What To Keep In Mind When Choosing Bread For The Best Panini

The best part of a panini is that it's completely customizable. The concept of the Italian-inspired sandwich is simple: layers of whatever meat, veg, and cheese you like — whose flavors and juices meld together perfectly when they're warmed between two pieces of bread — grilled to crispy perfection. Whether you load your panini with cold cuts and Gruyere or sliced veggies and Swiss cheese, choosing the right bread can make or break it, and the best ones are those that can hold up under the intense heat when pressed.

The key is choosing a bread that's structurally hearty; more rustic Italian loaves like focaccia and ciabatta that have a sturdier crust will maintain the body of your sandwich when heated and pressed. Other breads, like a French baguette or stiff slices of rye, whole, or multigrain breads, can also handle what the grill is throwing down. Even flatbreads like pita or naan, though unconventional for a panini, are plenty robust for this purpose. 

The best breads for a panini hold up to the heat

Not every bread will give you a great pressed panini; softer breads like pre-sliced sandwich loaves, white, challah, or brioche will buckle and flatten under the pressure of the grill. These breads differ from the structure of ciabatta, for example, which is made with a stronger flour, has a tougher crust, and boasts a more open crumb that helps it retain its integrity under the heat and pressure of the grill. 

While you can technically make paninis with these breads,  these softer slices have a tendency to toast faster on the outside before the inside has the chance to warm. If you don't have a panini press, a griddle or heavy pan like a cast-iron skillet can be used to toast your panini. And for that satisfying toast, butter the outside of your assembled sandwich before you grill it to get a crisp texture on your choice of appropriate bread.