If you click a link on this page and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.
Are you a long-time vegan looking to mix up your meal rotation? Or are you new to the vegan lifestyle and fear your meals are doomed to consist of salad, salad, and only more salad? No matter your current scenario, one way to liven up your vegan diet is to incorporate a plant-based panini!
What’s a panini, you may ask? While it may be the Italian word for sandwiches (plural), a panini is how one nowadays commonly refers to a single grilled sandwich (traditionally, on Italian bread). (1)
And while, also traditionally, these sandwiches are filled with meat and cheese, we can make our very own vegan versions at home by way of a panini press!
Have we piqued your interest (and perhaps, some hunger)? If so, we’re glad to share our findings below as we set out to discover the very best panini press out there, so we may begin to enjoy this spin on a traditional lunchtime option.
What is a panini?
Before we get to our panini grill reviews, we’d like to first provide some context for our further discussion. As we mentioned, a panini is commonly known as a grilled sandwich, usually on a kind of Italian bread, such as baguette, ciabatta, or michetta.
And while sandwich sticklers will argue the technical and subtle different aspects between a panini, a grilled cheese, and a toastie, for our purposes, we seek to identify the best panini maker, meaning, the best grill sandwich maker. (2)
To be clear, when we use the word “panini” henceforth, we encourage you to embrace the general concept of a grilled or toasted sandwich. Thus, when we identify our top panini maker out of the following five options, we are naming our top sandwich grill press simultaneously.
Why might I want a home panini press?
Let’s discuss why you might be craving a panini toaster in the first place as an attractive alternative to the classic non-grilled sandwiches for which we’ve grown so accustomed!
Diversify your dishes
We realize that it’s easy to fall into the trap of having the same ho-hum meals every day, whether you are vegan or not. Even the tastiest of sandwiches, when consumed too frequently, may lose its allure after a while! So it’s amazing how doing something different, as simple as grilling, can make the same meal more appealing.
Making a panini is also a great chance to diversify your ingredients, too! For example, just because we’re vegan doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy grilled cheese! Try incorporating some plant-based cheeses, such as cashew or walnut, whether that means finding a good store-bought option or making your own.
This video demonstrates recipes for different kinds of vegan grilled sandwiches that you can make at home. Enjoy!
Impress your guests
Surely, you’re familiar with the phrase, “A little goes a long way?” This applies to entertaining, certainly. We live in an age when it’s easier than ever to have a meal delivered in minutes, right to our front door, or grab something at a drive-through window.
Why not use your new panini maker as a way to show-off your cooking skills for your loved ones while simultaneously treating them to a special gathering, complete with a special dish? There’s something about a plate of grilled sandwiches that shows you really tried to prepare an impressive plate!
While some of you are new to the world of paninis, we realize that for many of you, grilling sandwiches is nothing new to you at all! Perhaps you’ve been doing it for years now, and you have your own routine.
While we know there are several ways to do it without a panini maker, they take a lot of time and resources, from greasing the pan to cooking time to cleaning the pan. And far too often, you’re left with a less-than-optimal result, whether that means soggy bread or unevenly cooked ingredients.
Maybe some of you even toast the bread and cook the ingredients separately to avoid this issue, but then, that means twice the cooking and cleaning.
Think of how easy it would be to make the sandwich and just pop the whole thing in a machine at once? And the best part? As soon as the panini maker beeps or dings, you can consume instantly (caution, it may be hot)!
What to consider when buying a panini sandwich maker
Now that we know what a panini is and why you might benefit from owning your very own panini maker and grill, let’s identify a few important criteria for purchasing a sandwich press grill prior to sharing our panini maker reviews.
It’s crucial to identify your purchasing priorities before you begin browsing. Having these set will certainly help you narrow down the many appealing options that exist. Remember, you want to select the best sandwich maker that suits your specific needs!
We are shopping, after all, and realize that not everyone is working with the same budget. All other aspects equal, the dollar amount can be a limiting factor from the start (even if the consumer is well aware of any added cost benefits that might come from a more expensive item).
So, if price is a priority, we suggest you are even more painstaking when you compare items in the same range. Don’t worry, we definitely do this, too, in our reviews below.
There’s two main points of concern regarding size. The first is, of course, counter space.
If you already have a coffee maker, a blender (like the Vitamix Pro 750, for example), a juicer, and a good knife set for fruit and veg prominently displayed in your kitchen, then you’re going to have to purchase a panini maker that suits your remaining square footage, make space for it or utilize any ample storage.
Secondly, think about how often you’d like to use your panini press and how many people you’ll be feeding. If you have three kids whose lunches you make daily or you entertain often, then you might want to invest in a larger size sandwich grill that can press more food at once.
If you live on your own and plan on having “Single Grilled Sandwich Sundays,” then a smaller size device should suffice.
In this video, a vegan chef makes two grilled cashew “cheese” sandwiches at once!
We don’t just mean looks or “fashion.” Of course, you’ll care a bit about the color of your unit. Maybe you want it to match your kitchen, so stainless steel is appealing.
Or maybe you want a pop of color, and so you really like the cherry red unit. But beyond that, there are actually two styles when it comes to the “function” of a panini press machine: griddle vs. grill. (3)
A griddle means the hot plate (or plates, top and bottom) has a flat surface while a grill means the surface has ridges (they’re responsible for those straight, black marks on the food afterwards).
If you want that traditional grilled look for your food, you’ll want the ridges. However, if designed improperly, these plates may squeeze and squish your sandwich. Further, if they are not removable, they will be harder to clean, which leads us to our next piece of criteria…
If you’re buying a panini press because you’re looking to save time in the kitchen, then you’ll want to make sure the press you buy is easy to clean. And some are easier than others! A press that has flat, removable plates will be easiest to maintain.
Furthermore, many panini presses come with a limited warranty or a multi-year protection plan for an additional free. This is something else to consider, long-term.
Top rated panini press reviews
So, now we know a little bit more about what makes a good grilled sandwich maker, it’s time to take a more in depth look at some of the best panini presses currently available.
Cuisinart 300 GR-300 griddler elite grill
The first panini toaster on our list is the Cuisinart 300 GR-300 Griddler Elite Grill. It offers six cooking options in one, including grill, griddle, half grill, half griddle, panini press and top melt sandwiches.
The electronic display has a timer and dual-zone temperature control if you’d like to cook two different items at once, to different degrees.
The 240 square inches of cooking surface can heat up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two minutes at a time. The grill plates reversible, removable and dishwasher-safe, and the device has a stainless steel exterior and a sturdy construction, weighing in at almost 17 pounds.
So, if you desire the highest quality and multiple cooking settings, and you have the healthy budget and counter space to spare, you definitely want to check out this option.
- Large grilling area
- Warms up fast, which saves a lot of time
- Really easy to clean and use
- Lots of settings makes the Cuisinart both versatile and convenient
- Looks great on any countertop
- Power cord is a little short
- Quite large footprint makes it a squeeze in small kitchens
- User manual could be clearer
Hamilton beach panini press gourmet sandwich maker
The next panini press on our list is the Hamilton Beach Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker. This highly affordable sandwich grill offers a non-stick cooking surface that measures 10 inches by 8 inches. It has a cafe-style floating lid with upright storage, which saves counter space while accommodating sandwiches of multiple thickness.
The lid can also lock and hover above the food without coming into contact with it, should that be a preference. Another handy feature on this panini press is its thick handle, which eliminates any fear of getting burned during use. The plastic unit has one heat setting with lights for power and preheating, and it comes in a bright, cherry red color.
This option might appeal to consumers seeking a more cost-effective, space-saving option that has a simpler set-up.
- Affordable option that still works well
- Easy to store
- Simple to use
- Can accommodate various sandwich thicknesses
- Difficult to clean
- Can scorch your sandwich if you’re not careful
- Not the most solid product in the world
Breville BSG600BSS panini press
What makes the Breville BSG600BSS Panini Press stand out from the sandwich maker crowd is how it’s designed with a “Crush Control” hinge.
This technology aims to cook the contents without crushing or squishing it, producing a toasted-yet-fluffy sandwich. It also has an adjustable height control clip to allow for various bread thicknesses.
The machine is brushed stainless steel with flat, cast-aluminum plates and a non-stick cooking surface for easy cleaning. The surface is large enough to accommodate two sandwiches at once, and the unit can be stored vertically as well. For only a few dollars more, the consumer may purchase three or four-year protection plans.
We also want to mention that this unit is a flat panini press, meaning it has a griddle as opposed to a grill. As a reminder, though this makes it easier to clean, it means that aesthetically the contents won’t have that traditional grilled “look.” This will be a “pro” for some, and a “con” for others!
Those who are working with a moderate budget and tend to be more particular about their panini grilling might be interested in this item.
- Simple to store
- Clean up is easy, thanks to the flat griddle
- Good looking appliance
- Can handle two sandwiches simultaneously
- Innovative hinge means no more squashed sandwiches
- Affordable, without feeling cheap
- Exterior gets a little too hot during use
- Power cord could be longer
Cuisinart GR-1 griddler panini press and sandwich press
The Cuisinart GR-1 Griddler Panini Press and Sandwich Press comes with an 11 inch by 7 inch non-stick, non-removable grill plates on the unit’s upper and lower surfaces.
It can grill two sandwiches at once, and it comes with a floating hinge that adjusts to accommodate various bread thicknesses. Though this panini press might prove more difficult to clean than a press with removable plates, Cuisinart does include a tool for scraping the griddle.
The stainless steel device has lights that signal “power” and “ready-to-cook” with a pre-set temperature to prevent the machine from getting too hot and burning the contents. It comes with a three-year limited warranty, and a two or four-year protection plan is available for an additional purchase.
This unit might be of interest to those looking for a moderately priced, simple-yet-effective option.
- Heats up quickly
- Easy to operate
- Does one job effectively
- Difficult to clean
- Has to be unplugged to power down
- Handle is a little flimsy
Breville BGR820XL smart grill
The Breville BGR820XL Smart Grill is designed to provide the elements of an outdoor grill for an indoor space.
The unit has three settings: low, sandwich and sear, ranging from 320 to 420 degrees fahrenheit, and it uses an 1800 watt heating system to electronically compensate for any detected heat loss. There’s also a digital timer with an alert system to indicate when the cooking period has finished.
This grill comes with removable, non-stick plates that are dishwasher safe. The bottom plate is flat, and the top plate is ridged, so when closed, the grill makes for a fully-functional panini press.
In addition, the top plate has six different adjustable heights, so that it can be used for any size sandwich, thin to thick. The unit can also open all the way for “BBQ” mode (should you want to grill up some tofu kabobs).
At twenty-two pounds, this stainless steel machine certainly sits sturdily on the counter. Three and four-year protection plans are available for additional purchase. This sandwich grill might appeal to a consumer with a large budget who grills often (think someone who has their own “kiss the chef” apron)!
- High quality manufacturing – sturdy
- Really simple to clean and maintain
- Multiple uses makes it more than just a sandwich press
- Adjustable temperature settings
- Built in timer and alert system
- Adjustable heights
- Dishwasher safe
- Expensive (but most buyers say this press is “worth it”)
- Some reports of uneven cooking
So, what is the best panini press?
After considering the criteria we laid out earlier, we’ve concluded that for those who consider themselves moderately adept in the kitchen and are interested in getting the most for their dollar, the best panini press is Breville BSG600BSS Panini Press.
Not only do we feel this is the best panini press and grill when it comes to value–meaning, what you get for what you pay–we feel overall that our consumers will get the most of for their money because this is the best sandwich press, specifically.
While some of the other models we reviewed, especially the more expensive ones, boast fancier features, many of these are mainly useful for those choosing to cook meat (such as the ultra-high temperature settings and drip-trays… for animal fat).
Therefore, while these design features are “pros” for many, they are not integral for us. We felt it important to identify the best panini grill or the best sandwich press for vegans, rather than the best cooker of all food items.
Since the affordable Breville BSG600BSS Panini Press can cook two sandwiches at once, hide conveniently upright on the corner of your counter, and may be easily cleaned due to its flat grilling surfaces, we think it’s a decent trade-off should you be missing the grill marks it won’t be leaving on your bread (which you can always add yourself for aesthetic value)!
We hope this aggregate panini press review has been informative and leaves you feeling confident about your potential purchase. Should you have any further questions or concerns, just kindly leave us a comment below, and we’re happy to provide additional information!
If you click a link on this page and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.
About The Author:
Carly Keyes is writer and personal trainer who decided to go plant-based after a visit to the True North Health Center in Santa Rosa, CA. The change has completely revolutionized the way she feels, looks, thinks and behaves, making her a very vocal advocate of the vegan lifestyle.
She’s also a keen singer/songwriter and has studied screenwriting at the University of Michigan. Carly lives in Bloomfield Hills, MI.
Save to Pinterest!
- TasteAtlas Editors | Panini | https://www.tasteatlas.com/panini
- Flic Luxmoore | The Difference Between Grilled Cheese, Paninis and Toasties | thejabberwocky.co.uk/2015/08/13/the-difference-between-grilled-cheese-paninis-and-toasties/
- Mariette Mifflin | The Difference Between a Grill and Griddle | https://www.thespruceeats.com/griddle-versus-grill-1907968