The next time you’re reaching for a loaf of plain bread and your jar of mayo, stop what you’re doing and make a conscious decision to try something different. Say to yourself that today is the day you will put your butter knife down and step out of your comfort zone. Instead of making the same turkey sandwich you always make (you know the one!), reach for a campfire Panini press sandwich maker to create warm, ooey-gooey sandwiches that will have you saying, “Where have you been all my life Panini press?” Don’t worry, you can still use your favorite oven-roasted deli turkey if you want to, but don’t be surprised if it tastes like filet mignon when it comes out.
Designed to be used on a countertop, stovetop, or over an open fire, Panini presses are easy and fun for the whole family to use. Most Panini presses yield one or two sandwiches at a time, so everyone can customize their own sandwich with their favorite meats, cheeses, veggies, condiments, and more. Kids love loading up the Panini press with their sandwich fixins, closing the lid, and warming it over the stove or fire. Rumor has it this is how Emeril got his start in the kitchen as a young boy! Not really, but you never know!
The very first Panini press ever invented was not made by Cuisinart or Hamilton Beach, although culinary machine maker Breville claims that they were the first to invent it in 1974. Believe it or not, the Father of Invention, Mr. Thomas Edison, created the first sandwich grill in the 1920s (it can be viewed in the museum at his winter estate in Fort Myers, Florida—proof that he did it way before they did!). This tabletop version works by sandwiching your sandwich between two grills-one on top and one on the bottom. When the top is closed, both sides of your sandwich are grilled simultaneously and the inside is heated and melted to perfection. Since no flipping halfway through grilling is needed, you’re freed up for kicking back and sipping your favorite beverage. For use over a stove, grill, or campfire, there are Panini presses with handles. These require rotating from one side to another to ensure that both sides are grilled evenly. After only a few minutes, your delicious Panini sandwich emerges with gorgeous grill marks and a warm, toasty aroma that’ll have your mouth watering and your stomach growling.
Since the Panini press is a popular kitchen gadget, there are a lot of them on the market to choose from. There are many tabletop styles that are great for indoor kitchen use, but I picked a couple that are perfect for use over a roaring campfire:
Toas-Tite Long-Handled Pocket Sandwich Grill, X-Large: Styled after the original 1949 Toas-Tite, this sandwich grill makes pocket-style toasted sandwiches, snacks, and desserts. The extra-long handles help keep you at a safe distance from the campfire. Made from sturdy aluminum, it is easy to clean and works on gas, electric, and glass-top stoves as well as over a campfire or grill. Delicious recipes are included.
Rome Industries Cast-Iron Panini Press: Made from heavy cast iron, this Panini press makes generous-sized sandwiches and fits most artisan breads. The rods and handles can be removed for easy clean-up. Made by an outdoor cookware specialist, this Panini press has been around since 1964.
A fun new kitchen gadget deserves delicious new recipes! Here are a few favorites that I’ve found! Enjoy!
The BPPT Panini (serves 2)
6 oz. deli turkey
4 slices cooked bacon (crispy)
2 tsp. pesto
2 slices provolone cheese
4 slices of pumpernickel bread (or an artisan bread of your choice)
Spread pesto on 2 pieces of bread (1 for each sandwich). Top with turkey, bacon, and provolone. Top with the other piece of bread. Spray inside of the Panini press with cooking spray. Place your sandwich inside of the Panini press and warm on both sides over a stove, grill, or campfire until the cheese is melted!
French Onion Panini (serves 2)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion (sliced thinly)
2 Tbsp. white wine or beef stock
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 loaf of ciabatta bread
3 tsp. dried onion soup mix
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 C. gruyere cheese
2 C. garlic croutons (crushed)
Caramelize the onions by cooking them in the melted butter and the wine or stock for about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. On a slice of ciabatta bread, spread ½ the onions (save the drippings). Sprinkle with the onion soup mix and the Parmesan cheese. Top with gruyere and crushed croutons. Place another piece of bread on top. Repeat this for the second sandwich. Spread the drippings from the pan on the outside of each piece of bread. Spray the Panini press with cooking spray. Place sandwiches in press and heat until the cheese melts, rotating it halfway through.
The Throwback PB&J Panini (serves 2)
4 slices of cinnamon swirl raisin bread
4 Tbsp. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. raspberry or strawberry preserves
This is probably self-explanatory, but here goes: Spread the peanut butter on 2 slices of bread (one for each sandwich). Spread the preserves on the other 2 slices of bread. Assemble sandwiches. Spray the Panini press with cooking spray. Place sandwich in press and warm for 4-5 minutes, rotating once. Done! Easy-peasy!
Give Me S’more Panini (serves 2)
4 slices of honey & oat bread
4-6 Tbsp. marshmallow fluff
6-8 squares of Hershey’s chocolate
Spread the fluff on 2 pieces of bread (one for each sandwich). Lay chocolate bars on the fluff, arranging them so that they’ll cover every inch of the sandwich when they melt. Top with the other pieces of bread. Spray the Panini press with cooking spray. Set your sandwich inside, close the press, and hold over a grill or campfire for 4-5 minutes, rotating once during cooking. Make sure you have wet wipes handy! You’re going to need them!
Hearty Breakfast Panini (serves 2)
3 large eggs
1 tsp. milk
½ C. cheddar cheese
½ package of bacon
4 slices of whole wheat bread
Cook the bacon in a skillet until crispy. Remove from pan. Leave just a little bit of drippings in the pan. Whisk the eggs with the milk in a medium-sized bowl. Add the salt and pepper. Pour your eggs into a skillet and cook until done.
Butter 2 slices of bread (one for each sandwich). Top with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, and the other slice of bread. Spray Panini press with cooking spray. Place egg sandwich inside of press, close it, and cook until the bread has golden grill marks (rotating once). What an egg-celent sandwich!
For dessert, pair your Panini sandwiches with some tasty monster cookies or these to-die-for mason jar strawberry cheesecakes! Mmm mmm...