Sometimes called a “panini press,” “sandwich press,” or “clamshell grill”, a panini grill is a countertop cooking appliance, almost always electric, that features two grill plates: one below and one above. Operators place a sandwich, for example, on the bottom grill plate and then gently “press” the top plate down on top of the sandwich. The sandwich is grilled from both above and below simultaneously via direct contact. Cooking time is cut in half.
Panini grills typically operate between 120° and 550° Fahrenheit or more. Built in timers are convenient. Panini grills come in a wide variety of sizes with some single units as small as 9” x 9” or less. Double units with split tops and dual controls can get as large as 20” x 30” or more. Select a model that meets your volume requirement and duty level, without taking up too much workspace.
Panini grills come with either smooth or grooved plates. Smooth grill plates cook evenly and caramelize the surface of bread while crisping the edges. Grooved plates create grill marks and a slightly charred flavor. Models with a smooth bottom and grooved top are available as are models with reversible plates on top and bottom. Plates are typically nonstick, cast iron, or aluminum.
Although originally designed for sandwiches, many operators have leveraged the speed and versatility of panini grills for other applications such as;
- grilled vegetables
- chicken breasts
- fish fillets
- shish kabobs
- hash browns
With the top down, bacon cooks fast without curling or splattering. If planning to cook bacon or raw hamburger, make sure your unit has a drip tray or grease trough to control runoff.
When selecting a unit, pay close attention to the top hinge. Floating, self-leveling, and adjustable hinges will allow you to cook thicker products, more evenly, without crushing them unnecessarily. Star Manufacturing features a large selection of commercial panini grills.