Here’s how it’s done. 

By David McCann
March 13, 2020
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In case you didn’t already know, I’m a bit of a Luddite. Gadgets are not generally high on my list of coveted items. Offer me a new knife—I’m there. A beautiful, versatile skillet—you got me. But there are so many things in the world of kitchen accoutrements that leave me cold. Either because they are, to quote Alton Brown, “uni-taskers” that take up space and perform only one job. These appliances often ring in at a ridiculous price, and are marketed as something that “you absolutely MUST have” when, in fact, you already have things in your kitchen that will do the job just as well, if not better. 

A case in point is the panini press.

When grilled, pressed sandwiches started to become ubiquitous in coffee shops and casual spots, of course we all wanted to make them at home. Why not? They are, or can be, absolutely delicious. A meat, a very judicious amount of cheese, a highly flavorful veggie, or herb spread—grilled into one crispy, melty, wonderfully handheld package. What’s not to love? Naturally, we were soon inundated with another culinary “must have,” the panini press.

I admit, they work. But they are not small. Or free. And, I would argue, they are not at all necessary.

If you have a stove, and a big, heavy pan (cast-iron is perfect), and another pan (a grill pan is perfect), you can make your own panini at home and all you’ll need to buy are the ingredients. Now, while a grill pan is perfect, none of us has ever turned down a gorgeous gooey grilled cheese because there were no grill marks. So why should a panini, essentially a high-toned grilled cheese sandwich, be any different? You can use two cast-irons, or whatever skillet you prefer. 

Heat whatever pan you’re going to use to actually cook the sandwich. Make your sandwich (be careful not to over-stuff it), put a little oil on one side and put the oiled side down in your preheated pan. Place the big, heavy pan on top and give it a gentle press. When the oiled side is done (yes, you’ll have to look), remove the top pan, put a little oil on the top side, and place the newly oiled side down in the hot pan, replace the heavy pan, press a bit, and finish cooking. Done. Slice, plate, eat, and enjoy the fact that you didn’t have to go out for your panini… either to a coffee shop or to a kitchenware store!