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The best panini press for getting those perfect sear marks

There’s something about a hot sandwich that’s crispy on the outside and melty on the inside that’s oh-so-satisfying. But you can’t get those perfect sear marks on your sandwich, wrap, or burrito without a panini press. Whether you’re making sandwiches for lunch, hosting a summer barbecue, or you just love crispy wraps and burritos anytime of the year, a panini press is a must-have addition to your kitchen. Plus, a lot of these panini presses double as a grill or griddle, so you’re getting two or three appliances in one. We’ve rounded up our favorites, so you can make an informed decision.

Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler ($74)

This panini press is one of the most popular models on the market today, and for good reason. This 5-in-1 unit sits on your countertop and will act as a contact grill, full grill, full griddle, and half grill/half griddle, in addition to a panini press. The design is sturdy and reliable, with stainless-steel housing and a floating cover that can move to accommodate how thick your sandwich is (let’s face it: when you get a little too greedy with the bacon, you end up with a pretty darned big sandwich).

The 11- by 9-inch cooking plates are removable, reversible, and non-stick, so you won’t be ingesting anything besides delicious panini. The drip tray will also help catch spills and grease, thus minimizing clean-up effort. While making your panini, you can control the temperature seamlessly using the built-in controls, letting you bring your sandwich to the optimal crispy-to-gooey ratio.

DeLonghi Digital All-Day Contact Grill ($300)

Want a panini press that produces minimal fuss and maximum deliciousness? This machine will perfectly toast whatever you put in there, be it a slice of bread, a gooey burrito, or cut of steak. Thanks to the included waffle plates, this grill can even cook up some waffles for brunch. This appliance functions as a contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, half grill/half griddle, and waffle maker, so you can get one appliance in the place of many that takes you from breakfast to dinner.

The embedded heating elements ensure even cooking with no hotspots, and the integrated drip tray makes home cooking even healthier. The hanging hinge makes it easy to customize the grill to accommodate whatever you’re cooking, and the extra-wide cooking surface, which measures 9 by 15 inches, is large enough to cook a meal for the whole family. No wonder this DeLonghi grill was a part of Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2016.

Read our review here.

Oster Titanium-Infused DuraCeramic 2-in-1 Panini Maker and Grill ($30)

This Oster press opens up 180 degrees, allowing it to double as a countertop grill, thus saving you kitchen space as well as money. But what really sets this panini press apart from the others is its titanium-infused DuraCeramic nonstick coating, which easily wipes clean without any annoying flaking or peeling. Plus, it doesn’t include any Teflon, which can produce toxic fumes when cooking food at high temperatures. The ceramic surface will last eight times longer and cook 30 percent faster when compared to nonstick surfaces at similar price points. The panini press also includes two plastic drip cups that catch spills and grease, making your clean-up job even easier.

Hamilton Beach 25462Z Panini Press Gourmet Sandwich Maker ($26)

You don’t have to pay top dollar for machines to produce crispy, melty paninis. This appliance from Hamilton Beach is easy on the wallet without sacrificing quality. The floating lid allows you to grill sandwiches, wraps, and burritos of varying thicknesses, producing even sear marks on whatever you want to press. Want to heat up an open-face sandwich or even a slice of pizza? You can lock the lid in place so that it hovers on top of your food without actually touching it — there’s nothing worse than lifting up a press only to realize your pizza lost its cheese! The cooking surface is 10 by 8 inches and gives you plenty of cooking space that can accommodate two or even three sandwiches. The nonstick surface wipes down clean in a jiffy with only a damp cloth.

1800-Watt Griddler Elite Indoor Grill/Griddle/Press ($188)

For an extra durable panini press that is guaranteed to stand the test of time, check out this model. The hard-anodized material of the exterior is dense and sturdy, designed to be resistant to most wear and tear. The inside is just as hardy, with a quantanium non-stick surface that is reinforced with titanium, allowing users to cook food quickly and wipe the surface down easily. The cooking process distributes heat evenly, so you end up with consistent temperatures and no hot spots. The Cool Grip riveted handle is another useful feature that ensures the handle stays cool, even when your sandwich is bubbling up nice and hot inside the press. What’s more is that this panini press also functions as a grill, griddle, half grill, and half griddle, and it can also top-melt your open-face sandwiches, meats, and pizzas. Use the handy electronic display to set a timer and monitor the temperature of the cooking surface, while you fry an egg on one side and heat up bacon on the other.

Breville BGR820XL Smart Grill ($280)

This smart grill from Breville is one of the most advanced panini presses you’ll find on the market today. The grill has built-in heat sensors that work to detect whether more heat needs to be produced in order to compensate for cold food being placed in the press. You can also choose from different temperature settings with Low, Panini, and Sear modes. The grill also has six different height settings that can be easily adjusted, helping you get the perfect sear marks no matter how large your burrito is. Need to grill meat or vegetables rather than press a sandwich? Simply open the grill 180 degrees to turn the panini press into a barbecue. The plates are removable and dishwasher-safe, giving you a relatively easy clean-up job even when cooking the juiciest of paninis.

Avantco P78 Grooved Commercial Panini Sandwich Grill ($200)

Want a truly powerful panini press that can handle commercial-level demands? If you run a food truck or sandwich stand, or you consistently host impressive block parties, you’ll need a grill that can cook all different kinds of foods quickly and efficiently. With this panini press, you can make hot sandwiches, hamburgers, cheesy quesadillas, and much more. The 17 by 12-inch size is large enough to cook multiple things at once, but compact enough to fit neatly in your vehicle trunk. The grooved grill plates, coupled with 1750 watts of heating power, will produce those beautiful sear marks on your sandwiches, and the adjustable temperature (between 120 and 570 degrees) will give you full control over how crispy or gooey your sandwiches get. A drip tray is included for minimal clean-up hassle.

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