From Cuban to Panini, sandwich just taste better when its press. Before Electric Press were a thing, Cast Iron Sandwich and Panini Press was the go to tool. I argue that its still better than the electric variety that you get today. You can control the heat better and you get better results. However, Lots of press these day arent designed for sandwich. They are rectangular and designed for other purpose. The Best Cast Iron Sandwich and Panini Press should be tight fitting and give clear and defined grill mark.
What is a Cast Iron Panini Press
A cast iron sandwich or panini press is a press designed specifically to make sandwich. The Grooves and size is tight fitting with the grill pan underneath. There are other cast iron press, but those are meant push steaks and burger down. While you can try to attempt to use it, the size are usually too small to work. Then end result is a partially pressed sandwich. You need something that will cover the whole sandwich.
Electric vs Stove Top Press
Today, the electric model are the most popular. You have literally unlimited options from cuisinart to breville. They work via electricity and generally work fairly well. However, they never get as hot as the stove top model. They also take up quite a bit of room compared to the griddle.
I would argue that the stove top griddle is better for high volume sandwiches. Since these pans stays hot, you can keep on churning them out as soon the sandwich is assembled.
How to Use a Cast Iron Sandwich Maker
There are a few ways to use a cast iron sandwich maker. The method that I use is quicker and more effective. Heat Both the Press and Pan on seperate burner. When they are hot, grease both side with a brush, you can also grease the sandwich is if it makes it easier. Place the sandwich on the center and press down. I would check the sandwich after 30 second to see how dark it is.
Another way to do this is by heating the griddle. Once its hot, add butter than place the sandwich on. Press down and wait for it to brown. Once done, flip it and press again. Be sure that it fits the grove. This way the sandwich will have uniform grill marks.
How to Clean
To clean, I recommend a simple wipe down. If necessary, use some mild dish soap to clean the excess grease. However, be careful about scrubbing too hard, it can remove the seasoning. For models with a enamel coating, those can stand harsher soap. I recommend getting a cast iron grill brush if you dont have one.
If you notice that you have stubborn stuck on food. Using salt as a abrasive with a paper towel should work fairly well.
Best Cast Iron Sandwich and Panini Press List
Below, you will find a list of some of the Best Cast Iron Sandwich and Panini Press. There are a few models available, choose one that best suits your need.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Panini Press (Best Overall)
Le Creuest Enamel Cast Iron Press is my favorite press for sandwiches. It fits perfectly with their cast iron griddle and the groves are the right size for clear and defined mark. The construction is covered with black enamel so that it wont rust like the other models. And since its for sandwiches, sticking isnt really much of an issue. The only issue with this is that its a lot more expensive than the other brands. Be careful of the plastic knob, heat it too much and it can melt. I recommend switching it for a metal one if you can.
Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Square Panini Press (Best Alternative)
If you have a Enamel Grill from Lodge, than this press is a good alternative. The color matches their pan for a complete set. However, prices has been rising since it first release. I believe that lodge stopped making this making it more expensive. Nevertheless, you can heat it on the stove much like the Le Creuset model and its tight fitting. Be careful though, the knob is made of metal and it will get hot.
Norpro Mini Cast Iron Panini Pan with Press (Best for Small Sandwich)
The standard white sandwich is widely eaten and available in american super market. If this is what you mainly eat, this cute and small grill and press combo is for you. Its affordable and functional. The small size of the press also means that it takes up less space. Unlike the other model, this uses bare cast iron so it will heat up faster as well. When cleaning, be sure to dry it thoroughly. If you strip the seasoning or let it soak in water, rust can form. in that case, a quick sandpaper treatment should work.
Norpro Italian Panini Sandwich Press And Steak Chicken Grill Cast Iron (Best Buy)
Le Creuset and Lodge are nice, but you are also paying a premium. They work best with their own skillet. But if you have a generic one, then getting a generic press would be good as well. This model uses bare cast iron so that it transmit heat better and generally perform better as well. However, its not as tight fitting as the other model. Nevertheless, it works well for round and square grills alike and its a fraction of the price.
Using a Cast Iron Sandwich and Panini Press is great for making deep and beautiful grill mark. They work better than the electric model and take up less space. Models with a tight fitting press works best. They fit the groves better and have better grill lines. If you have a Le Creuset model, get le creuset. For Lodge get lodge. However, if you have a generic grill, then maybe a generic model from Norpro is better. Its a lot cheaper as well.
Like indoor grilling? Check out our article on the Best Grill Pan.