Hot off the panini press

To paraphrase the Gershwins, “You say panini, I say panino...” Technically, if you’re making just one of these popular Italian-style grilled sandwiches, it’s a panino; more than one, it’s panini. No matter what you call them, you need a dedicated grill to make a panino or panini the right way.

Size matters
Start by determining the number of panini you currently serve (or think you’ll serve). For small operations where counter space is a premium, such as coffee cafes with a limited sandwich menu, a compact model with a small (10 by 10-inch) grill surface may suffice for doing one sandwich at a time. Estimate about a 12 by 16-inch footprint.

Operations that do a moderate volume may opt for the standard-size 14- by 14-inch grill to produce two or three sandwiches at once; the footprint runs about 16 x 20 inches. For high-volume sandwich concepts and specialty panini shops, a dual-grill model may be best. The surface on these models averages 14-in deep, but ranges between 20 and 28 inches in width, allowing for four to six sandwiches to be grilled at the same time. Some of the dual-grill models have a divided top plate and individual on/off controls, which allow each half of the unit to be used only as needed.

In the groove
The cooking plates on panini grills can be either flat or grooved. The grooved plates produce the classic “grill mark” look. Flat plates, though, allow for other types of sandwiches, burgers and chicken breasts to be prepared on the grill as well.

When purchasing, check the coating, if any, on the grill plates. Many models, like Vollrath’s Anvil Style Sandwich Press, have a nonstick coating, which is handy if you’re dealing with gooey cheese. Expect to pay slightly more for nonstick models. Grills with cast iron surfaces may require seasoning and special cleaning products.

The small stuff
A few additional features to check:

  • Adjustable top plate. A “floating hinge” or counterbalanced top plate, like the one on Cecilware’s Sandwich Grills, will make grilling thick sandwiches easier.
  • Grease pan or trough. A front-mounted grease drawer makes for easier cleaning .
  • Ergonomic handles that are easy to grip, comfortable and heat-resistant.
  • A timer may be a useful option to prevent over-grilling of sandwiches.

Selected Compace Panini Grills At A Glance

Manufacturer/modelSize (H [closed] x W x D)Flat/GroovedTimerOther features
Cadco CPG-107 x 13 x 18 in.Grooved (flat also available)NoAdjustable up to 700°F; glass grill surface
Equipex Savoy10 x 13 x 17 in.GroovedOptionalCast iron grill plates; detachable front drip tray
Eurodib Elio9.25 x 10.25 x 17.125 in.GroovedNoNonstick cast iron grill plates; adjustable hinge mechanism; front-mounted grease drawer
Globe Products Bistro Series GSG109 x 13.25 x 12.875 in.Flat (grooved also available)NoCast iron grill plates; optional cleaning brush
Star Manufacturing Pro-Max CG10IE14.25 x 16.125 x 21.125 in.GroovedYesCast iron grill plates; front-mounted grease drawer


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