A panini is an Italian style sandwich that is served hot and usually grilled and pressed. They have become popular internationally as an delicious and portable meal on the go. The sandwiches can be filled with any kind of sandwich meat, cheese or vegetables. Panini makers speed the process of making the sandwiches and can be used to cook a variety of other foods. Before purchasing a panini maker, decide how much you are willing to spend and what you will use the press for.
Panini pans and presses range from about twenty dollars to a hundred or more for a high end, multi-functional press. Simpler pans will be cast iron with raised ridges to give bread grill marks, and some of these pans will come with a heavy weight to press the sandwich. They are easy to use on a regular stove and can also be used to grill chicken or hamburgers without having to start up a grill. If your pan does not have a press, simply use a spatula to press the sandwich onto the pan to get the traditional grill marks on the panini.
More expensive panini makers will be electric stand alone models with two hot surfaces. Cuisinart has a 5 in 1 model that functions as griddle, grill and panini press. There are other similar models from other manufacturers that include functions such as a built in drip tray, reversible cooking plates and temperature gauges. Although pricer, these models can be convenient for small kitchens or dorms because they function is many different ways.
Panini sandwiches are great for a quick but hot dinner. With tight budgets and little time to cook elaborate family dinners, panini presses are a great way to turn a regular boring sandwich into a yummy dinner in no time at all.