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What Is A Contact Grill?

Contact Grill

A contact grill, also known as a panini press or panini maker, is a versatile and powerful commercial appliance designed to cook food quickly using heated plates and pressure. Ideal for use in restaurants, takeaways, kiosks, and cafés, contact grills are available in single or double plate versions. This guide will help you understand different types of contact grills, their unique features, and their benefits.

Types of Contact Grill Plates:

Contact grills feature various plate designs, each with distinct cooking properties and results:

  1. Flat Plate Contact Grills: These maximize the cooking area and distribute heat quickly, resulting in faster cooking times.
  2. Ribbed Plate Contact Grills: These have channels that draw away grease and fat, promoting healthier dishes. The grooves leave attractive branding lines on foods like steaks, skewers, and panini.
  3. Mixed Plate Contact Grills: These usually have a flat lower plate and a ribbed upper plate, combining the benefits of fast cooking and branding lines. Some larger models have both flat and ribbed lower plates for maximum versatility.

Contact Grill Plate Materials:

Flat Plate Contact Grill

Grill plates come in different materials, each with unique properties:

  1. Cast Iron Plates: These are popular due to their excellent heat retention, making them perfect for busy establishments. However, they require occasional seasoning and take longer to heat up than other types.
  2. Aluminium Plates: Ideal for grills that aren't used constantly, these plates heat up quickly and efficiently transfer heat to the food.
  3. Ceramic Plates: Featuring infrared elements behind glass ceramic plates, these offer lightning-fast heat-up times and easy cleaning. As a premium product, they tend to be more expensive.

Features and Considerations for Contact Grills:

Ribbed Plate Contact Grill

While many contact grills look similar, some have unique features that may be useful in your kitchen:

  1. Power: Grills have different power outputs, and more powerful models can heat up and cook food faster. They can be powered by gas, electric, or charcoal, just like gas grills, electric grills, and kamado grills, respectively. 
  2. Timers: Built-in timers help reduce waste and ensure a consistent finish.
  3. Floating Plates: These provide a more consistent cook without squashing uneven food or overcooking areas.
  4. Grease Trays: Consider how easy it is to empty and clean the trays after service.
  5. Energy Saving Modes: These can help save energy and running costs during quieter hours.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Mixed Flat and Ribbed Plate Contact Grill

What's the difference between a contact grill and a panini press?

There is no difference; contact grills are perfect for cooking panini but are also suitable for a full English breakfast or quick premium beef burger.

What's the difference between contact grills and griddles?

The primary difference is that contact grills have a top plate, while griddles cook on one side. Griddles typically have a larger cooking surface.

What's the difference between contact grills and salamander grills?

Contact grills cook by direct contact with plates, while salamander grills use radiant heat.

Do you need to season contact grills?

Cast iron plate contact grills require seasoning before use. Check the user manual for the specific process.

Why is the coating coming off the grill plates?

There is no coating on cast iron plates. What may appear as degrading is likely burnt-on food debris, which can be avoided by seasoning the grill well.


A contact grill is an essential tool for both commercial and home kitchens, offering a quick and easy way to cook a variety of foods evenly and efficiently. Understanding the different types, materials, and features can help you choose the perfect contact grill for your cooking needs. For more information, honest reviews and learning visit our Buying Guides.

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