Everybody should own a sandwich maker. They’re incredibly cost-effective and almost everyone loves a toasted sandwich. Plus, they’re fast and easy to prepare – which is a real boon in busy modern life.
We tested a lot of sandwich makers to give you our opinion and we promise not to bore you to death with details. You’re much more likely to get the right sandwich maker that way.
A Brief History of The Sandwich
Common wisdom has the Earl of Sandwich, a British nobleman, inventing the sandwich.
We prefer to be uncommon and thus we say, that it was a Rabbi called Hillel the Elder who is on record as munching on the very first sandwich.
He lived back in the 1st century B.C. or B.C.E. if you prefer, and he celebrated the Passover with a sandwich.
His sandwich didn’t use the kind of bread that most of us use in our sandwiches but “matzos” or “matzohs” which are a type of unleavened bread that comes in slices that are very like thin biscuits.
Hillel’s sandwich contained an unusual filling: nuts, bits of apple, some spices and to make it all go down easily – a touch of wine!
However, despite Hillel’s contribution to our culinary heritage – the modern day sandwich, the one which involves bread filled with meat (and/or cheese) with some condiments was “invented” by John Montagu.
Montagu was indeed, the Earl of Sandwich, the 4th to be precise.
Our notes say that he was an inveterate gambler and he was caught up in a riveting game of cards and that after 24 hours at the table; he found himself feeling a touch hungry.
He wasn’t willing to quit the table to get something to eat.
So, he asked his cook to make him some dinner with the proviso that whatever the cook brought back had to be something he could eat without it interfering with his card game.
So, the cook returned with some meat between two slices of toasted bread.
The cook’s name is lost to history because somehow the Earl of Sandwich managed to attach his name to the foodstuff which would become one of the world’s most popular meal items.
- Hillel the Rabbi invented the sandwich in the 1st century BC
- A British nobleman, John Montagu the 4th Earl of Sandwich, gets all the credit for inventing the modern sandwich even though his cook invented it
The Origins Of The Sandwich Maker
There is no requirement that a sandwich involve toasted bread. In fact, many of the finest sandwiches in the world don’t have you cook the bread twice.
The sandwich maker, however, is all about toasting the bread – on the outside.
The idea is simple: hot sandwiches are tasty. They’re convenient to eat. And if you fill them full of cheese, the cheese melts and doesn’t run all over the table while you’re eating your sandwich.
The best way to make such a sandwich is to use a sandwich maker. Which, traditionally, wasn’t called a “sandwich maker” at all but rather, a “pie iron”.
Your basic sandwich maker consists of two plates connected by a hinge that can be heated either in a flame or using electric current to heat, toast and most importantly, seal, a sandwich.
The name pie iron was popularized in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s.But this is not the only name for a sandwich maker: they’re also known as pudgy pie irons, jaffle irons, toastie irons, sandwich toasters and sandwich makers.
In the UK they can also be known as toastie makers and “Brevilles” (after the most famous brand of sandwich maker). Australians, South Africans and the Irish also like toastie maker.
The South Africans also sometimes use snackwich maker, which is in our opinion – just awful, and in Indonesia and Australia they may also be called jaffle makers.
The first toasted sandwich maker was invented before 1920, though it would only get a patent in early 1925, by Charles Champion. It was branded as the “Tostwich”.
Mr. Champion was a busy chap and he also invented the first ever popcorn popping machine!
The sandwich maker hasn’t changed much since, apart from the addition of an electric powered version.
- It was invented in the United States in the 1920s
- It was invented by Charles Champion who also invented the popcorn popping machine
- There are many names for sandwich makers many of them slightly ridiculous
Our Five Favorite Sandwich Makers
We’ve tried dozens of different sandwich makers over the years at Kitchen Authority and we’ve concluded that there are very few “bad” products out there.
There are, however, some which stand out from the crowd too and here we present our five favorite sandwich makers of the year. We reserve the right to update this list next year after trying some more!
Best Family Panini Press
YEDI Houseware Total Package Sandwich Maker
YEDI Houseware isn’t the most famous brand we looked at but this may be the finest panini press in history.
It’s huge and you can easily make 3-4 sandwiches at a time. Better still, it comes with a waffle maker and griddle adapters too – so you get much more out of it than your average panini press.
The downside? Pricy. This panini press is definitely not for those on a tight budget. But if you have a family that loves toasted sandwiches it won’t let you down.
Best Solo Panini Press
Hamilton Beach Gourmet Sandwich Maker
There’s really no such thing as a “tiny” panini press.
This is a much smaller option than the YEDI houseware, but you can still comfortably cook sandwiches two at a time on the plates.
It’s very easy to clean and I like the classic retro look of the device in the kitchen. It’s also, much less expensive than the bigger YEDI model and while it’s not “cheap” it’s certainly affordable for most people.
Best Family Electric Sandwich Maker
Hamilton Beach Dual Breakfast Sandwich Maker
If you want to buy your family an amazing electric sandwich maker – this option from Hamilton Beach is amazing.
Not only does it let you make super toasted sandwiches, you can also cook eggs in those sandwiches at the same time! This means you can create interesting and adventurous sandwiches which turn out perfectly presented at any time.
The downsides of this sandwich maker? You can only make 2 sandwiches at once.
Best Solo Electric Sandwich Maker
Kealive Breakfast Sandwich Maker
If you’re on a really tight budget and you don’t much care for frills and whistles on your sandwich makers – the Kealive Breakfast Sandwich Maker will make your day. It’s very low cost but it makes great sandwiches.
My only reservation with this product is that the grill surfaces need very careful handling or they can scratch. But at this price? It’s a steal anyway.
Best Stovetop Sandwich Maker
The Yoshikawa Atsu-Atsu Hot Sandwich Maker
You can certainly buy cheaper models of stovetop sandwich makers than the Yoshikawa Atsu-Atsu Hot Sandwich Maker but this is the best. It’s got more space for sandwiches than nearly any other and you’re not paying for cheeky styling as with more expensive products.
It’s a high quality sandwich maker that’s built to last while offering lots of flexibility for bread, etc.
Honorable Mentions: Other Great Sandwich Makers
There are plenty of other good quality choices for sandwich makers. If you don’t like the ones above here are some that we’ve already featured on Kitchen Authority that didn’t make the cut for the Top 5 but all of which are more than good enough for your kitchen.
The Dash Mini Sandwich Maker
We liked the Dash Mini Sandwich Maker for its exceptionally small kitchen footprint. It’s ideal for people living alone or with restricted space. It’s also one of the cheapest sandwich makers on the market.
The Bulbhead Red Copper Flipwich Stovetop Sandwich Maker
This stovetop special isn’t quite as sexy as our first choice but it is cheaper and it does make good sandwiches. If you’re tight on cash – this may be the way to go if you don’t want an electric model.
The Brentwood Non-Stick Dual Sandwich Maker
This looks like the classic British sandwich maker, the “Breville” and we found it to be a perfectly acceptable model that only fell slightly short of our Kealive winner in the value stakes. If you prefer this style; you won’t be sorry you opted for the Brentwood.
The Cusinart Dual-Sandwich Electric Grill
It’s a funny looking device but the Cuisinart Dual Sandwich Grill is a really solid performer and we’d be happy to recommend it to anyone looking for something a little unusual in appearance.
The Chef Buddy Panini Press
The thing that stands out about the Chef Buddy offering it its incredibly low price for a panini press. This may be the best budget option there is for sandwich makers. It’s just not quite as well-featured as our two category winners.
The George Foreman Panini Press
A strong brand that you can trust and amazingly, at a very affordable price. We absolutely loved this device when we road tested it and it was a hard choice to leave it out of our winner’s circle. You’ll be very happy with this sandwich maker.
The Snoopy Grilled Cheese Sandwich Maker
This one is simply for huge fans of Snoopy or for a house where the kids love Snoopy. There are better sandwich makers out there but most of them aren’t as much fun.
Sesame Street’s Elmo & Cookie Monster Sandwich Maker
This one burns cookie monster and Elmo onto the bread! Yes, it’s definitely aimed at kids and this gimmick comes at a bit of a price increase but it’s still a solid sandwich maker. I’d be happy to recommend this to any family.
The Chefman Sandwich Maker
This is a real budget option and, to be honest, it looks it. However, under the somewhat unseemly exterior beats the heart of a sandwich making pro. If you want to save money and want your sandwich maker to last – this is the way to go.
The Kitchen Couture Sandwich Maker
This is a pure novelty sandwich maker and if it weren’t for its appearance – we’ve never have noticed it. But, it makes decent sandwiches, it’s easy to clean and it’s hard wearing. So, don’t be put off by its unusual look.
And if that wasn’t enough choice; we’re always adding new reviews to our sandwich maker section of the website. Check back regularly to see if we’ve touched on a model you’re interested in.
Celebrity Chefs Love Toasted Sandwiches
You may be worried that a toasted sandwich is not considered to be haute cuisine and thus you might be shunned by your chums for indulging your baser culinary instincts. Fortunately, you need not fear.
Many celebrity chefs are huge fans of the toasted sandwich and by adding just a little love to the recipe – you can create toasted sandwiches fit for anyone in your humble sandwich maker.
Rachael Ray | A Traditional Grilled Cheese
I’m going to share a secret with you.
There’s no real difference between a grilled sandwich and one made in a sandwich toaster.
The only thing that changes is that the one from the toaster is sealed and the fillings won’t fall out when you eat it.
Photo Credit: Rachael Ray Staff
Rachael is our first proponent of the toasted sandwich and this should come as no surprise to her fans as she’s also a leading advocate of “quick and easy” cooking. She never had any formal training as a chef in her native New York but she’s won over most of America with her no fuss approach.
Check out her recipe for a Perfect Grilled Cheese sandwich here. Then ditch the skillet and use a sandwich maker instead.
Jamie Oliver | Gourmet Toasted Sandwiches
Jamie Oliver, the cheeky British chef, has a very clever sandwich recipe of his own which involves putting cheese on the outside of the bread, but I’ve tried that with a sandwich toaster and while it works just fine… it’s a nightmare to clean.
It’s the sort of thing you only do once to impress your guests at a dinner party and then wish you hadn’t.
However, he’s a big fan of chefs around the world and he steers us towards Australia, for the best gourmet sandwich recipes, on his website. His recommendation is for a pear, blue castello cheese and sweet lime pickle combination!
Check it out here on Jamie Oliver’s blog; we think you’ll agree that it’s awesome.
Gordon Ramsay Inspires Crayfish and Avocado Toasted Sandwiches
If you’re a fan of the F Word then you’ll have seen Gordon Ramsay expounding on his love of toasted sandwiches with his own creation of a Crayfish and Avocado sandwich.
The foul mouthed chef may be the best known face in the kitchen in the world thanks to his massive international TV presence.
Fortunately, his food is every bit as good as he claims it is.
Sadly, though, his recipe has recently been removed from his website and for a moment we thought that meant we couldn’t feature him, but we found something even better!
A different recipe for Crayfish and Avocado toasted sandwiches but this one inspired by his work – Anne in Stockholm’s version is easier to make too as it doesn’t require expensive truffle oil! Yum!
Check out Anne’s take on Gordon’s recipe here and then pop it into your sandwich toaster today.
- Our three celebrity chefs who love toasted sandwiches are Rachael Ray, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay
- There are many, many more chefs who are big fans of this kind of sandwich – so don’t be afraid to served toasties with pride! You’re in good company.
Choosing The Best Bread For A Sandwich Maker
If you’re going to spend some time making a sandwich in a sandwich maker; it ought to be a brilliant sandwich, right?
Well, this isn’t too tricky to pull off but the most important ingredient of them all when it comes to creating great sandwiches is the bread.
If you have a classic electric sandwich maker you’re going to be somewhat restrained on the kind of bread you can use. These are designed to take the square slices from pre-processed sliced supermarket loaves. You can substitute this with your own bread, but you need to take care that the slices are as thin as the ones you would buy in the shops.
That’s because you won’t be able to close the lid effectively on an electric sandwich maker if you use a thick cut slice. It’s the biggest drawback to electric sandwich makers and many people switch out to a panini press if they want more choice of bread.
But what kind of bread should you use? Check out our recommendations for the sandwich bread here.
It’s all about the ingredients. Your classic cheese and ham toastie, for example, using a nice slice of organic ham, dairy churned butter and some grated Emmental deserves the luxury of a white loaf with a slightly sweet taste. A moist loaf will offer a lovely soft center with a clean, crisp exterior.
An apple, cheddar and pepper sandwich, on the other hand, would be better with a whole-wheat option which contrasts against the natural sweetness of the filling. You don’t need to consider the moisture content of the bread so much here as the apple will lend moisture to the bread during the cooking.
The real way to get the best bread for a sandwich is simple: experiment until you find the perfect taste for you.
- There is no “perfect bread” but choosing bread with the sandwich ingredients in mind is a good idea
- You will get fewer viable bread options if you use a classic electric sandwich maker
Classic Toasted Sandwiches
If you’ve never ventured into making toasted sandwiches you may find the sheer volume of options for great sandwiches to be overwhelming.
A good starting point is to begin with classic recipes that are considered “classic” because of their near universal appeal.
It’s worth pointing out at this point that classic toasted sandwiches are almost never suitable for vegans. They’re full of cheese and butter and often meat too. We’ve touched on a couple of vegan options in the section after this one.
The Original Toasted Sandwich: The Grilled Cheese
A grilled cheese is the simplest toasted sandwich ever – you need some grated cheese, some bread and some butter. Butter both sides of the bread. Fill with cheese. Toast the sandwich. You really can’t go wrong.
For ideas on what cheeses to use in your grilled cheese sandwiches check out our guide to Cheeses for Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
The Extended Toasted Sandwich | The Grilled Ham And Cheese
I am a firm believer in the ham and cheese as the finest toasted sandwich option ever. Don’t stint on on the ham; get top quality stuff and add it to the The Grilled Cheese recipe above. If you want, you can substitute ham for sausages (cook them first – they won’t cook inside the sandwich), bacon (same) or turkey ham or whatever takes your fancy. Yum.
The “Healthier Option” Toasted Sandwich | Chicken Salad
I offer a single heresy here. Lettuce is horrible in toasted sandwiches. It wilts and discolors. Yuck.
So, for this pick a nice wheat bread, get some cooked chicken breast in small or shredded pieces and add salad stuffs to the mix. But save the lettuce until after the sandwich has been toasted and serve it alongside it.
- You really can’t go wrong with:
- The grilled cheese
- The grilled ham and cheese
- The chicken salad toasted sandwich
- The grilled cheese
Walk On The Wild Side | Not So Classic Toasted Sandwiches
If you’d like to be a bit more adventurous or, at least, stick to your vegan diet… why not give these recipes a go instead?
The Vegan Tomato And Basil Grilled Cheese Sandwich
OK, select your favorite vegan bread. Then for cheese we’re going to use cashew cheese.
Try and make it (or buy it) as gooey as possible as it won’t melt like dairy cheese. Then add tomatoes and basil leaves. Instead of vegan butter, use olive oil to moisten both sides of the bread.
This is surprisingly delicious even if you’re not vegan.
The Vegan Hummus Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Not everybody likes cashew nut cheese, so we offer this alternative with hummus instead. You’re also going to need some butternut squash, avocado and rocket leaves (like the lettuce I recommend you keep the rocket until after toasting). Olive oil is better than vegan butter again here for greasing the bread.
Eggs And Avocado Breakfast Toasted Sandwich
Not in the remotest bit vegan but oh so good. Here you need some scrambled eggs, some avocado, butter for both sides of the bread and your favorite sauce. I like to use HP Sauce from England for this but ketchup or chili sauces are just fine as substitutes. If you have a panini press this can be better in a bread roll than between traditional slices of bread.
Live a little and become more adventurous once you’ve mastered your sandwich maker try:
- The vegan tomato and basil grilled cheese
- The vegan hummus grilled cheese
- The eggs and avocado breakfast toasted sandwich
How To Choose The Right Sandwich Maker
So, you want to buy a sandwich maker?
We understand that. We get it. You love toasties!
But how do you go about choosing the right sandwich maker?
Well, it’s not that hard to get to grips with your choices but it’s worth taking a few minutes to run through our brief guide on how to choose the right sandwich maker before you part with your cash.
Decide On The Type Of Sandwich Maker You Want
We’d say that there are 3 main types of sandwich maker on the market today and while there are a few novelty options out there (like the breakfast sandwich maker) they are all a play on these basic types.
- The panini press. The panini press doesn’t need to be used just for paninis. You can throw any kind of bread or bread-like product (bagels are awesome for toasties when you use a panini press) in a panini press. Which means you get a lot of flexibility with a panini press. The downside? You can’t seal a sandwich properly with one of these. So, if you like a lot of cheese in your toasties – this can be a deal breaker.
- The electric sandwich maker. You can buy variants of these which can handle up to 8 sandwiches at a time, but most families will make do with either a 2 sandwich or a single sandwich model. They are brilliant for sealing your sandwich, but they do leave you with fewer choices of bread.
- The stovetop sandwich maker. If you have no room in your kitchen for a sandwich maker or you have a very tight budget – then a stovetop one might be the type you choose. As the name suggests, you get the heat for this from your stove – so be careful when you’re cooking sandwiches. However, you can use more bread types than with an electric version and… you can seal a sandwich if you use the right bread! Double win.
Other factors involved in sandwich maker purchases include:
- Buying the right sized sandwich maker. How many people are there in your home? Do you all tend to eat together? Are there times when speed of cooking is essential (like just before the school run)? These are the factors you should weigh up before you choose your ideal sized sandwich maker.
- The quality of the plates. You can buy really cheap sandwich makers with iron plates but between us – these are a nightmare to care for. If you scratch the plates when you clean them – they become highly sticky. Over time, you end up with more sandwich stuck to the sandwich maker plates than on your plate. Teflon coated surfaces and other non-stick materials are better, but they do cost a little more.
- The quality of hinges and handles. I’ve had a couple of cheap sandwich makers which have had parts break at unfortunate times. I overcame a broken handle lock with the aid of a very heavy book, but I was worried that it might catch fire. Broken hinges can be fatal. You get what you pay for in the long run. Metal parts are usually better than plastic ones.
- Your budget. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a sandwich toaster. I have 3 toasters in my kitchen, and I haven’t spent more than $25 on any of them. I can make six sandwiches at a time. Yes, I could have bought more expensive models, but these were the best value for me and my family. You ought to make your own call on this front. Don’t go broke for a toasted sandwich.
- Choose your sandwich maker type first: panini press, electric sandwich maker, or stovetop sandwich maker.
- Then pay attention to: the size of the product, the quality of the plates, hinges and handles and your own bank account. Easy right?
How To Care For Your Sandwich Maker
If you want to make your sandwich maker last; you need to learn to take care of it.
The good news is that this isn’t rocket science and it won’t take too much time after you’ve made your toasties but it is important that you develop a care routine.
Cleaning your Sandwich Maker is Easy!
Before You Use The Sandwich Maker
Yes, you can make cleaning easier on yourself by doing these things before you use it:
- Fully preheat the sandwich maker before you use it
- Ensure the bread is covered in butter, oil, or margarine on the OUTSIDE of the bread (this stops it from sticking to the plates and makes the sandwich taste better – I always use butter for this)
- If you don’t want to cover the bread – spray the plates with a non-stick cooking spray instead.
- Check the instructions – sometimes (though quite rarely) the plates can be washed in the dishwasher. If so, put them in the dishwasher and ignore the instructions below.
Sandwich Maker With Removable Plates: Care Instructions
This should be obvious but I’ve learned over the years that you can never be too careful.
The first step before you clean a sandwich maker is to unplug it and leave it to cool. The plates get very, very hot and they often end up with a bit of melted cheese on them too. Don’t get burned.
Once everything is cool, take out the plates and shake off any loose crumbs into the bin or the garbage disposal unit. If there is any food stuck to the surfaces – use a fingernail or a plastic spatula to carefully dislodge it. Don’t use a knife or metal object as this could scratch the plates.
Throw them in a bowl of warm, soapy water and wash them thoroughly with a dish cloth. Rinse them with clean water and let them dry.
While they are drying wipe down the sandwich maker unit with a damp (but not wet) cloth. Then dry it with a dry cloth.
Sandwich Maker With Non-Removable Plates: Care Instructions
Once again, start with unplugging it and leaving it to cool. Get rids of any crumbs and pick off any food that’s stuck to the plates with a fingernail or a spatula. Don’t scratch the plates.
Dip a sponge in soapy water and then squeeze out any excess water. Then carefully wash the plates with it. If there’s food stuck on that won’t budge – cover it with a wet, soapy paper towel and let it sit for a while.
Once they’re clean, you can wipe the plates dry with kitchen paper towels.
DO NOT DO THESE THINGS with your sandwich maker
Whatever you do:
- Don’t immerse the sandwich maker in water if it’s an electric powered one.Never put an electric sandwich maker in a dishwasher either.
- Don’t try and clean a sandwich maker which is still plugged in or which still has hot plates. Trust me, this cannot end happily.
- Avoid abrasive cleaning fluids and abrasive pads and brushes – they will scratch the plates on your sandwich toaster.
- Make sure to heat up the sandwich toaster and grease the sandwich or the plates before you use it
- Always switch off the toaster and let it cool down before you clean it
- Clean it with soap, water and non-abrasive cloths
- Don’t scratch the plates
Final Thoughts on Sandwich Makers
So, we promised you everything that you needed to know about sandwich makers and we like to think that we delivered.
Pretty awesome, right? Well, if you can think of anything that we left out… we’d love to know about it so that we can do even better next time. Tell us in the comments below if there’s something sandwich maker related that you want to know that we’ve not covered.
Otherwise, we wish you and, hopefully, your new sandwich maker many tasty meals ahead of you.
You really can’t go wrong with toasted sandwiches. Everybody loves them. They taste great. You never run out of options for fillings and they’re endorsed by the best chefs in the business. Yum.