Sandwich Makers Review
Why Get a Sandwich Maker?
The top performers in our review are West Bend Grill & Panini Press, the Gold Award winner; Cuisinart Griddler Grill & Panini Press, the Silver Award winner; and Hamilton Beach Panini Grill Gourmet Sandwich Maker, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a unit to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top 10 sandwich and panini makers.
Sometimes there is a gap between wanting to make a nice dinner and not having time and energy to cook. That space can be filled with a panini or grilled sandwich maker. It can help you craft relatively-fast food with less fuss and fat than a drive-through. A sandwich for dinner may seem underwhelming, but once you toast it in a high-quality flat sandwich press and add a few side dishes, the humble lunch staple can graduate with honors to become a nice dinner.
It can be great for lunches too. Since you eliminate the need to babysit and eventually flip the sandwich, this appliance can save you time. You just put your favorite ingredients between two slices of bread and then let the sandwich press do the rest. Clean-up is easier too, in most cases. There is no griddle or frying pan to deal with. Most of the units in our sandwich maker reviews only require you to wipe them down or throw their plates into the dishwasher.
A sandwich toaster is not exactly the most complicated of devices. It is basically a waffle iron with a different texture on the plates. But the best sandwich press will toast bread evenly and apply just the right amount of pressure to melt the cheese and warm all other ingredients to make your sandwich more delicious. It will toast the bread perfectly to be hot and crisp, not flat and soggy. To a sandwich lover the subtle differences will be well worth the investment. Our reviews and articles about sandwich and panini makers discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the best top ranked units.
Panini or Sandwich Maker?
There are quite a few choices when it comes to sandwich makers. Some of them produce a sort of sealed sandwich with little triangular pockets of ingredients. Others have a clamshell design with smooth plates that flatten and heat your sandwich on both sides. Panini sandwich makers have a ribbed surface and apply enough pressure to create grooves in the bread for a tasty and toasty texture while the ingredients inside are heated.
There also are a handful of breakfast sandwich makers on the market designed to help you layer and cook eggs and meat on a bagel or English muffin for a quick morning meal. Those are different enough that we opted not to include them in our electric sandwich maker reviews, but we did evaluate their plusses and minuses.
Sandwich Makers: How We Tested, What We Found
Our tests focused on electric, rather than camping cast iron sandwich presses. We wanted a level playing field, so we tested each unit with a sandwich that all the machines should handle well – grilled cheese. We graded them on how perfectly they could make that most basic grilled sandwich. Perfect in this case is melted cheese throughout and a crispy and evenly toasted crust. We also tested them on a basic panini recipe, with turkey, cheese and a pesto sauce. We were looking for toasted bread with grooves, warmed turkey and cheese that was melted but not oozing out.
We measured temperature on opposite sides of each unit to determine whether there was uniformity in heating. Most of these appliances do only one task, and they should do it perfectly in order to justify taking a parking spot on your countertop. Areas of untoasted or even less-toasted bread are unacceptable. We looked for even heating on our test sandwiches.
We timed how long it takes to assemble and clean each one, making note of convenient features like detachable and dishwasher-safe cooking plates, the ability to store the grilled cheese sandwich maker upright and truly non-stick cooking surfaces.
The well-designed units stay cool on the outside, including the handles, so they are more comfortable, convenient and safe to use. We adjusted some scores based on size, too. Some were so big that they would be cumbersome to clean and store, and some were so small that they would take too long to prepare a meal for even one or two people. The ones in the midrange for size are going to work best for the most people.
Sandwich Makers: Our Verdict and Recommendations
We were most impressed with the West Bend Grill & Panini Press, the Cuisinart Griddler Grill & Panini Press and the Hamilton Beach Panini Grill Gourmet Sandwich Maker. All of the units in our review made decent sandwiches but these three stood out.
Although the cooking surface is a little small, the quality of the sandwiches the West Bend Grill & Panini Press produced each time was undeniable. Whether we were making a basic grilled cheese or a panini, this unit toasted the outside and melted the ingredients inside perfectly, every time. The temperature and textures were spot on, demonstrating that it can be worth buying a specific tool for hot sandwiches.
The Cuisinart Griddler Grill & Panini Press also made a good impression throughout our testing. This sandwich maker took longer than the others, but it was worth the wait. The sandwiches came out crispy on the outside and evenly cooked and delicious on the inside.
The Hamilton Beach Panini Grill Gourmet Sandwich Maker lives up to its name by making basic sandwiches feel special, gourmet even. This unit produced all of the right temperatures and tastes on a relatively large scale, so it would be a good fit for families.
There are a lot of options for lunch and dinner, but a sandwich loaded with all of the best ingredients, hot off the panini press, is one of the best. A good sandwich maker can help you get something similar to that crisp, toasted sandwich that you enjoy at the neighborhood bistro, in minutes, in your own home.