Most kitchen appliances aren’t versatile, which is why we have so many of them. They often have a limited number of tasks and perform excellently for their intended tasks. However, being creative, a straightforward appliance that has a singular use can become so much more in the kitchen. An example of that is the panini maker.
With their high price and seemingly singular use, are panini makers worth it?
A panini maker is worth it if you intend to make more than just paninis with it. If you are only looking for a sandwich maker that can perform that single task, there are other options for you. If you feel it will only be used for paninis then they are probably not worth buying.
This guide will explore everything you need to know about a panini maker before purchasing one.
What Is A Panini Maker?
A Panini maker is a countertop tool used to make the traditional panini, the small Italian sandwich. It also has several names, which include Panini press, Grill Press, and Panini Grill. It is more a less a grill with heated plates at the top and bottom for pressing and grilling the bread at once.
Panini makers are usually made with cast iron or aluminum materials and have round, square, or rectangular grill plates having different weights.
Different panini makers have designs that include free-standing electric models or stovetop grill pans that can effectively make sandwiches with distinct grill marks. Electric panini makers may have separate grill pans you can detach for easy cleaning or grilling different foods.
Many electric Panini grills have top covers for floating or adjustable hinges, so you can raise the cover-up when dealing with thicker sandwiches.
Some extra features some manufacturers could include are non-stick surfaces, LED readouts on controls, grilling timers, external fat collectors, and adjustable temperature controls. Panini makers usually have a grill surface of about 14 inches in length and 10 inches in depth.
There are also variations in the burner designs, including single round/square pans or double burners for a wider cooking surface.
What Can I Use A Panini Maker For?
Apart from the traditional paninis a panini maker is known for, you can use them to make several other foods, including:
Bacon: It is quick and simple preparing bacon on a panini maker. It works just like you would on a grill. Spread strips of bacon on the cooking surface in a single layer and close before turning it on. Leave for about 5 minutes so that it will produce a crisp bacon meal.
Fish: It doesn’t take long for thin fish fillets to cook in a panini press. They should be ready in a minute or two. Thicker fishes like salmon and tuna might take more time to cook, but it shouldn’t exceed 4 minutes.
Veggies: If you’re a fan of grilled veggies, you’ll be happy to have this handy product in your kitchen. Slice your veggies as thinly as you like them, put them in a container of olive oil, sprinkle a few seasonings to your taste, and make them prime for cooking. Then, arrange on the grill surface and cook with the lid closed for a couple of minutes.
Mini cakes: Reading this for the first time might seem like a stretch to you, but Yes, panini makers can be used to make cakes. As long as the upper part of your panini maker can tilt enough to take the ramekin height, everything else should be easy.
Burgers: The panini maker might make burgers better than even grills because the double cooking surfaces will cook it faster. All you have to keep in mind is keeping watch of them as they cook by checking the temperature and not removing them until they’re adequately cooked.
Are There Other Appliances That Are Similar To Panini Makers?
Even as good as panini makers are, there are other appliances and methods you can use to get similar results if you do not want to buy a new one.
If you can’t do without the grill marks on your sandwich, a grill pan can be the perfect replacement for panini makers. On medium heat, heat a little butter or olive oil in the pan and cook your panini until it is toasted on one side, and you can use a spatula to flip to the other side.
You can keep pressing the sandwich down on the hot pan with a big lid.
Another method is pressing the sandwich down by using another pan, especially for sandwiches with a lot of cheese. A great solution is preheating the top pan in an oven or a burner so that the top layer of the sandwich can get heated up faster. All should go well and prevent unnecessary burns with a good oven mitt.
The difference with a Panini Maker: This method will require more effort and some level of skill to obtain the best results. It also takes a lot of time for the sandwich to cook using this method as you have to focus on one side at a time.
This is another simple appliance for making warm or lightly toasted sandwiches. The operation is easy, and all you have to do is place the sandwich on the bottom plate before closing. If you fancy a brown toast on your bread, it might be worth it to add a light layer of olive oil or vegetable oil.
There is no need to specify any temperature, and your sandwich will be ready in 5 minutes.
A sandwich maker is great for making fast meals to eat or for your children. It’s cheap, fast and easy to use. It isn’t easy to burn your sandwich even if you haven’t used the appliance before, except you do so yourself.
The difference with a Panini Maker: A sandwich maker will produce excellent sandwiches with only one or two ingredients. If you’re making sandwiches with this appliance, you cannot make thick sandwiches as there is a risk of the ingredients spilling out when you try to close the lid.
Sandwich makers are also limited in their use compared to what you can do with a panini maker.
Panini makers can only make a limited number of sandwiches at once. When you want to make sandwiches for a group of people fast, an oven broiler might be a better option. Set up your sandwiches with your desired combination and put halves on a foil with baking sheet linings.
Place on the broiler till the cheese melts and the meat edges start to crisp. Add more ingredients like pickles, mustard, or other dressings before putting the two halves together and put back in the broiler.
Remember to turn the sandwich over and keep repeating this process till you have made enough to your satisfaction. Experiment and try out different combinations of cheese, spreads, condiments, meat, and veggies – you might strike a golden recipe.
The difference with a Panini Maker: If you’re concerned about the extra calories from the olive oil or butter on your bread while using a panini maker, this is a great alternative. You can make far more sandwiches than a panini maker using this method.
However, it requires a lot of effort and a bit of skill. You can try different combinations on an oven broiler, even with the same batch, to add a bit of variety.
How Much Do They Cost?
Panini makers are very expensive, at least compared to the alternatives that can do the job. They cost an average of $250 for a good panini maker from a renowned brand.
That is not to say there are no panini makers of $20, but these are so low in quality that you might only get one use from it.
How Long Do They Last?
Panini makers are known to last well in average conditions and as long as you do not misuse them. Generally, the more expensive ones should have an average of five years of optimal performance.
The price is a pretty good way of measuring its durability because higher-priced panini makers are made with better materials.
As long as you clean your panini maker regularly and do not consistently put it to its limits, you should be fine.