Grilling, Double Time
Whether grooved or flat-surfaced,
today’s panini grills give you superior double-sided cooking
ability to make those nifty sandwiches—and more—in a jiffy.
By Lisa Schwartz
grill-marked sandwiches stuffed with ingredients—are popping
up all over, as are the grills used to prepare them. And no
wonder: Paninis are easy to make, and the countertop,
grooved-surface grills can go just about anywhere.
But that doesn’t mean you should saunter out and plunk down
money on any panini grill that looks good to you. We’re
aware of seven suppliers selling this type of grill—Anetsberger
Bros., Equipex Ltd., Lang Mfg., Silesia Grill Machines, Star
Mfg. Co., Taylor Co. and Toastmaster—and among them we count
20 basic models. That’s quite a field.
So we’ve gathered info on key materials and operating
features to help you sort out the options. We quizzed
manufacturers, for example, about platen adjustment, heating
elements and temperature control. And we noted special
features and options.
“Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun…”
By definition, a panini grill cooks both sides of a sandwich
simultaneously and makes those distinctive grill marks. Most
panini grills feature grooves on both the top and bottom
platens, although you can order a grill with just one
grooved surface. And a grill with a smooth lower surface
increases your versatility by allowing you to cook breakfast
items, tortilla breads, Reubens and other sandwiches that
don’t require grill marks.
All the electric models shown here are countertop units that
can also be mounted on stands. You can order virtually any
combination of flat or grooved surfaces for top and bottom
platens for most of these models. And temperature adjustment
for platens varies; some grills let you control upper and
lower temps separately, while others only allow for one temp
to be set top and bottom.
Before we look at models, consider how much product you
expect to serve. Will you be grilling an occasional sandwich
or loads of them? Big-time panini makers may need a larger
grill and a higher voltage—say, 240V instead of 208V or
120V—which helps speed recovery.
Further, if you’re panini-ing in large volume, you’ll want
to move the product through with efficient repeat-loading,
which means using an upper platen that adjusts in a way
that’s convenient for your staffers. Also consider who will
be operating the machine. In operations with high turnover
and lots of new people in training, you may want a unit with
You should think, too, about grill surfaces and which type
will best suit your needs in terms of heat retention and
recovery time. Materials used to cast platens include
aluminum, iron and stainless steel, and sometimes these are
nonstick coated. Remember that aluminum heats quickly but
can lose heat quickly, too. Cast iron takes longer to heat
but retains that heat a long time. And stainless steel, the
most durable material of the three, heats quickly and
distributes heat efficiently.
Panini Models From A To L
First up alphabetically,
Anetsberger offers one model, the CG2000 GoldenGrill Two
Sided Grill, with a variety of grooved and smooth steel
platen combinations and a detachable Teflon sheet for the
upper platen. The 220V, 12kW CG2000 is designed for
high-volume production; six serpentine heating elements
embedded in both the top and bottom platens ensure
consistent temperature from corner to corner. The compact
unit’s footprint measures 20 1/2”W x 33 1/4”D.
The CG2000’s upper platen is counter-balanced with springs
and is adjustable to control downward pressure on sandwiches
of differing heights.
Anets features include a solid-state digital controller that
tracks time and temperature. Upper and lower grill temps can
be controlled separately.
Daily maintenance involves cleaning the bottom plate while
the grill is still warm and removing and washing the upper
nonstick sheet. Depending on usage, that sheet may need to
be replaced periodically.
Equipex offers three Sodir brand grills with fine-grain
cast-iron platens, whose quality and density provide for
consistent cooking. The Majestic, the papa bear of the line
with a footprint of 24”W x 16”D (208V/240V, 4kW), has two
independently controlled upper platens and is available in
various combinations of grooved/smooth surfaces. The Panini,
a 17”W x 16”D (120V or 208V/240V, 3kW) model, and the
smaller Savoy, with a footprint of 13”W x 16”D (120V,
1.74kW), also come in grooved/smooth upper and lower combos.
Heating elements, laid down in a square shape around the
periphery of the platens, are attached with pressure plates.
The combination of the cast iron and the configuration and
location of the heating elements allows Sodir grills to
achieve surface temps up to 570ºF,
says the company. Controls set the same temps top and
On each Sodir model, the upper platen is counter-balanced by
means of a tension spring at the back of the unit. The ease
of platen lowering or lifting can be adjusted by loosening
or tightening screws also at the back of the unit. As a
result, an upper platen can be draped lightly on top of a
sandwich or pressed down firmly.
After original seasoning of the unit, daily maintenance
includes cleaning with the scraper provided for larger food
pieces or wire-brushing the leftover greasy bits. If a more
thorough cleaning is required—stripping with water or
chemicals—reseasoning is recommended. Notable Sodir features
include optional timers on all models.
The grill line from
Lang gives you two Pane Bella options, the 25”W x 16”D
model PB24 with two upper platens, and the 11”W x 16”D model
PB12 with a single upper platen. The self-leveling cast-iron
platens can be ordered with both smooth and grooved
surfaces, and each grill section is independently time and
temp controlled. The PB24 requires 208V or 240V and 3.2kW or
4.3kW, the PB12 120V or 240V and 1.62kW.
Lang heats its platens via sheathed tubular elements that
are bolted to the cast iron in a spiral configuration. The
elements are also insulated, and overall they’re designed to
radiate more energy into the iron than into the air, says
The upper platen is one counterbalanced, cantilevered
assembly. Each Pane Bella ships with a lower hood stop that
has four height positions, which allows you to stop the
upper platen compression at whatever height you may need for
more delicate fare.
Recommended daily maintenance includes thorough scraping and
use of a liquid cleaner specifically designed for griddles.
Titans, Stars And Masters
Silesia Grill Machines sells five Titan models with cast
aluminum, nonstick-coated platens: the T1G single with
grooved top and bottom; the T1S single with smooth top and
bottom; the T2G double with all grooved cooking surfaces;
the T2S all-smooth double; and the T2C double with one side
grooved top and bottom, the other smooth top and bottom.
Single grills measure 15 6/8”W x 20 1/2”, while double
models measure 31 3/8”W x 20 1/2”D.
Silesia’s energy inputs make its grills suitable for
across-the-board volume situations. The T1G and T1S each run
on 120V, 1.75kW or 208V/240V, 2.9kW, while the T2G, T2S and
T2C, all 208V/240V, 5.8kW, deliver the higher power needed
for greater volume.
There are no springs in the Silesia platen hinges, which
means you can lower the upper platen to the product and
adjust the platen vertically and laterally, applying more
pressure on a sandwich than a spring mechanism might offer,
says the company. The upper platen and hinge allow for any
height and any thickness, accommodating up to a 5”-thick
Features on the Titan line include electronic timers.
Cleaning requires scraping with a metal scraper into a
large-capacity grease tray at the back of the grill.
Star Mfg., the supplier in this group offering the most
model options. If you count units by individual model
numbers, you’ll come to more than 25. But that’s because the
six basic models come in various grooved/smooth surface
combinations and with optional timers, and each unique
combination gets its own model number.
So the basic Star story is this: You can order single or
double grills, with grooved and smooth upper and lower
platen options. Those platens can be cast of iron or
aluminum. Overall, grill dimensions range from 11 3/4”W x 21
1/8”D to 30”W x 24 3/4”D. And all heating elements are
embedded within the platens in a serpentine pattern.
Electrical requirements range from 120V, 1.8kW to 240V,
Among notable Star features is the counter-balanced hinge
system used to lower the top platen. The cantilevered design
allows the top platen to float up and down easily on two
points, and the upper platen accommodates a sandwich height
of about 3”. Star models also let you set the top and bottom
grill temps separately, or power the bottom grill only.
For all Star grills, daily maintenance includes seasoning in
the a.m. and cleaning with hot soap and water. A stiff nylon
brush can be used on grooved surfaces, a grill scraper on
Taylor/Carrier offers two models, the QS12 single grill
and the QS24 double, with options for grooved upper and
lower platens or a grooved/smooth combination. The QS12 is a
12”W x 35 1/2”D model, the QS24 a 24”W x 35 1/2”D unit. More
importantly, the QS line is modular, meaning you can put a
12” and a 24” surface together, or fit a single upper platen
on either the left or right side. Electrical requirements
are standard, and total kW input runs between 9.6 and 15
depending on the number of upper platens.
Each Taylor platen is one single stainless casting with
three embedded individually controlled heating elements.
Thermocouples sense if a product is on a particular part of
the grill, which in turn provides consistent heat and even
temperatures even if you are using only part of the grill.
Upper and lower grill temps can be set separately. Also, the
upper platen is fitted with a detachable Teflon sheet to
Gas cylinders mounted to the back of the lower plate are
used to reinforce the arms and move the upper platen up and
down. This allows you to raise the upper platen, leave it
up, and then bring it down to rest on a product on the lower
plate. And an infinite gapping mechanism on the upper platen
accommodates varying product thicknesses up to 7.8”. So you
simply turn a handle to a marking for the height adjustment
you need, lock in place and lower.
Daily care includes a wipe down with a high-temperature
grill cleaner, which helps dissolve grease accumulation and
Toastmaster/Middleby offers four A710 models with a
combination of grill surfaces, including one with grooved
upper and lower platens. All models run 15 1/2”W x 18 7/16”D
and are available in 120V, 1.65kw; 208V, 1.24kW or 240V,
Cast-aluminum platens feature a DuPont SilverStone Supra
nonstick coating. Heating elements are compression clamped
to the grill areas to provide even surface temps. A
three-position rocker switch lets you operate the top and
bottom grills simultaneously, or the bottom grill only.
Each Toastmaster grill has a height adjustment knob at the
back that holds the upper platen in place. The adjustment
can be set for a specific sandwich height, from paper thin
to 2” thick. Daily maintenance includes wiping down the
nonstick surfaces with a paper towel and emptying the grease