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Oct 25, 2014

X-“Press” Shopping: Picking the Right Sandwich / Panini Grill

Posted: Oct 05, 2012

Grilled sandwiches have become an increasingly popular menu item in the past several decades; especially at cafes, Italians restaurants, or foodservice operations that have hefty lunch rushes.  When shopping around for a sandwich grill, the number of options can seem almost excessive.  Some of these choices directly affect the grills performance, and its intended use, while others are just personal preferences.  Here are a few things to bear in mind searching for the right sandwich grill.

To Groove Or Not To Groove?:  First off, there is a distinction that is made between sandwich grills.  Sandwich grills with flat grill plates are known as “sandwich presses”, and those with one or two grooved grill plates are known as “panini presses / grills”.  Sandwich presses can be used not only to grill sandwiches, but are often used to heat tortillas, and grill burritos or quesadillas.  The grooves on panini grills make them inadequate for heating items that require a flat surface, however they produce attractive grill marks and can even be used to drain the grease from grilling meats such as hamburgers.  Purchasing a grill with grooves or without them only marginally changes what the grill can heat, and the items that will be cooked on your grill should be taken into account before deciding.

Is There A Correct Grilling Surface?:  There are three main varieties of sandwich grill surfaces, though there is not a tremendous difference in their functionality.

  • Glass-Ceramic – Glass-ceramic are the least common variety of griddle plates on the market.  The opaque glass-ceramic plates allow infrared heat through to food, allowing the grill to heat up incredibly fast and reach incredibly high temperatures.  Additionally, while the grill surface can reach temperatures as high as 700°F, the rest of the machine stays in a range that is safe to touch.  These machines cool down the fastest.
  • Aluminum – Aluminum grill plates heat the most evenly of all grill plates.  Cast aluminum is a great conductor of heat, and the griddles heat up relatively quickly, but also lose their heat quickly as well.
  • Cast Iron – It should be noted that cast iron grill plates are the slowest to heat up, and can occasionally create hot spots.  That being said, cast iron holds heat better than aluminum or glass-ceramic grills, and tends to work better with grills that are on for prolonged periods of time.

Size:  Sandwich grills come in a wide variety of sizes.  Before purchasing a sandwich grill, the size of the entire grill (not just the grill surface) must be taken into account, as well as the size of products that will be cooked, and the expected volume of the machine.  For example, a business that grills a few 6” sandwiches could make due with a 14” griddle, as two to four sandwiches could be grilled at the same time.  However, for a company that does higher a volume of those sandwiches, or grills larger ones, a wider double grill with a split top may be a better option.

Add-Ons:  Many sandwich grills have a number of add-on accessories that can be useful depending on what they are being used for.  Items such as programmable timers, thermostatic controls, grease traps, and split tops (can be both flat, both grooved, or one of each) are common add-ons for sandwich grills.


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