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When I was gifted a Cuisinart Griddler panini press more than a decade ago, I didn’t see its full potential at first. I thought it was just something that melted your sandwiches. I used it regularly whenever I wanted a grilled cheese or when we had company over for lunch. The results — warm caprese or Cuban paninis and other crowd-pleasers — always turned out perfectly.
I still love that after I pull it out from my kitchen cabinet and plug it in, it heats up within a couple of minutes. When it’s piping hot and ready to go, the indicator light flips from red to green. The press automatically adjusts to the food’s thickness, thanks to its floating hinge design. It comes with a preset temperature, so there’s nothing extra to mess with. You put the sandwich in, press down to close the unit, wait a few minutes and voilà — a crispy, golden-brown panini with melted ooey-gooey cheese appears.
But the idea of making anything other than sandwiches with this nifty little device never crossed my mind until years later. Aside from grilled cheese, I’ve made quesadillas, grilled chicken and veggies. I’ve also cooked bacon and salmon inside, wrapping them in tin foil to make cleaning up a breeze. You can also grill shish kabobs, reheat pizza, revive fries and cook flatbread.
For a family that seems endlessly hungry, it’s been an absolute motherhood lifesaver. When I became a mom, I didn’t realize I was committing to making meals for the rest of my life, but so far that’s how things have been going. The panini press not only wards off hangry people asking me what’s for lunch or dinner, but it’s easy enough for older kids to use too. The device does get hot and it needs to be unplugged after use, so be sure to make sure your kids are old enough to use it properly and teach them how to safely turn it on and off.
Since the cooking area has a non-stick coating, it’s pretty simple to clean once it’s cooled off. I like to wipe down the griddle with a soapy sponge and dry it with a cloth. Then I spritz a light amount of water on the griddle and swipe it again with the cloth.
While my exact version is no longer for sale, lucky for you: Cuisinart has released new and improved versions over the years. You can buy this Griddler 3-in-1 grill and panini press in silver at Amazon for $59.95. Just like other Cuisinart items, this product comes with an instruction manual and recipe book for inspiration. I promise you won’t regret it!