Although panini machines are a basic piece of equipment with simple operation, cleaning is still important to keep units operating at peak performance. Heating elements may fail, hinges wear out over time and other components could require service at some point.

Vidal Munoz Jr., service manager at Commercial Kitchen Parts & Service in San Antonio, Texas, provides details on cleaning and maintaining panini machines.

  • The biggest problem with panini machines is at the hinge points, which become bent or broken due to abuse over time. To prevent this, the plates should not be slammed down roughly during use.
  • In high-volume operations or with heavy use, these units will have an average service life of about three to four years. When a breakdown occurs, replacement, rather than repair, is typically warranted.
  • In most cases with this equipment, the operator will only clean the cooking surfaces. This is a mistake as the entire unit should be periodically cleaned.
  • Daily cleaning of the Teflon platens is required. With some models, these can be removed and washed in a sink with warm water and soap.
  • Most panini machines have a hinge point where the platens come down to cook the food. Depending on the operation’s volume, this needs to be wiped down weekly or monthly using a damp rag. This will ensure the hinges operate properly.
  • The majority of hinges with these units don’t require lubrication. If sticking is an issue, operators can grease the hinges using food-grade oil. Vegetable oil should never be used as this will harden and impact operation.
  • Some panini machines have error codes. These should not be reset and ignored, or expensive repairs and/or a total breakdown could ensue.