Sandwich toaster purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What You Need to Know
  • A sandwich maker presses two slices of bread together, toasts them and seals them at the sides so that the filling does not spill out.
  • Replaceable heating plates convert the appliance into a waffle iron or panini grill.
  • Some models come with extras such as an adjustable browning level, a height-adjustable lock or an automatic switch-off.
  • The heating plates are easy to clean, often with just a damp cloth, but can also be soaked and sometimes put in the dishwasher.

How does a sandwich toaster work?

The electric appliance presses two superimposed slices of toast together and seals them at the edges. This traps the topping between the slices. Heating plates heat up, toasting the bread in minutes and also heating the contents. The sandwiches are usually separated diagonally to form a triangular shape. Since the bread is sealed all around, the ingredients do not fall out – provided you have not overdone it with the amount of toppings. The sandwich maker is usually closed with a click mechanism and signals to the user via an indicator light when the meal is ready.

A sandwich is the perfect snack for in between meals. If it has to go fast, the soft bread can be topped as desired and all individual wishes can be fulfilled. If you want it to be warm and crispy, the sandwich toaster comes into play, turning a sandwich into a popular party snack in just a few minutes.

sandwich maker on breakfast table with sandwiches and coffee

Although the appliances are actually designed for conventional sandwich toasts, you can also try white bread or other soft bread types. However, make sure that the slices fit into the mould. If you want to make sure that the edge is well sealed, resort to larger slices of toast (American sandwich). Small slices cannot be sealed without gaps by many sandwich toasters. Nevertheless, you get a practical alternative to the classic topped club sandwich. Since the topping cannot slip out, the toasted sandwich is ideal as finger food.

Special variants of sandwich toasters

If you are reminded of a waffle iron when you think of how a sandwich toaster works, you are not wrong. Since the principle is the same with the heated plates, it makes sense to combine these functions. In fact, there are some special forms that can do more than just prepare sandwiches. A common variant that can be had at affordable prices is a 3-in-1 appliance. With this, the heating plates for sandwiches can be removed and replaced by other plates. One of the advantages of this is that they are easy to clean. The most common version has a heating plate for waffles and a small grill plate. With the transformation from sandwich maker to waffle iron, the savoury treat becomes a sweet one.

The grill plate as a third option is well suited for fish and meat, grilled cheese or paninis. Some manufacturers offer a whole range of add-ons for their models, which add an amazing amount of functionality to them. Heating plates with different shapes can be reordered here. So, in addition to sandwiches and waffles, each with a different pattern, you can also make donuts, pancakes, empanadas and much more. For families or party preparations, the quadruple sandwich toaster is a practical solution. As the term suggests, the extra-large heating plates offer space for four sandwiches at the same time.

Already tried it? Sweet sandwiches

If you don’t have interchangeable heating plates and can’t convert your sandwich toaster into a waffle iron or donut maker, you still have a way to create sweet snacks with the appliance. Instead of cheese or ham, you can use ingredients such as nut nougat cream, peanut butter or cinnamon and sugar for the filling – and that’s it for a sweet breakfast or a little snack with your coffee.

What functions should the sandwich maker have?

You can adjust the degree of browning with strength levels on the toaster. Whether extra crispy or slightly warmed – both are possible without any problems. A height-adjustable lid also makes things easier. This turns the appliance into a hybrid between a sandwich toaster and a contact grill. This way, you can fill the bread slices generously without having to worry that the lid will not close properly. By the way, a sandwich maker of this design can also be used to heat burgers. Larger models that offer a grill function often have a spill guard that catches escaping fat. Some have an automatic switch-off so that the sandwich moulds do not heat up further or even overheat after the snack is ready.

Since a sandwich toaster gets very hot during operation, the handle should be heat-insulated. Only then can you open the appliance at any time without risk of burns when the preparation of the meal is complete. However, almost every model, from cheap products to high-end toasters, has this safety feature. Finally, the dimensions and weight should be taken into account. Some appliances are very powerful and require a lot of space on the kitchen shelf or for storage in the cupboard. Normal sandwich makers weigh about 1.0 to 2.5 kilograms, larger and multifunctional appliances up to about 4.0 kilograms. Depending on the model, it is possible to store them on their edges, which saves a little space.

A snack delight in three minutes

The power of most sandwich makers is 800 to 1,200 watts, which is absolutely sufficient for optimal results. Some use less power, but this results in a longer baking time.

You can usually toast a sandwich in three to five minutes. Conveniently, the toaster does not need to be preheated, but can be used directly as soon as it is connected to the power source. If the appliance does not automatically switch off the heaters as soon as the sandwich is ready, you have to pay attention to when the pilot light lights up. Often, a delicious aroma and gentle sizzle announce the approaching treat.

Baked sandwich in the sandwich toaster

The prices for this type of sandwich toaster cover a wide range. You can get a reasonably priced appliance for as little as 10 euros. However, if you want to enjoy sandwiches regularly, it is worth spending a little more money. For 30 to 50 euros, you can sometimes find 3-in-1 appliances or models from well-known manufacturers. Prices range far beyond 100 euros. But for that you also get multifunctional appliances that are more reminiscent of mini grills, among other things with pre-installed programmes and exchangeable heating plates.

Where does the name “sandwich” come from?

The sandwich in its present form probably goes back to the British Earl John Montagu. He ruled the county of Sandwich on the southwest coast of England, which gave the snack its present name. Montagu had his food, preferably beef, served between two toasted slices of bread. This way he could eat and work at the same time without having to use cutlery or get his fingers greasy.

Alternatives to the sandwich toaster

If you want your toast to be toasted and crispy, you have a few alternatives. However, the sandwich toaster has one thing over all of them: it seals the bread at the edges and thus turns the sandwich into a filled, handy snack – an unbeatable argument for on-the-go in many cases.

Sandwich tongs

 sandwich tongs

Sandwich tongs can hold two slices of bread with their toppings. They can be hung in the toaster, which must be sufficiently wide or long. If you have not bought the two components together, make sure that the tongs are compatible with your toaster. It should also have a leakage protection so that the melted cheese does not escape and burn in the worst case. You can also use this gadget to toast other pastry shapes such as panini or bagels.

Salamander grill

 salamander grill

This is a small grill that heats a dish with high heat from above. It is more for making gratins and baked-on casseroles, but can also heat up or keep other foods warm in a short time. With bread, you have to be careful that it doesn’t get too dry. For cheese, you can literally watch it melt. Since this appliance is mainly used in professional kitchens, it costs accordingly much.

Microwave grill

 microwave grill for sandwiches

Some microwaves have an additional grill function. In special moulds, for example the MICO sandwich toaster from Morphy Richards, the sandwich can be prepared in the microwave just like in a normal sandwich maker. Because this cookware is closed on the sides, nothing can spill out and it is easy to clean after use. Toast rolls or croissants can also be baked with this accessory.

Contact grill

 contact grill

Grill plates at the top and bottom ensure that the bread is baked to a nice crisp. Since the space between them is adjustable, both thicker toasts and burgers can be prepared. The contact grill can generate temperatures of up to 300 degrees and can even bake several loaves of bread at the same time due to its larger surface area. There are some hybrid forms between a classic sandwich maker and a contact grill that have exchangeable plates and where the lid is height-adjustable.

Cleaning the heating plates

Most appliances have heating elements with a non-stick coating so that nothing sticks when you take the sandwiches out. However, even if cheese or sauces have spilled, you can easily clean the heating plates. Let them cool down for a while and remove any residue with a household cloth or damp cloth. Do not wait too long, however, as cheese in particular dries quickly. Ideally, the plates can be removed individually so that you can soak them. With multifunctional appliances, this option is automatically provided. In most cases, warm water and a little gentle washing-up liquid is enough to get the heating plates completely clean again.

Some models are even dishwasher-safe. You should only avoid using iron sponges or scouring agents. Otherwise, the coating may be damaged. Pay special attention to hygiene in the kitchen in general and with all appliances used there. If grease or oil residues are not removed properly, unpleasant odours can arise.

Two types of coating stand out: Teflon and ceramic. The former is familiar from household frying pans. The coating is very susceptible to scratches. Therefore, you should never use a fork or knife to remove food residues. Cutlery can easily leave unsightly marks on the coating. Ceramic coatings are somewhat higher quality and more robust, but also not completely immune to scratches. To remove the sandwiches without problems, it is best to use a spatula or stirring spoon. You are on the safe side with wooden utensils, as plastic or rubber could melt on the still-hot heating plates.