it, listen to this reviewer: “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.”
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 costs 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.”
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