A Panini Grill Sandwich Maker, also known as a panini press, is one type of indoor grill and sandwich maker which is versatile and allows you to cook a range of great grilled foods.
First of all, where does the name panini come from? Panini is an Italian name (related to the Italian word for bread) for certain types of sandwiches. Typically, panini are cooked on a special press or grill which compresses the sandwich while it cooks it and gives it a crispy, toasted crust and melty center. Most panini are made with some type of melty cheese (swiss, gruyere, fontina or others) along with slices of meat, typically thinly sliced ham. However, there are numerous recipes for different types of panini sandwiches. This style of sandwich is similar to the French Croque Monsieur sandwich which is another toasty, pressed sandwich you can make on an indoor grill and sandwich maker like a panini.
So what is the panini grill? The panini press is a two sided grill that can be closed down on the sandwich to compress it and grill both sides simultaneously. They are typically electric and fit on your kitchen countertop. Although some are made specifically as a panini grill, these are in effect the same as other electric indoor grills such as the George Foreman grill.
Some things to look for when buying a Panini Grill Sandwich Maker:
Type of Panini Grill Sandwich Maker
Some panini presses have ridged cooking surfaces, like a grill grate, which create nice toasty linear grill marks on your food as you cook it. These are also nice if you are cooking meats or poultry because the ridges allow melting fat to slide away from your food. Some panini grills do not have ridges and are flat cooking surfaces. While this type of sandwich maker is good for making sandwiches, it is less versatile with other types of food such as steaks or other meats.
Adjustable Heat Control
As with other indoor grill and sandwich makers, some models of panini press have a variable heat control. This is particularly useful to find just the right heat to cook your food thoroughly without burning the outside. Try to avoid an indoor grill with a fixed heat control.
Lid hinges vary on different panini grill and indoor grills. Make sure you get one which can accommodate a thick sandwich or steak. Some lids have trouble handling thicker foods.
Other features of a Panini Grill Sandwich Maker:
Most indoor grills are dishwasher safe, saving you time in clean-up. Sandwich makers can also vary in size. While a small on is fine for a single sandwich or steak, if you are cooking for more than one, keep in mind that a bigger sandwich maker may be important. Finally, some indoor grills have other features like build in bun warmers to speed up preparation of hot dogs and grilled burgers.
Most panini grill sandwich makers vary in price from around $20 to as much as $200, so shop around. The cheaper ones may have the features you want, but may not last you as long or cook as evenly.
Have fun! Indoor grilling is fun and convenient and you can make some delicious toasty treats with your panini grill!