Sometimes slow and steady wins the race. That did not happen this time, but it was close. The Cuisinart Griddler & Panini Press makes delicious sandwiches for us and has most of the features we were looking for as we did our sandwich maker reviews. The only real problem is it takes a long time. However, the results are worth the wait.
The sandwiches produced by this unit generally were quite good – crisp where they should be crisp and melted where they should be melted. The melted cheese typically stayed inside the bread and the grill marks were perfectly spaced and crisped. The bread was compressed but not cracker-thin, which is what we got from some in our comparison.
There were some trouble spots, though, even beyond the noticeably long cooking time. In some tests the top of the sandwich was less toasted than the bottom. This sandwich grill also tended to apply more pressure to one side than the other. That was not the case with similar units. There was occasionally a lighter spot on the bread in some tests, too. We were not expecting perfection, but we prefer the units that cook as evenly as possible.
There is a nice level of versatility with this sandwich toaster. It opens flat to expand the grilling surface, and the temperature is preset to be perfect for burgers and steaks in addition to paninis. There is a removable grease reservoir too so you can clean up easily after preparing meats. The adjustable feet on the front increase the incline so the grease will naturally drain when you are cooking juicy meats.
Even though cooking times are rather long with this unit, getting it ready for cooking was fast and easy. We had it assembled and preheated in five minutes. There were some competing products that were ready faster, but five minutes is fine for most schedules and still relatively speedy.
This is one of the best units for cleanup. Removable plates can go right in the dishwasher. That can be especially nice for sterilizing surfaces after cooking meats and before putting your sandwich bread on for a panini. Even if you hand-wash it, the cleaning is really simple and speedy. Very little bread or cheese was sticking to this sandwich maker at the end of our testing. What little residue we could find came right off.
This unit is somewhere in the middle of the pack for size. The Cuisinart may seem small if you are cooking for a big group on a regular basis, but it should be fine for most kitchens. You can fit two average-sized sandwiches or one large panini at a time. If want a larger sandwich maker, try the DeLonghi Contact Grill & Panini Press CGH800 that gives you 112 square inches of cooking space.
A cord wrap will help you control how much counter space this appliance occupies when in use and when in storage. This one does not allow you to attach the two sides to each other for upright storage, but it does not take that much space when it is on your countertop flat anyway.
Some sandwich makers do better in terms of keeping the outside of the machine comfortably cool. This one gets quite hot, so you might get burned if you touch the shell.
Cuisinart backs this product with a one-year warranty, and the answers to most questions you may have are easily accessed with a downloadable PDF of the manual online. If you still have concerns you can email or call Cuisinart.
Cuisinart's Griddler & Panini Press is a little slow when compared with the cooking times of others in our lineup, but this sandwich maker is close to perfect when it comes to the final sandwich. It also is convenient and versatile with removable and dishwasher-safe plates, a grease tray and adjustable feet for better grease drainage. The paninis and sandwiches we got from the Griddler were great and worth a bit of a wait, especially if you would like to have the ability to cook burgers on a small countertop unit in addition to grilling sandwiches.