Toasted, warm bread encircling soft melted mozzarella, a tang of pesto and a smooth, salty piece of prosciutto.
Yummy is an understatement!
All of these ingredients are enveloped in the slight air of sophistication.
And come with a name foreign enough to be steps above the good ol’ American “grilled cheese”.
What more could you want for an experience of pure gustatory delight?
In fact, “paninis,” as we refer to these savory sandwiches in the US, are so good that we automatically assume in English that you’ll have more than one!
The commonly used term for one sandwich, “panini,” is actually the plural form in Italian of “panino.”
The first recorded reference of someone munching on a “panino” dates back to a 16th-century Italian cookbook.
But it wasn’t until the 1960s that the toasted, tantalizing fare became a widespread favorite, as Milanese office workers started frequenting “paninoteche” in order to grab a quick, satisfying bite at lunch.
The trend slowly gained traction across the pond, with the first mention of the panini in American media appearing in a 1956 newspaper.
Panini production and consumption in the US started in high-end restaurants in New York in the 1960s but has rapidly grown in popularity and prominence in the past several decades.
One Panino, Two Panini?
Besides the fancy name, what exactly is the difference between a panini and a grilled cheese, or any other grilled sandwich for that matter?
Well, for starters, the bread itself is different. A panini is only made from bread other than sliced slices of bread, such as baguettes, ciabatta, michetta, and focaccia (and any whole wheat, whole grain, vegan, gluten-free, and other variation of the above if you so choose).
The bread is sliced horizontally and toasted on the top and bottom. Inside the panini, there are usually no more than three or four ingredients.
In Italy, these usually include some kind of cheese, the most classic being mozzarella, fontina, and goat; a thinly-sliced meat, like prosciutto, chicken, turkey, and roast beef.
The fresh produce, includes tomato, arugula, and grilled vegetables; and, finally, herbs or flavoring, such as pesto sauce, basil leaves, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, and garlic, among others.
What do a Panini Press and a Light Bulb have in Common?
That’s right, you guessed it – Thomas Edison!
The famed American inventor of the light bulb also was one of the first people to create something that we could also choose to view as a necessity today: the panini press.
Edison apparently was ahead of his time, as his model of a grill that could toast two slices of bread at once, on both sides, did not find much commercial success and was ultimately discontinued in the 1930s.
However, the eventual commercialization of the panini press in the 1970s, including the model which the international home appliance company Breville came out within 1974, led to a kind of democratization of the hip, elite new sandwich in town.
With the help of the panini press, soon everyone from restaurant owners to home cooks started making their own paninis efficiently, with an eye towards quicker and more plentiful production.
A Well Done Panini is a Panini Well Done!
I remember one cold, rainy day in New York, dashing out of my office to the local deli around the corner to order lunch.
The paninis were laid out in the case, as always, ready to be heated in a panini press behind the counter.
Per usual I chose my favorite – classic mozzarella, tomato, and basil – eagerly anticipating the crunch of toasted bread contrasting with the warm gooey cheese all the more for the dreary weather outside.
But as I stepped out into the chilly air and took a bite, I sensed immediately, to my grave disappointment, that the cheese was the same temperature as the sidewalk – and the bread almost as soggy as my rain-soaked shoes!
I can’t say for sure what went wrong in the panini preparation at my local deli that day, but logic would have it that at least part of the blame lay with a faulty or malfunctioning panini press.
Unless you want to spend more time and effort to grill your panini the old-fashioned way, with a spatula and pan, flipping the sandwich every few minutes, using an efficient and high-functioning panini press is the best way to ensure that you end up with a properly toasted, warm panini.
Though they differ in size and the number of sandwiches they can grill at one time, all electric panini presses have two grilling surfaces, one on the bottom and one on the underside of a lid, that can be closed together for the necessary length of time (usually between three and eight minutes) until – presto!
You open the lid and your hot, tasty repast is ready to go.
Maybe you’re done with relying on subpar delis with soggy bread or fancy Italian restaurants that overcharge you for your favorite kind of sandwich.
And you want to invest in your very own panini press so that you can whip up a delizioso midnight snack or midday feast whenever you like.
Luckily for you, there are many models of panini presses on the market with all the characteristics your heart (or stomach) desires!
Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler
The Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler is a great option for those looking to invest in a versatile panini press.
With five different cooking options, ranging from contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, and half grill/half griddle, and a cast-iron, non-stick surface.
The Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler lets you cook everything from paninis to pancakes, and beyond.
Cuisinart is large and compact. It offers various functions-Panini Press, contact grill, full griddle, half grill, and half griddle. It has sleek stainless-steel interiors, and it boasts of a wide handle and adjustable floating cover hinges that can hold various food thicknesses. It has temperature controls, clearly marked functions, and indicator lights that ensure accurate reference and no guesswork operation. Also, it comes with a cleaning scraper tool and gourmet recipes. Usually, Cuisinart Panini has a limited warranty of three years.
Hamilton Beach 25460A Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker
If you want something simpler, cheaper, and easier to store, the Hamilton Beach 25460A Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker might be for you.
With few settings, nonstick grids, and upright storage for taking up less cabinet space, the Hamilton Beach 25460A Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker gets your panini grilled without frills and fuss.
With the Hamilton Beach Panini Press Sandwich Maker, you don’t have to go to a restaurant for a delicious meal since you can have it at home at your convenient time. You can make anything from big to thin cheese sizes since it has an adjustable floating lid that can accommodate various food size. It is easy to use with power and preheat light buttons that lets you know when its ready and its large size gives you space to prepare three or more sandwiches at once.
Breville BGR820XL Smart Grill
If you’re looking to be on the cutting edge of panini press technology, the Breville BGR820XL Smart Grill will get you there, with its embedded heating design and top-of-the-line Element IQ feature.
With an 1800-watt heating system and a top plate that can be adjusted for six different height settings, the Breville BGR820XL Smart Grill lets you expand and experiment with the right size, temperature, and combination for your panini.
Breville Panini press has had technological advancement. Integrated into it are the sensors that help in compensating temperature drop whenever there’s food in the preheated surface. It does this by injecting the heat to restore the temperature required for cooking. The 1800 Watts heating element of the Breville grill guarantees absolute temperature in the plate hence ensuring fast cooking. Also, it has a bottom plate where you can cook pancakes and eggs while the top surface is ribbed for meat. Besides, the plates are adjustable allowing a change of plate position, and you can open a BBQ.
You can use the full griddle to prepare French toast, bacon, fajitas, and eggs. When using the full Griddle, the outer cover should be opened so that it lies flat to create two cooking surfaces. Use the griddle side when using the heating functions. You can cook a variety of dishes using the full Griddle since it has a large surface area. It is constructed using the high-quality material, and its non-stick quality allows for easy cooking and cleaning.
The contact grill is used to prepare vegetables, burger, grills meat and seafood. Its contact grill function works perfectly especially when preparing food for a short period. It lets you grill both sides of the dish ensuring the food is ready within a short period. It has an immersible grill plate that joins with the grill spout that allows the grease to trickle down draining the plates. When using the contact grill, the cover should rest on the food until it gets thoroughly cooked. It has an adjustable lid that lets you hold food of different thickness.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a Panini, Grilled Cheese and Toasties?
The difference is inconsequential. According to the connoisseur, a Panini, a cheese aficionado, and an obsessive toastie-the three sandwiches are different in tastes, ingredients, and method of preparation.
In the US, grilling is a method of cooking using a wire grill pans over direct heat, for example, a BBQ. It consists of spreading cheese on a bread cooked in a frying pan. In the US, grilled cheese is also called melt- which consists of bread, cheese, and some meat or vegetable filling.
A Panini is also called a sandwich; it is an Italian word for Sandwich. Its plural form is Panino. It is a rectangular or cylindrical sandwich, toasted on a Panini press. Cheese can be spread but it’s not vital, and three or four ingredients are filled inside.
A toastie is a sliced bread filled with meat or vegetables, then heated and sealed between two surfaces of metal to avoid leaks.
What are the best features of your Panini press?
Our Panini press comes with some unique features. We have integrated our Panini press with a floating hinge that allows it to sit on top of the sandwich; thus it can accommodate thin and thick sandwiches. Also, they have adjustable height control that allows the cook to set enough height for preparing open-faced sandwiches which can be heated without the top plate sitting on it. Besides, our Panini presses have large plates thus you can grill five or six sandwiches at once.
I purchased my Panini press last month. I connected it to a working outlet, and the red light was on. However, the cooking plates or surface would not heat up. What could be the problem?
The heating elements located at the underneath of the Panini press are responsible for generating heating. Connecting a Panini Press into a 120V supply will heat up the surfaces; otherwise, there is a problem with the connection in the heating component. The electrical connection is composed of the electrical cables that transmit current to the heating element and solder joints that are used to join the wires to the heating element. Due to physical damage, these components can become defective. Kindly contact us we make an immediate appointment so that we can inspect the cause of the problem.
I am torn between purchasing your Cuisinart Griddler and Breville Smart Grill. How would you advise me so that I can make the best purchase between the two?
The Cuisinart and Breville have almost similar characteristics. You can prepare various dishes using either of them. Also, they are made from a pure stainless steel material, and they have a unique finish of silver. They have well-equipped interiors with non-stick coating. However, they have significant differences; Breville has large space capacity compared to Cuisinart, it has a space of 1.0 cubic feet while the latter has 0.6 cubic feet. Besides, the Breville has thirteen cooking functions, so you can choose to bake several dishes while Cuisinart has seven cooking functions.
I want to buy a Panini press, but I’m confused about the best brand. What are the factors to consider when buying the best brand Panini Press?
I would advise you to consider factors such as adaptability. Choose a Panini with reversible plates so that you can switch the grill into a flat electric griddle. Also, the cooking surface of the Panini Press should be wide enough so that it can hold more than one Panini at a time. Besides, a quality Panini press has adjustable controls for a burner and on/off switch.
What is the difference between an electric Panini and a grilled pan?
Both terms are interchangeably used to refer to the same product. The construction of both appliances is the same; two different plates with a raised grill on either side that are heated with an external source of heat. It is referred to as Panini if the appliance provides heat to the grill. However, if it holds and presses the sandwich with an external heat source for heating the surface, it is called the Panini press because it only holds the sandwich as it cooks.
Now you’ve seen the top 3 panini presses on the market. And by investing in your own panini press, you’re on your way to being able to partake in and share with others this most beloved of the world’s sandwiches!
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Image via Flickr Creative Commons License Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife.