Crisp cafe-style sandwiches make quick meals

Pressed sandwiches appear on restaurant and cafe menus in myriad incarnations, from the Italian panini to the Cuban. No wonder ― there’s nothing quite like toasted bread and rich, melting fillings flattened under a hot press. We pressed our favorite cheeses and other tasty ingredients between a variety of breads to create delicious alternatives to standard grilled cheese. From a sophisticated combination of chocolate and marmalade on sourdough to a crunchy baguette filled with salty prosciutto and oozing teleme cheese, these sandwiches will always impress.

Pressing pointers

Pull out some of the middle of rolls or baguettes before assembling sandwiches.

Go easy on fillings; piling your sandwich too high will cause the filling to squeeze out as the sandwich is compressed.

Heat your press on the highest setting (or heat a dry nonstick frying pan over medium heat) for several minutes before pressing sandwich. Use care with a metal waffle iron, as its exterior will get very hot.

Flatten the sandwich slightly with your hands before placing it in the press.

Place sandwich on press and lower lid when press is hot (in most cases, the lid won’t close all the way).

Press the lid occasionally while toasting to compact the sandwich; toast until bread or roll is richly browned, 2 to 6 minutes.

Weight the sandwich, if using a frying pan, by placing a cake pan (smaller than the diameter of your frying pan) over the sandwich and placing a full can or other weight on the cake pan. Turn sandwich with a spatula midway through cooking time; replace the cake pan and weight.

Equipment tips

We found several good tools in our quest for perfect pressed sandwiches. The Krups Panini Grill pressed and toasted the sandwiches two at a time, leaving appealing grill marks on the bread. We got mixed results from a lidded electric grill such as the miniature George Foreman Grilling Machine and from an electric sandwich-maker such as the Salton Sandwich Maker, which seals the edges of the sandwich. Both appliances toasted the bread well but required pressure to compact the sandwiches evenly.

If you don’t have specialized equipment, some waffle irons have removable grids that can be turned over to reveal a flat side that is perfect for pressing. We also tried standard waffle irons, which did compact and toast the sandwiches but left square indentations. Rolls and sturdy breads held up to this better than soft sliced breads. A nonstick frying pan with a weighted cake pan (see “Pressing Pointers” above) works well too.

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