A commercial panini press is a great tool for any restaurant owner. It's perfect for making delicious, fresh sandwiches that will get customers coming back again and again! But if you don't clean it regularly, your panini press can become a breeding ground for bacteria and might even break down far sooner than intended. To help, we're going to show you how to clean a commercial panini press, ensuring it makes the safest, most delicious foods and the machine has optimal longevity.
The majority of commercial panini presses are cast iron, which must be cleaned a specific way and seasoned and maintained to keep the material from deteriorating and rusting. Therefore, we'll take you step-by-step through both the cleaning and maintenance process, so you can keep this popular appliance running for years to come.
Gather the Tools and Products You'll Need for Cleaning
Since cast iron is a particular material when it comes to maintenance and cleaning, you're going to need some specific products and tools to keep your commercial panini press sparkling after every use.
The items you will need for this guide include:
Seasoning oil of choice (common options are shortening, canola oil, or vegetable oil)
Thankfully, most of these materials are items you can find in any commercial kitchen, so this cleaning process comes at a minimal overall cost.
Remove Factory Sediment with A Brief Wipe Down and Heat Treatment
If your commercial press has already been used several times before, then you can skip the next two steps, as they are designated to brand-new commercial panini presses.
When you receive a new commercial panini press, there will often be a protective film inside the press, and both grill surfaces might be covered in traces of factory sediment. This could be dust, debris, pieces of the presses' packaging, or other materials coating the press.
You'll want to remove this debris before using the press, as they could transfer to whatever food you use on the press first or they could soak into the cast iron material once heated.
When you are about to use a brand-new commercial panini press, make sure to place it in a well-ventilated area, remove the protective film, and wipe away the factory debris using water, soap, and your microfiber cloth.
The film can be removed by hand, but you'll remove the factory debris by wiping down the surface with a microfiber cloth that has been soaked in hot water and a light amount of dish soap. You'll then rinse out this microfiber cloth, soak it in only hot water, and use it to wipe the soap water off both grill surfaces on the commercial panini press.
After both sides have been wiped, use a separate clean and dry microfiber cloth to dry the panini press completely.
Is It Safe to Use Soap on a Cast Iron Commercial Panini Press?
Those of you who know a little something about cast iron as a material and how to clean them might be a tad suspicious of the fact that we're using dish soap to clean this commercial panini press.
Rest assured, it is perfectly safe to clean cast iron with dish soap as long as you use very minimal amounts, rinse the soap off completely immediately after it is applied, and dry the cast iron material completely afterward.
Soap is a great way to sanitize your cast iron, but large amounts of it will strip any seasoning of your press, which will make it easier for food to stick to the surface and leave the material susceptible to rust.
Burn Off Remaining Factory Sediment by Turning the Press on to Its Highest Setting for 45 Minutes
You've given your commercial panini press its first wipe down to remove most of its factory sediment. However, since cast iron is a porous material, some sediment might still be sitting just underneath the commercial panini press's surface.
After you have successfully wiped down your commercial panini press, plug the machine into an outlet and turn its heat dial to the highest setting before turning the machine on. Leave the press closed and allow it to burn off the remaining factory sediment for 45 minutes.
You should see smoke rising from the commercial panini press during this process. The smoke is a sign that the remaining factory sediment is successfully burning off of the press's cast iron grill surface, ensuring it is clean and safe for its first use.
After the 45 minutes have passed, you can shut off the commercial panini press and prepare for its first seasoning.
Give Your Commercial Panini Press its First Seasoning Using Cooking Oil or Shortening
Seasoning is the process of creating a layer of carbonized oil on your commercial panini press through the process called polymerization. This will ensure the cast iron material is non-stick and won't easily rust over time.
To season your commercial panini press, lightly soak a clean microfiber towel with the seasoning oil of your choice and apply the oil to the press' entire surface, including both grills and all along the sides. Turn the press' heat to the highest setting and allow the oil to cook for 10 minutes. Then, let the grill cool down and repeat the process once more.
While you could theoretically use any shortening or cooking oil to season your cast iron commercial panini press, we recommend using only those with high smoke points, such as avocado oil or safflower oil.
Since most commercial panini presses have a maximum temperature setting of around 500-600 degrees Fahrenheit, you'll want an oil with a, particularly high smoke point, like the ones listed below. Try to avoid low smoke point options, such as extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil, or coconut oil.
Alternatively, common, more affordable oils with medium smoke points include canola oil, vegetable oil, or light/refined olive oil.
Clean the Commercial Panini Press' Surface with a Brush or Scrubber and Wet Cloth After First Use
Now we can get into how you clean your commercial panini press after being used to make some exceptional food.
While the pan is warm but not overly hot, lightly scrub any cake-on food using your nylon-bristled brush or stainless-steel chain scrubbing pad and remove it completely from the grill surfaces. Then, turn the press to medium heat and cover the entire surface with a clean, damp microfiber cloth. Close the lid and leave the cloth inside for one minute.
After a minute has passed, the damp, heated cloth should have helped loosen any other residue left on the grills. Carefully remove the cloth with a pair of tongs as it will be extremely hot. Once removed, you can use another clean microfiber towel to wipe the grill surfaces and remove the last food remains.
Alternatively, if you don't have a brush or scrub pad, or neither successfully removed all caked-on food, you can mix two tablespoons of baking soda with ½ cup of warm water. Baking soda is a great adhesive substance that will help scrub away pesky food remains without damaging the cast iron material.
Pour some of the baking soda liquid on the panini press grill surfaces, and then dip a microfiber cloth in the remaining baking soda liquid before scrubbing the grill with the cloth. Then, wipe the surface clean with a damp cloth before drying it completely with a separate, dry cloth.
Can I Use a Stainless-Steel Bristled Brush?
Stainless-steel bristled brushes have been a favorite in the grilling community as they are highly efficient at scraping these surfaces clean in seconds.
However, there have been warnings against these tools recently because the bristles have been known to come off the brush and stick to the grill surfaces. They will then stick to any food cooked on the surface, embedding themselves inside and becoming significant health risks when consumed.
Therefore, we recommend the safe nylon-bristled brush for simple cleans or stainless-steel chain pads for tougher jobs to avoid this hazard.
Re-Season Your Commercial Panini Press Weekly for Optimal Longevity
By this point, you've successfully seasoned and cleaned your commercial panini press from the moment it was unboxed to its first use. But caring for these culinary gadgets is a long-term investment if you want your machine to last.
Clean your commercial panini press after every cooking session and re-season the machine weekly to ensure the cast iron material's integrity and increase its overall longevity.
The best way to guarantee your commercial panini press lasts is to keep it clean and season it frequently so the surface is protected and relatively easy to clean after every use.
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