Frigidaire Professional 5-in-1 Panini Grill and Griddle
The claim: Reversible plates allow for a panini press, contact grill, flat grill, flat griddle or half grill/half griddle, with a cooking space large enough to cook two sandwiches or six burgers at one time. With Pro-Select controls, users can adjust the temperature controls for each plate to cook two different foods at once. And, the nonstick plates can be popped into the dishwasher for easy cleanup — no more scrubbing or special grill tools!
Right off the bat, I was impressed with the quality of the 5-in-1 Grill & Griddle. This is a sleek, sturdy unit with the Frigidaire name to back up the quality. Obviously, some thought for the consumer went into the planning. The removable and reversible grill/griddle plates make for easy cleanup — a big factor for me in choosing countertop appliances.
The unit has one control for use as a panini maker, giving equal temperature — choose from three levels of heat — to both top and bottom surfaces. Depending on the thickness of your sandwich, the top has varying height levels for pressing into paninis. A bit of experimentation was rewarded with a lovely brown stripe of crunchy bread encasing meat and cheese.
The unit opens completely as a two-sided, flat- or griddle-surfaced grill with two additional controls for each. It's perfect for a combo meal with pancakes or French toast on one and bacon and sausage on the other. Or, sizzling steak on one side using the griddle plate, and onions and mushrooms cooking up on the flat grill on the other. A drip pan underneath easily catches drippings.
This is the kind of appliance that would get a lot of use around the clock in a busy household for breakfasts, panini buffet lunches and quick grilled dinners.
I have a small kitchen, but ever since I had my first panini on a trip to Toronto, I've coveted a panini maker. Why? Because to make a hot sandwich with melty cheese and a delightfully crisp, but not over-fried, crust, I've had to resort to techniques like weighting a plate with a 28-ounce can or using a cast-iron bacon press. Both work, but neither is an elegant solution.
The 5-in-1 Grill and Griddle has potential in the elegance department, but it took me a while to get to a good sandwich. Panini made on regular bread came out looking too squashed, and ones made on ciabatta rolls (my favorite panini style) needed to be rotated to come out not looking lumpy. Maybe I didn't get the floating hinge set correctly.
The removable plates make cleaning easier, and the nonstick surface makes it easy to remove the evidence of fillings that leak, even without resorting to a dishwasher. Would I buy one? Maybe for a gift. I can see this being a hit with families that have kids of the age to help in the kitchen. But for me, without the ability to latch the unit and store it vertically on a shelf, its footprint is too big for my kitchen.
The Frigidaire Grill and Griddle has a learning curve, as any new appliance might. Gauging the temperature based on the food being cooked takes some practice.
But with easy cleanup — the reversible grill plates can be easily wiped clean or go into the dishwasher — this would be a great appliance to have for summer to cook quick meals, such as burgers and paninis. The grill opens flat, so it is a good size for my family of six. The price is great for the many cooking options available, and because of the design, the size does not make storage a big obstacle. With wedding season upon us, this would make a great gift.