If you bought a panini press back when paninis were all the rage and haven't gotten a lot of mileage out of it, now's the time to bring it back to life! There's a lot more you can do with the panini press than just making tasty toasted sandwiches, and since you've got the equipment anyway, why not experiment? Here are a few easy ways to get more mileage out of your machinery and make a great dinner too.

Basics of How it Can Be Used A panini press can serve as a stand-in for all kinds of kitchen appliances, including toasters, griddles, and most notably, grills. Conversely, a piece of equipment like the George Foreman grill can make a passable stand-in for the panini press as well, though you may have issues getting the same amount of crisp and even heat distribution.

Grilling One of the best and easiest alternative uses for the panini press is as an indoor grill. Cooking times will vary depending on what kind you're cooking and its thickness, but it's usually pretty quick considering both sides are being cooked at once. Here are a few foods to consider grilling up at home:

  • Chicken: Marinade some skinless chicken breasts in your favorite blend of oils and spices, wrap it in aluminum foil, and let it sit for a few hours in the fridge. Remove it from the fridge 20 minutes before you want to cook it and put the whole aluminum bundle into the press, seam side up, for 5-6 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove it from the heat, let it rest for a few minutes, and unwrap when you're ready to eat!

  • Steak: Marinade the steak to your liking. Preheat the panini press and place a drip tray under the front of the machine. Lightly oil the grill surfaces and put your steaks in. Feel free to baste the steak with more tasty marinade as it's cooking. For a steak between 1-1.5 inches, it should cook up in about 6-10 minutes.
  • Potatoes: Try cutting thin slices of potato or sweet potato and seasoning it with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil. Throw them on the grill and cook them into crunchy homemade chips!

Toasting The panini press also makes a very useful toaster or toaster oven surrogate! You can get a great crisp on both sides of all kinds of foods with the press that you wouldn't be able to get elsewhere. Here are some foods to consider:

  • Crab Cakes: Pick out your favorite crab cake recipe and get pressing! Getting a perfectly crispy exterior on your cakes is easy with a panini press, and it's ready in no time at all.
  • Falafel: Cooking falafel for one is easy with a panini press. Just choose a great falafel recipe, mix up a little cucumber dip and enjoy.
  • Bread: Obviously you can toast up bread in a panini press, but if you chop it into smaller bites, you can season it, toast it up to make fresh croutons! Throw them over a nice salad, and you're done.

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Photo Credits: Grilling, World Eats, Amazon

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