The Best Panini Presses for Sandwiches, Grilling, and More, According to Our Tests

Our top performers offer functional design, versatility, and convenience.

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Panini Press

Food & Wine / Kevin Liang

I grew up in Tampa, Fla., eating Cuban sandwiches: ham, Genoa salami, puerco asado, pickles, mustard, and Swiss cheese on a crusty baguette-like loaf baked with a palmetto frond, all pressed until crunchy and slightly warmed through. I was 30 when I made my first trip to study cooking in Tuscany and realized how much these sandwiches had in common with an Italian panino (the singular of panini). Perhaps I’m slow on the uptake, but I also didn’t make the connection that a retired boxer's electric grills touted on late-night TV at the time were remarkably similar to the sandwich presses I’d seen in both Tampa and Sienna.

Of course, a panini press is no longer a European or Cuban appliance. It’s handy for making fancy grilled cheese, breakfast sandwiches (crazy, I know), and more, doubling as a countertop grill or griddle, eliminating the need for multiple pans and overheating the kitchen. We tested numerous brands and models before selecting the top seven.

Best Overall

Cuisinart Elite Griddle

Cuisinart Elite Griddle


Pros: It’s highly versatile, heats quickly, and has a large cooking area.

Cons: The instructions may be a bit too technical, and it’s heavy and bulky, meaning it will either require a bit of effort to move to and from storage or take up a lot of space on your counter.

The Cuisinart Elite Griddler scored top marks in our tests, from ease of use to easy cleanup. It’s a highly versatile unit; to look at it as simply a panini press would be a disservice. First, the bottom cooking surfaces have configurations such as a grill, a griddle, or half and half. Dual temperature control zones allow you to set each bottom half of the grill at an independent temperature, with a sear setting that enables you to sear at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two minutes at a time. The sear function provides good grill marks with very little smoke to fog your kitchen. The top, with its independent temperature control, also has thickness settings that help you adjust the pressure on your panino or other food items.

The 240 square inches of cooking area provide a large capacity for up to four sandwiches, chicken breasts, or steaks with no struggle for equal cooking surfaces. Included with the grill is a recipe book with guidelines and recipes for commonly cooked foods, like eggs, pancakes, sandwiches, and the like. It also gives a recipe for baking pizza with the griddle. Cleanup is easy, with all removable components dishwasher safe. The only real downsides we found in our tests were the size and weight of the unit, which can provide some challenges for under-counter storage space unless you sacrifice a large amount of countertop to keep it out for regular use.

Price at time of publish: $200

  • Dimensions: 15 x 16 x 8 inches
  • Weight: 21 pounds
  • Temperature Range: Warm, up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cooking Area: 240 square inches

Best Smokeless

Cuisinart GR-6S Contact Griddler with Smoke-less Mode

Cuisinart GR-6S Contact Griddler with Smoke-less Mode


Pros: It’s very versatile and easy to clean.

Cons: It’s a little bulky, and the lid could be heavier to press a sandwich fully.

This model has much of the versatility of Cuisinart’s Griddler line, with some limited features, by comparison. It has the same split-plate arrangement as the Griddler, allowing for varying configurations of grill and griddle without the same side-by-side temperature capacity. However, it does provide a smokeless option not included in other models. The control panel is not entirely intuitive, so please do refer to the owner’s manual for the best results. There are presets for specific proteins; you can also create your own. The grill can function as a press or flip the top for an open griddle configuration. This flip-open capability also allows you to press sandwiches of significant height, although it lacks the weight for a full press, sometimes requiring you to hold the handle down to achieve your desired goal. Cleanup is easy with dishwasher-safe parts and a removable drip tray. 

Price at time of publish: $130

  • Dimensions: 12 x 11x7 Inches
  • Weight: 14 pounds
  • Temperature Range: 175 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cooking Area: 100 square inches

Most Versatile

Cuisinart GR-5B Electric Griddler Five

Cuisinart GR-5B Electric Griddler Five


Pros: The simple, intuitive controls make it easy to operate, and it is so easy to set up that you can use it within minutes of receiving it.

Cons: There aren’t any presets on this model, and you may need to add extra pressure to the lid for a fully pressed sandwich.

The FIVE is another flip-open press and griddle that allows you to do side-by-side cooking via reversible plates. The controls are not as detailed or complex as other models, simply a selection wheel and an on/off switch. But we like that “navigating the limited control panel is easy and simple,” as one tester says, “and the lack of [complex] features makes this easier to operate.” This model has no presets, so you’ll have to experiment with the settings. It does come with a sear feature, allowing short bursts of cooking at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, which can add char to a steak or carrot, for instance, with no other special considerations. The lid could be heavier to achieve a full press and toast, but you can apply extra pressure on the handle to get where you want to go if that’s the case. By the same token, the lighter lid means a more lightweight unit, allowing more effortless movement for storage or cleaning.

Price at time of publish: $119

  • Dimensions: 11 x 12 x 7 inches
  • Weight: 13 pounds
  • Temperature Range: 175 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cooking Area: 100 square inches

Best Floating Hinge

Chefman Electric Panini Press Grill

Chefman Electric Panini Press Grill and Gourmet Sandwich Maker


Pros: It’s a simple, easy-to-use grill at a very reasonable price.

Cons: The lack of temperature control leaves the user relying on time alone as a cooking control, and this two-sandwich model is smaller than you may think.

This compact griddle and grill is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get option. That said, it performs well for what it is. As the category name implies, the hinge floats for a 180-degree opening, allowing you to use it as a griddle or grill, side by side. The controls are pretty simple, a power switch and a red indicator light to show it’s heating, and a green light to indicate it’s at temperature. It has no thermostat and no presets – just a simple design that delivers reasonably consistent results. On top of facilitating side-by-side cooking, the floating hinge allows you to place sandwiches of varying heights in the press and apply the lid's weight directly. Its size and weight allow for easy storage, and the removable parts and drip tray are dishwasher safe.

Price at time of publish: $29

  • Dimensions: 10 x 13 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Temperature Range: On/off button (not specified)
  • Cooking Area: 48 square inches

Best Value

Elite Gourmet 2-in-1 Nonstick Panini Press & Indoor Grill

Elite Gourmet 2-in-1 Nonstick Panini Press & Indoor Grill
Elite Gourmet 2-in-1 Nonstick Panini Press & Indoor Grill.


Pros: It’s small, lightweight, versatile within some constraints, and a very agreeable price. 

Cons: It’s only really useful for cooking for one to two people, and some kind of temperature control would improve its ease of use score.

This two-in-one grill provides a good balance of cost to performance. It lacks reversible plates but opens to 180 degrees for side-by-side indoor grilling. As with many models in this price range, it lacks controls besides on and off, leaving time and pressure from the lid's weight as the means of cooking control. The lid is lightweight, so it may require extra pressure to achieve your desired ends in toasting sandwiches.

As a grill, it functions well, but limited control of temperature adds some cooking time to the process. The grates are not removable, but cleanup is easy as the nonstick coating facilitates cleaning with a simple wipe-down. The longer cook time is the only category where this model didn’t get top marks, and for the price, we can’t see that as a serious mark against it.

Price at time of publish: $30

  • Dimensions: 11 x 9 x 6 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Temperature Range: On/off (not specified)
  • Cooking Area: 95 square inches

Best Splurge

Breville BGR700BSS The Sear and Press Countertop Electric Grill

Breville BGR700BSS The Sear and Press Countertop Electric Grill


Pros: It has a large cooking surface with intuitive controls.

Cons: It’s a big piece of equipment with a relatively high price tag.

The Sear and Press brings user-friendly features to the party. It has an intuitive control panel with a simple on/off switch; three presets for panini, burger, or sear; and dual-temperature knobs for top and bottom heat control. The hinge design allows for a 180-degree opening for side-by-side grilling or griddling on the reversible plates and allows for height adjustment to accommodate different heights of sandwiches. Its 240 square inches of cooking space allow plenty of room for multiple sandwiches or grilled or griddled items. It’s a good-looking piece of equipment that won’t detract from the aesthetics of a kitchen, which is good, but it will claim some countertop acreage. The top is fairly low-profile in its closed position and has enough weight to press most sandwiches, but you may want to apply extra pressure for thicker-crusted breads like a baguette or a Cuban loaf.

The lid positioning provides one of the most significant drawbacks, as it also serves as a lock when closed. The locking position is not what one would call intuitive, and you should take care when attempting to lock the unit to move it for storage. 

Price at time of publish: $200

  • Dimensions: 14 x 15 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 15 pounds
  • Temperature Range: 210 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Cooking Area: 240 square inches

Best Compact

George Foreman 2-Serving Classic Plate Electric Indoor Grill And Panini Press

George Foreman 2-Serving Classic Plate Electric Indoor Grill And Panini Press


Pros: It’s compact and easy to use.

Cons: It’s very small, and there is no temperature control.

Compact is an apt description, as this grill design keeps space-saving in mind. You’re not going to feed a group with it, but it’s a good choice for small kitchens or limited storage situations, with a slim design that minimizes cabinet space by storing it vertically. Temperature control isn’t to be found, with a simple on/off design and indicator lights to show when it’s heating and when it’s ready to cook. But it delivers fairly consistent results when toasting or pressing, although requiring some human intervention for good results with non-flat food surfaces. It touts itself as easy to clean, but none of the parts are removable, save the grease tray, so a wipe down of its non-stick surfaces will have to do. 

Price at time of publish: $30

  • Dimensions: 11 x 3 x 8 inches
  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Temperature Range: Off/on (not specified)
  • Cooking Area: 2 servings

Our Favorite

Considering its features, performance, ease of use and cleaning, and the included recipe book to inspire you to create your own dishes, the Cuisinart Elite Griddler scored 5/5 in every category, making it our overall favorite.

The Tests

We put each model through a variety of cooking scenarios and rated them on a scale of 1-5 in the following categories: Ease of Use, Design, Usability, Performance, Ease of Cleaning, and Value. Based on our observations, we also noted whether we would actually recommend the appliance to someone else. We averaged the scores from each category to arrive at final ratings, from which we selected seven top performers to review here.

What Didn't Make the List

Strong Contenders

Results Still Simmering

Low Performers

Factors to Consider


Unless you’re cooking for a larger group or family regularly, look for a press that easily accommodates two sandwiches simultaneously, according to Levon Wallace, owner of Fat Belly Pretzel Baker and Deli in Nashville. When considering the countertop surface area, storage space, and how easy moving the press might be, all factors come back to a two-sandwich-sized press. Your needs, counter space, and storage space may vary, but a two-sandwich press is a good baseline.

Cooking Plates

A lightweight top plate allows you to apply more pressure if needed, whereas reducing the weight for a more delicate sandwich presents challenges, according to Wallace. You don’t want to use the same pressure on a delicate brioche-based sandwich that you would a crusty baguette, for example. Removable, reversible plates can prove handy should you wish to use the grill plate versus the smooth plate, whereas non-reversible grill or griddle plates (assuming there are both) can provide a storage complication. Opt for smooth plates over grill plates if you plan to use the press primarily for sandwiches, as there is a more uniform toasting surface, according to Wallace.


Less is more in the features department, according to Wallace. An on/off switch, temperature control, and ready-indicator lights are about as far as he likes to go with controls and features. The reason is that operation becomes far less intuitive with a wide-ranging set of controls, bringing in other-than-desirable results. These features can also go bad, requiring expensive replacement of the part or the entire unit to be operable again.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the difference between a panini press and a sandwich press?

    The primary difference between the two is how they toast. Many sandwich presses come with triangle-shaped plates that cut and seal the sandwich as it toasts, creating a Hot Pockets-type experience. A panini press applies weight and toasts the top and bottom of the sandwich without cutting, shaping, or forming the sandwich in any way other than to compress it a bit.

  • How do you clean a panini press?

    Treat the cooking plates of your press like you would a cast iron pan, according to Wallace. Avoid harsh cleaners and scraping them with a rigid tool. A gentle prod from a silicone spatula or other such soft implement should be sufficient to remove any accumulated or stuck-on food. A quick wipe-down combined with a towel should do the trick for any remaining oil or grease on the interior or exterior and most drip trays are easily removed, emptied, and dishwasher safe.

Our Expertise

Greg Baker is an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and food writer with four decades of experience in the food industry. His written work appears in Food & Wine, Food Republic, and other publications.

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