The Best of the Best Panini Press Cookbook: 100 Surefire Recipes for Making Panini--and Many Other Things--on Your Panini Press or Other Countertop Grill

The Best of the Best Panini Press Cookbook: 100 Surefire Recipes for Making Panini--and Many Other Things--on Your Panini Press or Other Countertop Grill

by Kathy Strahs


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Your panini press will become your most versatile friend in the kitchen with The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook, a compendium of Kathy Strahs's best 100 panini press recipes, beautifully illustrated with new color photos.

Who knew this simple and easy-to-use kitchen appliance could do so much?

Kathy Strahs, for one, did. Creator of the multiple-award-winning food blog Panini Happy, the web's go-to destination for panini-press wisdom, Strahs does wonderful things with a panini press, from crafting perfect Italian-style panini to building scrumptious and creative grilled cheese sandwiches to making things you never thought you could make on a countertop grill or griddle.

Dig into these recipes to discover your panini press's impressive range—including breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners, for the weekday whirl and for relaxing times on weekends. About half the recipes in this book—a collection of the 100 best recipes from Strahs's earlier book, The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook—are for panini, such as a robust Cheddar, Apple, and Whole-Grain Mustard Panini or a zesty Chimichurri Steak Panini. The remaining recipes are for dishes you will be amazed to learn you can make on a countertop grill, including quesadillas, croques monsieurs, brats, burgers, salads topped with crisply grilled meats, and even grilled desserts.

This beautiful volume will inspire great cooking and fun meals, without the fuss or effort.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781558329614
Publisher: Harvard Common Press, The
Publication date: 03/12/2019
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 861,094
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.62(d)

About the Author

Kathy Strahs is the creator of the popular blog Panini Happy (, which has named as one of the Top 100 Mom Food Blogs for the past four years. A former marketer with a Stanford MBA, Kathy traded in her corporate career to pursue her passion for cooking in 2008. Her innovative recipes and mouthwatering food photography have since been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Pillsbury Magazine, San Diego Family Magazine, and the Associated Press, and on the New York Times, PBS, The Huffington Post, Saveur, and TLC websites. She is also a frequent cooking contest judge, including for the Grilled Cheese Invitational in Los Angeles and the World Food Championships in Las Vegas. She has written The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook, The 8X8 Cookbook, and The Lemonade Stand Cookbook. She lives in in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their two children.

Read an Excerpt




Panini Presses — The Ins and Outs

The panini press is, of course, named for the Italian pressed sandwiches that have become so popular here in recent years. You will sometimes see a panini press called simply a "sandwich maker" or an "indoor grill." For the purposes of this book, when I say "panini press" I'm referring to any countertop appliance — including a George Foreman grill — that can heat food between two grates.

That said, as with any appliance, not all panini presses are the same. Some come with a myriad of features and are large enough to accommodate a family's worth of steaks, while others are very basic and designed to fit comfortably in a college dorm room. They're available at all price points, ranging from as little as $20 for a very simple model with a single heat setting to upwards of $300 for one with an LCD screen and removable plates.

People often ask me which type of panini press I recommend. My response is usually "Well, what do you plan to use it for?" I suggest examining five key features to help you determine which panini press meets your needs and your budget:

• Adjustable thermostat

• Grill surface area

• Drainage

• Removable plates

• Adjustable height control


An adjustable thermostat allows you to control the amount of heat you're grilling with. Some panini presses allow you to set a specific cooking temperature (350°F [180°C or gas mark 4], for example); some come with "high," "medium," and "low" settings; some give an adjustable range between "panini" and "sear"; and others are built with a simple on/off switch and no ability to adjust the heat level at all.

If you're planning to grill mainly sandwiches, a panini press without an adjustable thermostat will likely suit your needs. However, the ability to control the temperature is key when grilling certain foods. For my Grilled Rib-Eye Steak (page 93), for instance, I turn the heat up high to get a nice, crusty sear on the meat. To slowly render the fat and crisp the skin on my Grilled Duck Breasts (page 47), I use a medium-low setting.

In general, the more heating options, the more expensive the panini press will be. You can buy a press without an adjustable thermostat for as little as $20 or $30; presses with adjustable thermostats typically cost $70 and up.


Some folks prefer a smaller grill due to space constraints in their kitchen or dorm room, or if there are just one or two people in the household. Small grills are also more portable, making them a great option for those who like to bring their panini press on vacation. A large grill surface area is especially beneficial to those who want to make a lot of panini or other foods for a whole family at once — it can be a real timesaver not to have to cook in batches.

Panini presses with large surface areas, accommodating four panini or more, are pricier than small models and usually offer other premium features. They typically range between $70 and $300.


If you plan to use your panini press to grill meats, poultry, and other foods beyond panini, it's important to choose a press with drainage features. The grill plates on many panini presses and other indoor grills are designed to drain excess fat, which can make them a healthier cooking alternative. On some models, you can adjust the plates to tilt forward to allow the fat to flow into a drip pan, while others remain flat and drain via the back of the grill.

Some no-frills panini presses do not have any drainage features at all — you'll notice that the lower plate stays flat and there are no cutouts or sloped edges to allow fat to roll away. Models like these are intended mainly for grilling panini and shouldn't be used for raw meats.


You'll find panini presses on the market with features and price points to suit all needs. Here is a rundown of what you can expect to find at the basic, midrange, and premium levels of the panini press spectrum.

BASIC ($20–$50)

Pros: Compact size; cooks quickly; afordable

Cons: No adjustable thermostat, drainage feature, removable plates, or adjustable height control; small to medium grill surface area; may not be suitable for grilling raw meats (refer to the manufacturer's instructions)

MIDRANGE ($50–$80)

Pros: May have an adjustable thermostat and drainage feature; larger grill surface area; greater grilling versatility, including raw meats

Cons: Not likely to have removable plates or adjustable height control

PREMIUM ($80–$300)

Pros: Adjustable thermostat; large grill surface area, with drainage feature; may have removable plates; may have adjustable height control; greatest grilling versatility

Cons: Requires more counter space; less portable; less afordable


Melted and cooked-on bits are a fact of life with the panini press. If your grill has removable plates, cleanup is much easier. You can just pop off the plates and scrub them in the sink or dishwasher. But if your grill doesn't have removable plates, don't despair — I've got helpful cleaning tips for you on page 11.


I regularly use the adjustable height control feature on my panini press to give me greater flexibility in terms of the types of foods I can grill. This feature allows me to position the upper plate to hover above open-faced sandwiches, make very light contact with soft foods like tomatoes and French toast, and regulate the amount of pressure applied to the panini so that the ingredients don't squeeze out. Most panini presses come with a floating hinge, which allows for a degree of pressure control, but very few offer fully adjustable height control.

Whether your panini press comes with all of these features or just one or two, nearly any model will make grilling sandwiches and other foods an easy task.

How to Use a Panini Press

Most panini presses are very easy and straightforward to operate. Here are my tips for getting the best results when it comes to heating, grilling, and cleaning.


Each panini press model heats differently — some you just plug in, while others have specific heat settings. As you can imagine, this poses quite a challenge for me when it comes to developing recipes that each of you can accurately follow with whichever type of panini press you might have. "High" on one grill might be "sear" on another, and still others have no option to set a heat level at all.

For the vast majority of the recipes in this cookbook, I've suggested setting your panini press to "medium-high" heat. That's a level that's not the highest, but not the lowest — somewhere in between, leaning toward the higher side. (Note: Panini presses with simple on/off heating tend to run on the hotter side, so your cooking time may be shorter with these machines.) The good news is that, for most recipes, the exact temperature won't really matter. Just look at the food you're grilling and decide whether it looks done to you or not. If it's a meat dish, I highly recommend using a meat thermometer (see more discussion on meat thermometers on page 19) to monitor doneness.


Notice that I called this section "Grilling." I didn't call it "Flattening" or "Leaning Into the Panini Press to Make Sure the Sandwich Gets Good and Flat." I'm not sure where the practice of pressing down hard on a panini press originated. I see evidence of it over and over again in photos, but it's not what I'd recommend unless you happen to like really flat food. Today's panini presses are designed to provide the right degree of pressure, without any need for you to press down — or flatten — your food.

My recommendation, whether you're making sandwiches or other foods, is that you grill them. That is, you place the food on the grates, close the lid so that it's resting on top of the food, and wait until it's done. If you're grilling panini, the sound of melted cheese sizzling on the grates is a good indication that it's time to take the panini off the grill. For meats, I always use a meat thermometer that beeps when the desired temperature has been reached.


As I've mentioned before, if your panini press comes with removable plates, cleanup is relatively easy. Once the grill has cooled down, you just unsnap the grates from the base and wash them in the sink or dishwasher. But what about grills without removable plates? Truth be told, the grill I use most often doesn't have removable plates. No big deal — here's how I get it as clean as new.

SCRAPE IT WHILE IT'S HOT. More often than not there's melted cheese remaining on the grates after I've grilled panini. It comes with the territory. Thanks to the nonstick coating on the grates, cheese scrapes off easily with the help of the plastic grill scraper that came with my panini press (if yours didn't come with its own grill scraper, see my recommendation for a silicone grill brush on page 22) and a clean cloth. For more stubborn stuck-on food — which often happens when I grill meat, especially with sweet marinades — I unplug the grill and, while it's still hot, I (very carefully) try to loosen and lift off as many bits as possible with the grill scraper. Then I let the grill cool completely. Safety note: Make sure the unplugged power cord is resting next to the grill, not dangling where it could accidentally be pulled and drag the panini press off the table or counter. And never use an abrasive pad on the grill as it may damage the nonstick coating.

TAKE IT TO THE SINK. Once the grill has cooled, I bring it over to the counter adjacent to the kitchen sink (let me reiterate — the grill must be unplugged before you bring it anywhere near water). I position the grill so that the front edge is just above the bowl of the sink. Then I squirt on some dish soap and wash the lower plate with a wet sponge and use a silicone grill brush to get to those hidden places between the grates. Once it's clean, I use the pull-out faucet to rinse off the plate and then dry it with paper towels ( just in case I missed any bits of blackened cooked-on food that would stain my nice kitchen towels). If your sink doesn't have a pull-out faucet, you can also rinse with a very wet sponge. Safety note: As with all electrical appliances, don't ever let the electrical connection get wet and never submerge any part of the panini press itself in water.

TURN IT UPSIDE DOWN. And what about that upper plate, you ask? Cleaning that had been a challenge for me until I discovered an easy solution — I turn the entire machine on its end so that the upper plate lies flat on the counter over the sink. Then I can clean it just as I did with the lower plate. Just be aware that with this new distribution of weight — the upper plate is typically much lighter than the lower plate — the press may be less stable, so work carefully.

REMEMBER THE DRIP TRAY. Some panini presses come equipped with a drip tray that is so well concealed that it's easy to forget about it. Especially after grilling meats and vegetables, it's important to clean out any fat or juices that may have accumulated.

Ingredients for Perfect Panini

"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients."

— Julia Child


Bread, the traditional foundation of most panini, can take many forms — loaf slices, rolls, baguettes, flatbreads, and so on. When I'm deciding which type of bread to use for a sandwich, I take a lot into consideration:

• Will my fillings hold up well on sliced bread, or will I need something more substantial, like a baguette?

• Do I want the bread itself to contribute flavor to the sandwich — such as with an olive or rosemary bread — or should it play more of a neutral supporting role?

• Are there specific breads that match the cultural heritage of my sandwich, such as a telera roll for a Mexican torta or ciabatta for a sandwich with lots of Italian meats?

• What kind of bread do I have in my house at this moment?

Choice of bread can have a real impact on the structure, texture, and flavor of your panini. Often it's easiest just to use what you happen to have on hand, but to get the very best results when grilling sandwiches, here are some thoughts to keep in mind.

KEEP IT DENSE (MOSTLY). Generally speaking, denser bread is best when it comes to grilling panini. Throughout this book you'll see me suggesting that you use rustic breads "sliced from a dense bakery loaf." This isn't me just being all fancy-pants food snob (for the most part). There is a practical reason that I specify denser bread and advocate slicing it yourself. Dense bread — such as the freeform loaves you find in the bakery section of your grocery store — will hold its shape better than soft, pre-sliced sandwich bread when it gets between the two grates (see the photo on page 14).

Now, with every rule, there is an exception: I do use softer breads from time to time. Two examples are my Brie, Nutella, and Basil Panini (page 159), which is grilled on brioche, and my Caramel Apple-Stuffed French Toast (page 154), which calls for challah. In these instances, I cut the slices extra-thick to accommodate some compression during grilling. They still retain some of their airiness, which I want in these recipes. So if you're an especially big fan of softer breads and really want to grill with them, I'd advise cutting thicker slices.


I grilled the sandwich on the left on a country levain from my local grocery store. I sliced the bread myself, about 1 ½ inch (1.3 cm) thick. As you can see, the bread maintained its thickness, for the most part, and didn't get soggy. On the right is the same sandwich grilled on regular pre-sliced sandwich bread. The soft, airy bread — which is normally very desirable for cold sandwiches — flattened to nearly a cracker. The weight of the panini press plates is simply too much for softer breads. Dense is the way to go.

THINK OUTSIDE THE BREAD. We tend to focus on the fillings that go inside the sandwich, but for the best sandwiches you should flavor the outside as well.

In many panini recipes throughout this book, you'll see that I call for spreading butter or olive oil on the outside of the bread prior to assembly. Your sandwich will come out fine if you omit this step — it's not required to prevent sticking, as most panini presses have a nonstick coating on the grates — but a little swipe of butter or oil will add flavor and a bit of crunch to the bread, as well as more defined grill marks (which are a nice aesthetic touch).

Another way to flavor the outside of the bread is through crusting. You can crumble all sorts of different foods — tortilla chips, nuts, and cookies, to name a few — and mix them with softened butter to create spreads that will turn into crunchy, flavorful crusts on the outside of your sandwiches when they're grilled. See my Honey Walnut–Crusted Aged Cheddar Panini (page 136), and Granola-Crusted Pear, Almond Butter, and Honey Panini (page 147) for examples of these crusts in action.

VENTURE BEYOND THE BAGUETTE. Lastly, I encourage you to think beyond the traditional types of breads that we use for sandwiches and play around with other creative options: pound cake, banana bread, tortillas, zucchini bread, corn bread — whatever you can possibly "sandwich." After a while, nearly everything in your fridge and pantry will start looking like a great candidate for grilling on your panini press!


The meats I typically use for panini fall into three categories: deli, leftovers, and panini-grilled.

DELI MEATS. Good-quality sliced deli meats are often the most convenient meats to use in panini. You can buy anything from turkey to roast beef to prosciutto pre-sliced and packaged in any grocery store. However, I've found that it's usually less expensive to grab a number at the deli counter and have the butcher slice exactly the amount I need.

LEF TOVERS. My mother-in-law taught me to appreciate the versatility of leftovers. With a little creativity, you can transform leftovers into a new dish that will rival — and just might outshine — the original. Especially around the holidays, when we tend to cook larger roasts, it's a great time to pull out the panini press and start reinventing. Throughout this cookbook I've highlighted recipes that are particularly suitable for repurposing the cooked chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, and pork you already have on hand.


Excerpted from "The Best of the Best Panini Press Cookbook"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Kathy Lipscomb Strahs.
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface 7

Panini and Panini Presses: The Basics 8

Poultry Perfection: Chicken, Turkey, and Duck on the Panini Press 23

High on the Hog: Pork on the Panini Press 50

The Butcher's Best: Beef and Lamb on the Panini Press 74

Gifts from the Sea: Seafood on the Panini Press 95

Nature's Bounty: Fruits, Vegetables, and Beans on the Panini Press 116

Gooey Goodness: Grilled Cheese on the Panini Press 132

On the Morning Menu: Breakfast and Brunch on the Panini Press 145

A Little Something Sweet: Dessert on the Panini Press 158

Acknowledgments 172

About the Author, Photographer, and Food Stylist 172

Index 173

Customer Reviews

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The Best of the Best Panini Press Cookbook: 100 Surefire Recipes for Making Panini--and Many Other Things--on Your Panini Press or Other Countertop Gr 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
marongm8 6 months ago
This book had helpful tips and tricks with using a panini press and making wonderful delicious hot sandwiches. I just got a new press and now I am so excited to use it now that I have the knowledge and recipes that help me do so. I can't wait to try the steak and chimichurri panini and many others and also hearing about Kathy's blog, I can't wait to check it out and look for more recipes to share with my family. We will definitely consider adding this title to our Cookbook collection in our Non-Fiction section at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
Anonymous 6 months ago
I volunteered to read this book and review it in exchange for a free copy. All my review is my opinion. I am very impressed with the level of detail the cookbook goes into. It begins by describing the different panini presses, and which is best for your purposes. It goes into using a sandwich grill as well. It's sectioned off by the different meats or veggies that you choose to use. I was pleased to see a recipe for an authentic greek panini! It discusses the different types of bread you can use and why. There is also a dessert section. I can't wait until my panini press arrives, as I will be making a Greek panini.
Jamie Brydone-Jack 8 months ago
Get Creative with Your Panini Press! If you own a panini press or other type of indoor grill, this book could inspire you to try new ways of using your appliance. Not only is the book filled with yummy-sounding panini recipes, but the author also gives non-panini recipes in almost every section, showing you how to use your panini press or indoor grill for more than just food pressed between two slices of bread. The book starts with general information about the different types of panini presses or indoor grills. Yes, if you have a George Foreman grill, you can definitely use that as a panini press, she states. She details the types of ingredients that work well in a panini press and suggests that you keep yourself open to possibilities. Further chapters are broken down first by the type of protein like poultry, pork, beef, lamb, and seafood. She goes on to have a section just on fruits, vegetables, and beans. A whole chapter is dedicated to grilled cheese, of course! She ends the book with first a breakfast and brunch section and then a dessert chapter. The book has only a few pictures in each chapter. I would have liked to have seen more photos of the recipes. The panini press can make amazingly gorgeous, ooey-gooey delicious food. Why not tempt the reader or future buyer with lots of pictures of scrumptious-looking food? Some recipes have auxiliary recipes, like slaws and spreads, to go with them. These are included just after or within the pertinent recipe. However, many of these would be fantastic to use as you branch out in your own panini making. I think there should have been a Basic Accompaniment section that listed some of these mini recipes. Put simple ones like Caramelized Onions and Chipotle Mayonnaise in the chapter itself and add an index list of titles of more complex ones, like Cranberry Coleslaw or Pickled Daikon and Carrot. That way, as the panini cook plays around with panini concepts, she wouldn’t have to go thumbing through the whole book to find, say, Basil-Garlic Mayonnaise or Crispy Fried Onions. Here are some recipe titles to tempt you: Turkey and Wild Mushroom Panini; Serrano Ham, Manchego, and Membrillo Panini; Chimichurri Skirt Steak Panini; Pan Bagnat Panini; Caprese Panini; Honey Walnut-Crusted Aged Cheddar Panini; Blueberry Ricotta Grilled Cheese Panini; and Fluffernutter Panini. Here are some recipes that are beyond the panini but can be done with it: Spatchcocked Game Hen, Grilled Pork Ban Mi, Grilled Shrimp Tostadas, Grilled Herbed Vegetables, Grilled Cheese Panzanella Salad, and Grilled Angel Food Cake with Lemon Curd. Despite its flaws, this book is a wonderful addition to the cook’s library if she or he is looking to expand how they use their panini press.