A panini is the modern evolution of the American grilled cheese. And yet… the panini made its mark long before America claimed the grilled cheese as the number one hot sandwich.
In fact, America didn’t even exist yet when people were feasting on paninis. They go all the way back to the 16th century according to a little Italian cookbook from the 1500s. This tasty Italian invention is commonly made with hearty, rustic bread, cheese, veggies, and sauce.
Grilling up a panini with all your favorite fillings is the perfect way to enjoy your favorite comfort food right at home. Creating mouth watering sandwich maker recipes is always a new adventure because using a panini press or grill allows you flexibility and creativity to create something new every single time.
They’re different from standard grilled cheese sandwiches which are toasted on a hot, flat pan. The trademark of the panini is the perfectly lined up array of grilled marks on the outer crust of the sandwich. These grill marks are only possible from using an outdoor grill, indoor panini grill, or a panini press. Don’t be put off by these grills, they are super easy to clean with these 4 steps.
But what’s the difference between a Panini press & a Panini Grill? Aren’t they the same thing?…
The Difference Between a Panini Press & a Panini Grill?
Of the three options, the two most commonly used are the panini grill and the panini press. But what’s the difference? Aren’t they the same thing? Often times, people will use the terms panini press and panini grill interchangeably, when in reality, they’re quite different.
Keep reading to learn what the difference between the two appliances are, the pros and cons, and ultimately what we recommend you use.
Psssst! If you don’t want to read the whole article and just want to know what one we recommend, just scroll down to the bottom of the page!
What is a Panini Press?
The basic design of a panini press and a panini grill are the same.
There are two ridged plates, one on the bottom and one on top used to put pressure on the sandwich pressing it together.
The core difference of a Panini press and a Panini grill is the source of the heat.
With a panini press, the heat source is outside – from your stove, or if you’re outside a barbecue or even a campfire.
Pros And Cons Of a Panini Press
A panini press is the manual version of the panini grill. It’s similar in how it works to the camping jaffle maker (waffle irons). It can be used wherever you have a heat source.
The most common version to use is the Pan-Style press – A cast iron pan with the grill ridges on the bottom to put the sandwich on along with a separate top plate with ridges to put on and take off of the sandwich (similar to a lid for your regular pans, but fits right inside the pan on top of the sandwich).
Just heat up the press on top of the stove or campfire for about 10 minutes then throw on your sandwich.
Pros of a Panini Press
- Can take it camping without a power source
- Easy to store in your cupboards – fits with your pans
- Control the heat how you want
- Usable on a stovetop, barbecue, or campfire
- They cost less (initial cost and reduced electrical bill)
Cons of a Panini Press
- Requires more time to heat up
- Harder to maintain heat control
- Smaller surface area
- Can cook fewer sandwiches
- Takes more effort to cook efficiently
- Extra oils and fats remain
What is a Panini Grill?
With the panini grill, the heat source is internal.
With the two plates connected within the electrical appliance so you don’t need an outside source of heat.
The simplest way to think about it is this:
If the appliance creates the heat to grill the panini, it’s a panini grill. If it just presses the sandwich together while it cooks on a different heating device, it’s a panini press.
Pros And Cons Of a Panini Grill
The panini grill is the electric version of the panini press. They do not require an outside heating source to cook your panini, however, they do require an outlet to plug into.
As an all-in-one machine, the panini grill just needs to be simply plugged into a power source to turn on, as most of them have a preset temperature to heat so if you’d like to fire it up. Most panini grills are equipped with an oil run-off (grease cup) that collects any extra fat from the sandwich.
When you’re done with the machine, turn the knob off, unplug it, then wipe the plates down once their cool, and empty the grease cup. Most machines allow you to remove the plates for an easy clean.
Pros of Using a Panini Grill
- Ease of use
- Versatility in cooking options
- Heats up quickly in 3-5 minutes
- Cook more at once
- Healthier cooking – easily drain off extra oil
- More consistency with temperatures
Cons of Using a Panini Grill
- Most aren’t very mobile
- Requires a power source to work
- Heat temperature caps out
- Bulky size – hard to store in cupboards
- Bigger investment
What’s Better, a Panini Press or a Panini Grill?
When it comes to choosing between getting a manual panini press or an electric panini grill, it all depends on how you will be using it.
If you’re the outdoorsy type and you plan on going on multiple camping trips throughout the year to cook up a panini wherever you go – on the campfire or on the barbecue, then you’ll want to go with the panini press.
The panini press may also intrigue the aspiring chef to have a bit more control in the kitchen to fire up their panini however they wish and make that pan however hot they need.
The press is a cheaper, mobile option and ultimately requires a bit more work, so if you’re willing to put in the work for the benefits of mobility, go with the panini press.
If you’re wanting something simple, to be able to replace your same old kitchen habits of “boil this” or “cook this in the oven” with another fancy tool, then you’ll want to go with the panini grill.
The panini grill is for the person who wants to be able to fire up a panini sandwich at home quickly, efficiently, without having to do much thinking (or work).
If you do a lot of home cooking, or will likely have friends and family over and want to impress them, then the panini grill is for you. Because it is a larger surface area and most have a preset temperature, you can pump out a lot of sandwiches with solid consistency.
Plus, if you’re wanting to stay a bit healthier, the grease trap allows you to eliminate some of that unnecessary fat in your foods so you can craft a tasty, gourmet sandwich that won’t hurt your waistline.
All in all, the winner here is the panini grill. It’s simple. It’s consistent. It can cook a tasty sandwich (or a dozen) in no time at all… Even though it’s a bit more of an investment, it’s worth it.