Some people look like they know how to work a panini press like it’s second nature. You see others pressing out masterpieces, but when you give it a try, your final product is a burnt, cheesy mess. Every. Single. Time. What if I told you it’s simple? Learn to be flawless with the panini press using these step-by-step instructions. You’ll be a pro in no time, I promise.

1. Choose your bread

Perfect Panini

Photo by Kana Hamamoto

A solid foundation is a necessity for your panini. Before just reaching for those two pieces of pre-sliced bread, explore all your options: fresh loaves at the bread station, English muffins, bagels, tortillas, pita bread, french toast, or croissants. Your bread choice sets the tone for your entire panini. The sturdier the bread, the better. You gotta get it right.

2. Seasoning is essential

Perfect Panini

Photo by Stephanie DeVaux

Sprinkle on some salt and pepper, try spices from the spice rack, pesto, tomato sauce, hummus, or hot sauce. Be adventurous, mix and match, do your thing, express yourself. Just remember to go easy on the wet ingredients, no one wants a soggy panini.

3. Cheese, cheese, and more cheese

Perfect Panini

Photo by Sarah Stettin

What is a panini without cheese? Cheddar, Swiss, Brie, or even cream cheese – you pick. Place a slice (or two, or three…) on each side of your panini, directly against the bread. This maximizes the meltability.

5. Fill it up

Perfect Panini

Photo by Bernard Wen

This is where you add all the meat, veggies, and fruit to your heart’s content. Don’t forget to check out the options in the hot line too. Pulled pork, chicken parmesan, or roasted peppers and onions are great additions to a panini. The fillings are what turn a plain old grilled cheese into panini dream land. However, be careful to not overdo it with tomatoes, cucumbers, or anything with high water content. Soggy paninis are sad paninis.

6. Panini it

Perfect Panini

Photo by Tarika Narain

When the time finally comes, place your panini on the press and slowly lower the handle. Carefully tuck back in any fillings that slide out with the metal spatula, if necessary. Don’t stray too far away. Let your panini cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown.

7. Eat your masterpiece

Perfect Panini

Photo by Hailey Maher

Congratulations, you’ve passed Panini 101 with flying colors. Now take your panini making to the next level with these bomb panini recipes.