If you and your family like to have homemade paninis wrapped for lunch, you may want to invest in a good panini press to make things easier. The best ones are multi-purpose grills, griddles and maybe even waffle makers, so it can be a good investment in your kitchen. It differs from a regular grill in that it has a top floating lid whose height can be adjusted to press lightly on the top of a panini for even grilling on the top and bottom. The best panini press with removable plates makes cleanup easy because you can remove the plates for cleaning with soap and water while the base unit can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.
While most plates are Teflon-coated, you can get models with BPA-free coating or ceramic ones. Being able to control the temperature is important too and try to get as much use out of your grill and panini press as possible by experimenting with different foods.
If you want to know what the current best rated panini press models are, read on. Or, if you have a small kitchen with no counter space for any of these options, check out our picks for top compact electric grills.
Table of Contents
- 1 Our Top Picks for a Panini Grill with Removable Plates
- 1.1 Breville BGR820XL Smart Grill
- 1.2 DeLonghi America Livenza All Day Combination Contact Grill and Open Barbecue
- 1.3 Cuisinart 5-in-1 GR-4N Griddler, Panini and Sandwich Press
- 1.4 Cuisinart GR-5B Series Griddler Five
- 1.5 Yedi Total Package 6-in-1 Digital Grill, Waffle Maker, Panini Press, Griddle
- 1.6 T-fal GC7 OptiGrill Stainless Steel Indoor Electric Grill
- 1.7 George Foreman GRP4842P Multi-Plate Evolve Grill
- 1.8 George Foreman GRP99 6-Serving Removable Plate Grill and Panini Press
- 2 FAQs
Our Top Picks for a Panini Grill with Removable Plates
Our top Panini Maker with Removable Plates
Breville BGR820XL Smart Grill
DeLonghi America Livenza All Day Combination Contact Grill and Open Barbecue
Cuisinart 5-in-1 GR-4N Griddler, Panini and Sandwich Press
Breville BGR820XL Smart Grill
If price is no object and you want bragging rights around your neighborhood, the Breville Smart Grill answers the question of “what is the best panini press to buy?”. You could safely say that this heavy duty unit is actually a barbecue grill/griddle that converts to a panini press, and you wouldn’t be far off base.
The floating hinges literally allow you to adjust the top lid to several different heights or open the grill up and make one large flat surface on which to cook or to press paninis, sandwiches and sliders no matter what height. Since the top can hover over the food, you can also use it to broil anything. Melt cheese on top of food or make open faced sandwiches as well.
When excess fat needs to drain off, the base can be tilted ever so slightly but made to lay flat when making pancakes or eggs.
There are two plates that are removable and interchangeable. One is a ridge grill plate and the other is a flat griddle plate. The LCD screen lets you see temperature and time, both of which are adjustable with digital knobs. The screen also changes color from orange, when the unit is preheating and cooking, to blue when it is cool and ready to touch.
Sensors adjust the heat automatically if you are adding or subtracting food. Essentially, it always keeps the grill at the same temperature regardless of whether the cover is open or closed. That makes for more effective cooking, and therefore makes this the best sandwich press grill for precise cooks. It even senses when the food is going to be done and shows you this information with a small timer on the LCD screen. It does this because the heating elements and the sensors are actually embedded into the plates, unlike other grills where the elements are below the plates. That makes for faster cooking and precise control. While the plates are top-rack dishwasher safe, they should preferably be hand washed to extend the life of the nonstick surface.
There are 3 pre-sets for temperature – “low,” to keep food warm after cooking, “panini” which adjusts to the perfect temp for panini sandwiches, and “sear” for steaks, pork and poultry to sear in the flavor. These range from 320F to 450F. Needless to say, if you are willing to pay the price for this unit, which is 2 to 3 times more than anything else on this list, you won’t be disappointed.
- The floating hinge makes grilling paninis and foods of any thickness easy.
- Cooks fast and steaks turn out really well.
- Large surface area when you open up the grill for BBQ mode.
- Smart sensors adjust the cooking for best results.
- Easy to clean.
- It takes up a lot of space and is quite heavy.
- You have to be careful when cleaning the non-stick surface or it will start to deteriorate over time.
DeLonghi America Livenza All Day Combination Contact Grill and Open Barbecue
The DeLonghi America Livenza All Day Combination Grill and BBQ is a sleek machine that is a lot like the Breville Smart Grill. This is also one of the best panini presses with removable plates. It allows you to cook paninis, turn the entire thing into a grill or griddle, or split each side into a partial griddle and partial grill. Thus, you are able to cook a couple of foods at once for a complete meal in a pinch. It’s also designed to ensure your food doesn’t get smushed in order to get an even cook. You have the option to add waffle plates as well and you’ll be sure to get really good waffles using them.
Furthermore, the plates are also removable and can be placed in the dishwasher to make cleanup fast and simple. The cooking surface is also pretty expansive, so you can cook for multiple people in one go. The heat is distributed evenly from top to bottom so you don’t have to constantly move your food around to make sure it cooks.
Like the Breville, this panini press machine is a little bit more substantial in size than other models, being about 20 pounds. This is perfect for a bigger family who wants to save time making a healthy meal. When you open up the machine all the way, you can cook on both sides, which is great if you’re using the grill or griddle function. There’s a large grease trap below to catch excess fat.
One of the unique perks you get with this panini press with waffle plates is an app you can download to give you inspiration for what to cook and healthy recipe ideas. You’ll even be told which settings you should use for these recipes, and the temperature is displayed on a large, easy-to-read screen.
One thing of note. Be careful while storing the plates as the way you do is up to you, but if they rub against each other, the surfaces will get scratched. The package includes a scraping tool to safely remove stuck on foods from the surfaces.
- You don’t have to wait very long for the machine to heat up.
- You can cook a variety of foods with this machine, especially healthy options.
- The press is large, so you can cook a lot of food at once.
- Cleans up easily.
- The machine comes at a high price point.
- The height adjusting mechanism that ensures your food doesn’t get crushed is a little difficult to master.
- The grease trap doesn’t catch the little bit of oil that drips when you lift the floating lid.
Cuisinart 5-in-1 GR-4N Griddler, Panini and Sandwich Press
The basics of every panini press are the floating hinges that allow the griddle plates to lay flat atop the panini sandwich. Of course the Cuisinart GR-4N Grill and sandwich toaster with removable plates has those, but instead of just being a dedicated panini press, it is so much more.
Grilling versatility is the name of the GR-4N’s game, and not only does it grill up great panini sandwiches, but it also acts like an indoor full and half grill, a contact grill, and a full and half griddle because of the choice of grill or griddle plates. Not only can you make panini sandwiches on this unit, but steaks, burgers, dogs, bacon and eggs, and even frozen fish sticks will all come out great. In fact, if you buy this model along with the waffle plates bundle, you can have Belgian waffles for breakfast too! Also learn more about the difference between a Belgian waffle maker and a regular waffle maker and how to make regular waffles using a Belgian waffle maker.
The plates are all removable and dishwasher safe and they are coated with a non-stick surface that is BPA free. But, for best results, always use a cooking spray when using this unit for more than heating up panini’s. You’ll greatly extend the life of the cooking surface by doing so. To help with cleaning up, you also get a scraping tool.
There are three dial controls – one selector to choose between grilling/panini making and griddling, and one each to control the temperature for each function from 200°F to 425°F. The sear function takes the temperature to 450°F. An integrated drip tray allows for drainage of excess fat.
A more advanced model featured in our head to head comparison of the T-Fal Optigrill Vs Cuisinart Griddler Vs George Foreman Grill.
- Clean up is super easy.
- The control knobs are simple to use.
- Almost no smoke even when grilling meat.
- Can grill and cook anything from meat and fish to waffles and paninis.
- The cord is a bit short.
- The waffle plates have to be purchased separately.
- Some units heat the top and bottom plates unevenly.
Cuisinart GR-5B Series Griddler Five
For a little bit more you can upgrade to a digital version of the above model and have a simplified temperature selection method for the various cooking methods. The Cuisinart GR-5B Series Griddler Five stainless steel panini press is easy to use if you’re a beginner when it comes to using any sort of tabletop appliance.
The digital controls allow you to monitor the temperature so you know how your panini is cooking at all times. You also get a nice range of temperatures so that you can cook food thoroughly without burning it or undercooking it.
The plates that come with the machine are reversible, meaning less product for more use. The machine is also easy to lift and carry, being that it is so lightweight. It’s also compact enough that you can store it in a smaller kitchen, or keep it on a small countertop without taking up too much space.
Apart from making delicious and hot paninis, there are also griddle plates and searing options that allow you to use this press for so much more. You can grill or sear a variety of meats and vegetables for a thorough cook. You just need to scroll through the options that display on the LCD display to find the right one and then set the required temperature.
The top floating cover ensures a firm and even contact of the panini with the plates without crushing it in between. If you want to double the surface area to grill foods, then you can release the hinge to open up the cover and lay it flat. There’s a removable plastic tray at the back to catch any grease that could build up.
The griddle and cooking plates in this panini press are easy to take out, and cleanup is simple. You can easily throw them in the dishwasher. If you need to scrape anything off the surface before washing them, there is a special scraper tool that comes with the panini press to ensure you don’t damage the plates.
- Plates can be swapped out to allow you to use this press for 5 different purposes.
- The plates and machine are very easy to clean.
- Good value for the price point.
- The compact design is ideal for small kitchens.
- The top plate heating is a little weaker than the bottom on a few pieces.
- There have been some complaints about the controls falling off or breaking.
- You have to buy the waffle plates separately.
Yedi Total Package 6-in-1 Digital Grill, Waffle Maker, Panini Press, Griddle
You can get a panini press that does more than just cook excellent sandwiches without having to break the bank, as can be seen with this Yedi Total Package 6-in-1 panini press. You can grill all types of meat, seafood, and vegetables, make crispy waffles, cook hot sandwiches in a breeze, and make a quick breakfast with the griddle.
The machine heats up quickly, and you can even make the top temperature and bottom temperature different if need be. There are 3 buttons to select either or both grills and two sets of buttons to control the temperature and the amount of time to cook. It preheats quickly and maintains a steady temperature throughout. However, the temperature is only relative and can’t be set to a specific level. The minimum is 175°F and the maximum is 450°F.
You also get some bonus egg rings to help you make breakfast sandwiches at home, or just have Instagramable eggs. Furthermore, you’re given a heat-resistant spatula and tong set to use with your panini press. If you need double the surface area to do this or grill several burger patties at a time, you can use the lay flat feature where the top grill can be swiveled down to lie next to the bottom one.
Once you’re done cooking, you can slip the plates off and throw them in the dishwasher. The plates are also reversible, so you have fewer plates to cook more types of foods with. This is helpful because storing your panini press will take you less room in your kitchen.
The tray that catches your grease and oil can also go in the dishwasher. If you’re not in love with this panini press or have some issues with your particular model, you also get a warranty for two years to get a replacement or a refund.
- The price point is very affordable compared to other panini presses.
- It’s very user friendly.
- Food doesn’t stick to the plates even without oil or butter.
- Can be rested on its side for storage.
- Affordable price.
- The top and bottom heating elements don’t heat very evenly.
- There is no exact temperature setting control, just increase and decrease temperature buttons.
- The grease tray could be bigger.
- Once the timer gets to 0, the unit automatically turns off, but you can not set the timer to avoid this.
T-fal GC7 OptiGrill Stainless Steel Indoor Electric Grill
If you want one of the most advanced and capable panini making contact grills with removable plates, then you’ll have to check out the T-fal GC702D OptiGrill. This digital wonder grill gives you complete and total control of your cooking and grilling every step of the way. In fact, Oprah Winfrey was so impressed with it that she included it in her famous list of favorite things for 2015!
First of all, there are 6 pre-set cooking functions which are burgers, poultry, sandwiches, sausage, red meat and fish. There is an automatic sensor side indicator that shows you when everything is ready as well. If you want to cook your foods manually, you can switch the sensor off and you have a choice of cooking foods without the top grill in contact.
Here’s how the auto sensor works. Let’s say you are making a steak. Push the red meat button, and the indicator tells you the grill is heating. After heating to the correct temperature, it then tells you it’s ready, and as the meat cooks and the top lid helps sense the thickness of the steak, it adapts cooking time and lets you know the stages of doneness. From, rare, to medium and well-done. You can do this with any of the pre-sets, and when your food is cooked, the grill will let you know.
There is even a defrost function to thaw your food first before cooking, and of course, the floating hinges and sensor always make sure your panini sandwich will be perfectly done and ready when you are.
The grill is angled to prevent food from sitting in its own excess fat and the drip tray, as well as the removable plates, are dishwasher safe.
- Cooks by adapting to the thickness of the foods and to the choice of well done, medium, and rare.
- Can directly cook frozen food in a special mode.
- Audible beep and indicator light to let you step away for other tasks.
- Powerful heating element.
- So powerful that some users complain that it causes short circuits.
- Some of the juices can be pressed out of meats that are being grilled.
George Foreman GRP4842P Multi-Plate Evolve Grill
This may be the most versatile panini maker ever, and in fact, it may be a better idea if it was called a compact oven and grill combo! The George Foreman GRP4842P Evolve Grill should be your pick if you want unmatched versatility for grilling and basic space saving baking, as it is the a grill and compact oven, making it the best panini press for the money.
Amazing might be the best way to describe this generation of the Foreman grill. The floating hinge idea has been taken to a new level. Since the top grill “floats” up to a parallel angle over the bottom grill, you can actually remove the grill plates if you want and insert and cover baking pans and cupcake pans, which are included with your purchase. You can literally bake your favorite red velvet pan cake or make half-a-dozen muffins on this grill. Virtually anything that will fit into a cake pan, like quiche, meatballs, stuffed mushrooms, can be cooked on the grill. It’s the most novel idea on this list.
Because both grill sides heat, your baked goods will come out faster than if you put them in an oven. That’s both time savings and energy savings too. And, the digital temperature and timer controls let you cook or bake for however long the recipe calls for. There is also a sear option that can start your meat off on the highest 500F setting for 90 seconds so you can get the nice grill marks on the surface of your steak before the temperature is lowered to finish off cooking.
The grill angle can be adjusted to flat or slanted. The flat angle is used for paninis, while the slanted is best for grilling. Of course, you can’t bake at an angle either!
The non-stick grill coating is ceramic, so there are no harmful chemicals to worry about. All of the accessories and the plates are dishwasher safe. Take a look at our recommendations for ceramic coated waffle makers too.
- Sears meats really well.
- The ceramic surface is genuinely non-stick and easy to remove cooked food off of.
- Easy clean panini press.
- Cooks things fast so no one has to wait much to be served.
- Very good 3 year warranty.
- The optional grill plates are hard to find.
- The surface can be too slippery for foods like bacon.
- Waffle batter spills out the back and a little on the sides unless you pour very little right in the center of each plate.
George Foreman GRP99 6-Serving Removable Plate Grill and Panini Press
George Foreman is known for their tabletop grills even if some models come with basic functionality, and this compact yet powerful panini press is no exception. It is more affordable than the GRP4842P above but it’s not as good at searing meat as there’s no sear function here, but it can be set between 300° and 425°F. It does come with a larger surface area, however, so you can get 4-6 servings cooked at a time.
It comes with 2 ribbed grill plates to give you plenty of options for how to use this press for more than just paninis. They can also be switched out easily and can be popped in the dishwasher when they need to be cleaned. These plates are not ceramic non-stick but high quality non-stick.
You are able to control the temperature with an easy-to-read digital control, and the handles are cool-touch so you can open and close your press without being afraid of burning yourself. The way the heat is distributed in the elements that are embedded within the machine ensures your food gets cooked all the way through. The top lid floats just a little above the bottom plate so that there’s space for a 1.5-inch panini to grill without getting smushed. You can grill just about anything you can think of using the grilling plates.
There are features unique to this George Foreman grill to enhance your tabletop grilling experience. This includes the patented slope that is supposed to cut down the fat and grease produced. The grease drains into two drip trays below although they’re slightly inadequate for high-fat foods.
- The nonstick surface will last you quite a few years.
- The machine preheats pretty quickly.
- The floating hinge lets you to cook food of varying thickness.
- The removable plates and drip trays are easy to take in and out and clean in the dishwasher.
- There have been some complaints about the grease trap not being adequate.
- Not hot enough to sear steaks.
Panini presses are constructed from heavier plates than sandwich makers and toasters and they allow for more fillings to go between the pieces of bread. Sandwich toasters consist of smaller indented triangular plates so the toasted bread will be in the form of triangles and snugly encapsulate the sandwich filling.
Yes, you can cook eggs on a panini press, especially if it has a flat griddle surface. You can brush it lightly with oil and make delicious fried eggs or omelets just like in a frying pan. The top lid can be closed so that the top of the egg grills at the same time, which makes it unnecessary to flip it over.
Yes, you can cook a burger on a panini press. If the press comes with interchangeable grill plates, you have the option to cook them open top just like with a regular grill, or you can use the press plates and close the top cover over the patties to get them to cook evenly and even press out some of the excess fat.