Panini makers are countertop grill presses that were originally designed to prepare grilled sandwiches. What most people do not know, however, is that these Panini makers (also known as Panini presses or grills) can also be used to cook meat, including burgers – which we’ll be looking at in today’s detailed guide.
Why is it appealing to prepare a burger using a Panini press?
Well, one of the main reasons cooking enthusiasts turn to a Panini press when cooking burgers is the fact that the entire cooking period will take less than five minutes (depending on the manufacturer, of course.) That’s because unlike coal grills, Panini presses preheat way faster, making them a better alternative than the traditional grilling method.
Another factor I came across while researching for this post was someone pointing out that the Panini press cannot hold burgers for a huge crowd; and I agree. If you have a huge crowd of individuals visiting for a cookout, then I agree that nothing could be easier than whipping out a bunch of burgers using your outdoor grill. However, on weeknights when it is just a few individuals at the dinner table and you do not feel like firing up the huge grill, you can turn to a Panini press to grill juicy burgers (even with grill marks) in less than 7 minutes.
Without wasting any more of your time, let’s skip to the main section of the post and look at how you can prepare burgers on a Panini press.
Step 1 – Prepare the Ingredients
Do not take the frozen grilling route. There are multiple drawbacks of not thawing your frozen burger patties when you’re cooking using a Panini press. For starters, manufacturers base their cooking time off of fresh or thawed meat. With that in mind, using frozen meat will imply that the manufacturer’s instructions on cooking times will be inaccurate, which in turn increases the risk and chances of ending up over or undercooking your meal.
The second impact of going the frozen grilling route is the impact that excess water will have on the texture and taste of your finished burgers. If you have frozen burger patties, I suggest that you take them through a defrost cycle using your toaster oven first or place them in a toaster oven for 30-second increments until you’re certain they have been defrosted to your liking.
Step 2 – Make the Burger Patties the Same Size as the Panini Press Surface
If you are planning on cooking all the burgers at the same time, then you ought to make sure that they are all done at the same time as this will help make them the same size. It is particularly essential to ensure you form your patties using the same thickness so that the upper grate makes equal and full contact with all burger patties at the same time once you close the lid.
If the unfortunate event occurs that some of them are really thin or others are really thick, then the grill will only rest on the tallest patties, which will leave thin ones out in the cold. During this second step, ensure that they are all the same height so they can receive an equal amount of heat.
Step 3 – Do not Be Afraid of Using a Meat Thermometer
There is no shame in using a meat thermometer (and that’s coming from a professional cook.) This will especially be essential if you decide to use frozen burger patties instead of thawed ones because you cannot really rely on the manufacturer’s guidelines for cooking times.
With that in mind, use the cooking thermometer to make sure that the internal temperature of all your burger patties reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the minimum temperature level required for food safety as reported by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
To use the thermometer, insert it in the side of one burger patty at the center. In case the thermometer refuses to penetrate the meat due to its frozen nature, cook them until the meat is sufficiently soft to slide a thermometer in to probe. After this, you can keep cooking until the cooking thermometer shows that the temperature has risen to 160 degrees and above.
Step 4 – Scrape your Grill While It is Still Hot
After your burgers have been sufficiently cooked – as noted, mine take generally 5 to 7 minutes to get readily cooked – take them out and place them on a clean plate to rest. As you wait for them to cool down a little bit, take the opportunity and tackle all the mess that you have created on the grill.
Worry not though. The mess might look scary, but it isn’t really that bad. The grate usually cleans off quite easily when you give it a nice scrape while the panini press is still hot. Most kitchen appliances brands also send their Panini presses to you with a little grill scraper inside. If you have one of those, then simply unplug the grill and continue scrapping off any remaining cooked on bits and grease bits. After the grill has completely cooled down, you can move on to the next stage of cleaning it, using a soapy sponge and running water.
If the Panini press you are using is from Cuisinart, then you can probably snap the grates off and pop them inside a dishwasher to clean them even better.
As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot to prepare your burgers using a Panini press. Using the product above, your burgers will be done in less time than would have taken to heat up your barbecue grill – which sounds pretty appealing to me.
If you are not a fan of toasting your hamburger buns either, then I’m here to tell you that you can also simply toss them inside the grill once your burgers are done for a minute or two. Just remember to leave the lid open.
With all that in mind, if you do not already own a panini press of your own, check out this guide on the best Panini Presses money can buy.