Posted Friday, December 1, 2006 @ 08:38 AM
I have to admit, I never really saw the need for a Panini Maker. Years ago I had one of those sandwich makers which fused the bread shut and made a "pocket" sandwich, supposedly cutting it in half in the process. Those never worked very well, and would end up on the counter or in a cabinet collecting dust. However, in recent years, sandwiches have become a good quick-meal at our house. Grilled cheeses, hot meat sandwiches, Ruebens. Making them in a pan delivers good results, but can take forever when feeding a large crowd. I then resorted cooking multiple sandwiches on a cookie sheet in the oven. This worked well, but could deliver uneven results depending on the temperature, buttering/oiling of the bread. Since the prospect of giving up our weekly sandwich night was not an option, I decided to research panini makers.
My main concern was that I had to use paninis or some other type of crusty bread. On a large family grocery budget, that would be impossible. However, I did learn that while it is not recommended, you can use pretty much any bread in a panini maker. Now, I can't help but think that the people "recommending" it are snooty gourmets who wouldn't taint their lips with an "immitation" panini made on regular bread. Normal people, and families, are usually not so persnickity!
I chose the Breadman because of its size. It is marketed as a 4-slice, 2 baguette machine. That's pretty much on the mark. If you are making sandwiches using regular "Wonder" size bread, you can get 4 on there. I tend to use whole grain breads which have larger slices, so I typically cook 2 on the grill at a time. Though, I have fit 3 at a time.
I really cannot say enough about this panini maker. It cooks well and fast. Even sandwiches packed full of meat cook in 3-5 minutes. Grilled cheeses take only a couple of minutes to cook. You really don't need to grease the grill, which cuts down on the fat content of the sandwich. Though, I usually give it a spray or two of non-stick cooking spray for good measure.
I have cooked all kinds of sandwiches in the machine, using a variety of bread. I will note that very soft white breads like "Wonder" don't work that well...but honestly it works well enough that the kids don't mind.
At $40, the breadman is actually at the lower price-range of the makers. I honestly don't know what a $70 or $80 model could offer more. This model "floats" to accomodate thick sandwiches, it makes wonderful cooking lines on the bread, and has cut my sandwich-making time down considerably. The fact that it can make multiple sandwiches at once makes it a good recommendation for the large family. I give it a big thumbs-up.
I should note, that in addition to the panini maker, I also own a Mickey Mouse sandwich maker--mostly because it's a fun way to make grilled cheese's for the kids. With both machines, I can make sandwiches everyone in my house will enjoy. I'll review that item separately.