If you like deeply seared steaks, crispy-skinned fish fillets, and uniformly browned grilled cheese sandwiches, a grill press might be the tool for you. But there are a few things you should know before you begin. Here are some basic concepts that we learned over the course of testing.
1. Expect your food to cook faster than it would without a press.
All presses speed up the cooking process somewhat because they force more of the food closer to the heat. As the press flattens the food, some moisture is pushed out—not enough to alter the texture of the finished product, but enough to make the cooking environment slightly wetter, creating steam that also speeds cooking. Unfortunately, the more pieces of food you attempt to press at a time, the more moisture there is, especially if your skillet is crowded and moisture can’t evaporate. On that note . . .
2. Don’t crowd the food underneath it.
Unless you want your food to steam, press just one sandwich or piece of fish, meat, or poultry at a time. With more space in the pan, more crust-killing moisture can evaporate. Still, you’ll also need to . . .
3. Make sure the food you’re pressing fits completely under the press.
Anything that isn’t under the press won’t get weighed down and consequently won’t develop a nice brown crust.
4. Try preheating the press for faster browning on both sides of your food.
To preheat your press, place it directly on the gas burner or electric coil of your stove and heat it over medium heat for at least 10 minutes. Use the press as you would otherwise, preheating your pan, adding your food, and then placing the heated press on top of that food. If the press is properly preheated, it will sear the food from above as the food simultaneously sears on contact with the hot pan below.
5. The press doesn’t have to stay on top of the food the entire time you’re cooking.
Especially with more delicate or soft foods, you may want to remove the press once you’ve achieved a good sear; this reduces the likelihood that you might crush or squash the food during cooking.
6. Always have a dish towel or pot holder handy.
No matter how heat-resistant the handle of your press may be, it can still get hot, especially if you preheat it. Make sure to protect your hands with a towel or pot holder when moving the press.