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Few would disagree with the assertion that a cheese sandwich is always better when it’s grilled. Toasting a plain cheese sandwich transforms it from something not-so special into a warm, toasty, oozy treat that brings out the best in even the most basic of bread and cheese choices. Upgrade that sandwich with additional fillings, spreads, and fancier breads and cheeses, and you can make a gourmet meal in minutes. The task is especially quick and easy if you use a sandwich maker, an appliance designed for the single purpose of making a perfect grilled cheese sandwich. These handy machines are pretty much foolproof if you use them properly. They’re also not the single-use tools they seem – in fact, there are countless creative sandwich maker uses to inspire some fun culinary experimentation.

Two Types of Sandwich Makers

Two general types of sandwich makers are available. The less expensive kind has upper and lower plates molded into square shapes to fit regular sandwich bread. They press and seal one, two or four sandwiches into classic triangular pocket shapes. The other most common type is a grill sandwich maker, or panini press. These have ridged plates and sometimes a weighted top plate to press a sandwich while grilling it. Both types of sandwich makers work in essentially the same way.

Basic Sandwich Maker Instructions

It’s a good idea to read the instruction manual that came with your sandwich maker if you have it. Otherwise, just follow the basic method here:

  1. Plug in the sandwich maker and keep it closed while it heats up. Most models have an indicator light to tell you when it’s ready, which should take a few minutes.
  2. Prepare a cheese sandwich. Optionally, spread the outside sides of the bread slices with butter. 
  3. Open the sandwich maker. If you didn’t use butter on the sandwich, you might optionally spray a fine mist of oil on the upper and lower plates. 
  4. Place the sandwich on the bottom plate, being careful not to touch the plates.
  5. Close the sandwich maker. Close the front clamp if your sandwich maker has one.
  6. Wait 3 to 5 minutes, or until the indicator lights up, and open the sandwich maker.
  7. Remove the sandwich with a wood or silicone spatula. 
  8. Unplug the sandwich maker, leave it open and let it cool completely. Wipe the plates with a damp sponge before putting it away. 

Tips for the Best Cheese Sandwiches

Using butter on the bread or an oil spray on the sandwich maker plates gives a grilled cheese sandwich the best flavor and texture, but it’s not essential. Most sandwich makers have nonstick plates, so you can keep the bread dry, and it still shouldn’t stick.

Use a good melting cheese for the best grilled cheese sandwich. Examples include American, Swiss, gruyere and cheddar. Leave a small border of bread around the edges of the cheese to prevent it from oozing out and making a mess on the plates.

Use an appropriate type of bread for your sandwich maker. Panini press-style sandwich makers can handle most types of bread, but the square-sandwich style ones work best with regular sliced bread.

Creative Sandwich Maker Uses

Get creative with a sandwich maker’s uses and try grilling items other than cheese sandwiches. Here are some ideas:

  • Quesadillas and burritos
  • French toast
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
  • Cream cheese and berry sandwiches
  • Garlic cheese bread
  • White bread and pie filling dessert sandwiches

You might also discover some sandwich maker uses that don’t resemble sandwiches. Here are some foods you can experiment with cooking on the plates of a sandwich maker:

  • Omelets – Pour beaten egg and optionally other chopped ingredients on the bottom plate and close the sandwich maker.
  • Frozen hash browns.
  • Pancake, cake, cornbread or muffin batter – pour the mix onto the bottom plate and close the sandwich maker.
  • Bacon, Canadian bacon and ham steaks.
  • Canned biscuits – Flatten the individual biscuit shapes to fit the sandwich maker.
  • Thinly sliced vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini and onion.

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About the Author

Joanne Thomas

Joanne Thomas has worked as a writer and editor for print and online publications since 2004. As a specialist in all things food and drink, she has penned pieces for Livestrong, Robert Mondavi and Modern Mom, among other names. She found her first jobs in a series of kitchens before moving on to celebrate food via the written word. Thomas resides in California and holds a bachelor’s degree in politics from the University of Bristol, U.K.