A good grill press can make achieving even browning an easy task. Also referred to as steak weights, bacon presses, or meat presses, grill presses are metal weights that are used to press food against a cooking surface, maximizing the surface area in direct contact with the heat and hence boosting browning. And, when pre-heated, they can speed up the cooking process. Grill presses can be used on an outdoor grill or indoors on a griddle or skillet, smashing or pressing burgers, steaks, fish, hot sandwiches, and even vegetables.
To find the cream of the crop, we tested 11 grill presses priced from $19 to $69, to see which ones delivered even browning, weighed down food without crushing or sticking to it, and were easy to clean.
The Winners, at a Glance
This rectangular, medium-weight press had enough surface area to press every food we tested well. Its contoured silicone handle sleeve is heat resistant and makes holding the hot press feel secure and safe. The flat, stainless steel press surface heated up quickly and had no ridges for food to adhere to. It was also easy to clean and can go right into the dishwasher.
This stainless steel press from Made In is almost but not quite a square, making it ideal for pressing sandwiches and burger patties. It preheated quickly and had a flat surface that delivered even browning without sticking. The leather handle cover is heat-resistant, stylish, and can be removed, making this press dishwasher-safe.
Though slightly heavier than our main pick, this rectangular press performed well in testing, cooking bacon evenly and pressing sandwiches without flattening them completely. Its widely spaced ridges were easier to clean than the narrow ones we tested, and its wooden handle was tall enough to keep our fingers from the hot cooking surface.
If you’re looking for a round model, this cast iron press from Bellemain is wide enough to cover multiple slices of bacon and heavy enough (at three pounds) to weigh down a steak. Its ridged surface makes it slightly harder to clean but it can press “grill” marks into your food, if that’s your thing.
If you’re cooking for a crowd or need to weigh down a particularly large cut of meat, this cast iron press from Blackstone has got you (and that extra food) covered. Its tall, slightly textured heat-resistant handle felt secure to hold, making using this larger press just as easy to use as a smaller model.
- Bacon Test: We tested each press by cooking four slices of bacon to see if they could deliver crisp, evenly cooked rashers and keep the ends from curling up.
- Smash Burger Test: We used the grill presses to smash burgers, pressing down on 2-ounce patties on a hot cast iron skillet to see if they helped get a nice crust.
- Grilled Cheese Test (Winners-Only): We chose five winners from the first two tests and used them to make grilled cheese sandwiches to see if they resulted in a quicker cooking time and/or an even golden brown crust.
What We Learned
Material and Texture Made a Difference
The presses we tested were made of either cast iron or stainless steel, and each material had its advantages. Stainless steel presses conducted heat very well and heated up quickly, but they didn’t retain that heat for quite as long as cast iron. Cast iron was a good material for grill presses for two main reasons: weight and heat retention. While cast iron models took longer to heat up than stainless steel models, they also held that heat for longer, helping to achieve browning. The texture of the press surface is also worth considering. In general, we found a press surface with a smoother texture, like the stainless steel Winco, to be easier to cook with. Stainless steel’s smooth surface didn’t stick to food during testing or afterward during cleanup. While we did test some cast iron models with smooth press surfaces (like this model from Lodge) they are not dishwasher safe, and the models we tested had screw holes for their handles on the surface of the press, which caught grease and bits of food. Models with rougher surfaces or dimpling (like the Pit Boss and Victoria) tended to adhere to food, leading to the need to scrape food off of the press while cooking and a harder time cleaning up.
Ridges Had Pros and Cons
About half the presses we tested had ridges. When sufficiently pre-heated, ridges yielded the much sought-after “grill” marks. The flip side is that they also provided a place for food to get stuck to the press. This was especially apparent during the smash burger tests; every press with ridges we tested had at least some of the patty stuck between them after smashing. That said, if smash burgers aren’t your thing, and you’re okay with a little extra cleaning, ridges don’t have to be a deal breaker. Look for a model with more space between the raised ridges (like the Cuisinart CGPR-221 Cast Iron Grill Press), which makes cleanup a little easier.
Bigger Wasn’t Always Better
Presses with more surface area (like Blackstone and Pit Boss) can cover more food (large steaks, multiple burgers, etc.), but can also trap the moisture being pressed out of the food as it cooks. This creates steam, which inhibits browning. Weight is another important factor when choosing the right press for your needs. If a press is too light, it won’t increase the food’s contact with the cooktop, which is the whole point of using a grill press in the first place. If it’s too heavy, however, it can be difficult to maneuver and can crush more delicate foods, like salmon. Cast iron is heavier than stainless steel, which can be a help or a hindrance depending on what you’re cooking. We found that heavier cast iron models flattened grilled cheese sandwiches too much, while the lightest stainless steel model we tested (the J.B. Prince 8 oz Chef’s Press) wasn’t hefty enough. We also discovered two to three-pound presses, like the stainless steel Winco and the cast iron Cuisinart, hit the sweet spot for achieving the desired flattening and browning while still feeling easy and safe to use.
Handles Made a Big Difference
A good handle made the difference between a good press and a bad press. A handle that is molded with your hand and fingers may sound like a small thing, but when you’re holding a ripping hot piece of metal (and then pushing down on it) feeling secure in your hand is important. The last thing you want is a hot or slippery handle making your cooking more difficult or leading to burns. We preferred handles (like those on the Made In and Blackstone) that were tall enough (at least two inches high) to keep our hands sufficiently far from the cooking surface; shorter handles (like the J.B. Prince) were difficult to grip, and our hands heated up more. We also preferred handles made of wood, silicone, or heat-resistant materials to metal ones that heated up along with the press, like on the Lodge. A few models we tested (like the Norpro) had lacquered wooden handles that looked nice but were slippery to hold.
Size Was More Important Than Shape
Most grill presses come in two shapes: rectangular or round, though we did test one press (Made In) that was almost square. Ultimately, we found the overall surface area to be more important than the shape. The J.B. Prince was too small to cover anything we tried to cook with it, while the Pit Boss was so large that we needed two hands to use it. Our overall winner from Winco was rectangular and measured seven-and-a-half inches by four inches, which was a good surface area (30 square inches) to cover most, if not the entire surface, of the foods we tested. As mentioned above, too much surface area can lead to moisture becoming trapped under the press and creating steam, which isn’t great for browning. All but two of the models (from Pit Boss and Blackstone) we tested fit into a 12-inch skillet, making them versatile enough for most home kitchens. We have picks that are both round and rectangular, so choose the model that works best for the food you’re planning to press. Rectangular presses with smooth surfaces (like the Winco and Made In) are versatile enough to cover bacon and press smash burgers without sticking, while a round press like the one from Bellemain has enough surface area to cover a sandwich or a steak.
The Criteria: What to Look For in a Grill Press
A great grill press should press food evenly and deliver uniform browning. It should weigh enough to press food flat against the cooking surface, but not so much that it crushes whatever you’re cooking or is unwieldy to use. It should have a tall handle that keeps your fingers away from the hot cooking surface—ideally, one made of a heat-resistant material designed to stay as cool as possible. A good press should have enough surface area to cover most of what you’re cooking, but not so much that it traps moisture and inhibits the ability to monitor food as it cooks. Finally, the best press should be easy to use and clean, without lots of food sticking to it during the cooking process or requiring heavy scrubbing or scraping afterward.
The Best Grill Presses
What we liked: This press was among the best performing in all three of our tests. At two pounds, it was heavy enough to flatten bacon, smash burger patties, and encourage browning, but still light enough so as not to crush food. It’s made of stainless steel with a handle encased in a molded silicone sleeve that protected our hands from heat. It was also pleasant to grip, making handling the hot press feel secure. It was the easiest model to clean since it had a smooth surface without ridges. It can even go in the dishwasher.
What we didn’t like: At four inches wide, this press is a little narrow; four slices of bacon didn’t quite fit underneath it, and the edges of burger patties and grilled cheese sandwiches peeked out from the sides.
Price at time of publish: $30.
- Dimensions: 7.5 x 4 inches
- Weight: 2 lbs
- Materials: Stainless steel, silicone
- Cleaning Instructions: Dishwasher-safe
What we liked: This stainless steel press performed very well in testing. Its wide surface area and almost square shape covered burger patties and grilled cheese sandwiches completely. It was also wide enough to cook four slices of bacon (though did require moving the press up and down the length of the strips during cooking to keep them weighed down).
What we didn’t like: Though Made In recommends removing the leather handle cover during cooking, we found it quite useful in keeping our hands safe when handling the hot press. They do note that the heat can damage the leather, but we think this press is best used with the leather cover—if not, it’s just a hot metal handle. The cover stayed relatively cool during testing, even after preheating the press, but cannot itself be washed, which could be an issue over time, especially if you press anything that spatters. While the press itself is easy to clean, it did have some discoloration after the smash burger test. And nearly two pounds is just on the edge of being too light. Plus, at $69, it’s the most expensive press in our lineup.
Price at time of publish: $69.
- Dimensions: 5.5 x 5 inches
- Weight: 1.8 lbs
- Materials: Stainless steel, leather
- Cleaning Instructions: Dishwasher-safe
What we liked: This model from Cuisinart had enough surface area to cover almost the entire length of the bacon slices, and it covered burger patties and a grilled cheese sandwich completely. It weighs 2.8 pounds, which is heavier than our stainless steel picks but still felt good to use and flattened food without crushing it. The press’s surface has the widest separation between ridges of any of the samples we tested, making it easier to clean than other ridged models.
What we didn’t like: Smash burger patties clung to the space between the ridges, and we had to use a spatula to scrape the patty from the press. The handle is not contoured, which made it feel less secure than the handle of our overall winner.
Price at time of publish: $20.
- Dimensions: 8.75 x 4.33 inches
- Weight: 2.4 lbs
- Materials: Cast iron, wood
- Cleaning Instructions: Hand-wash and dry
What we liked: The wide, round shape and large surface area (about 60 square inches) of this press offered great coverage in all three of our tests. Bacon cooked up evenly, no burger edges poked out from underneath, and the grilled cheese came out evenly browned. The press had a good heft, and the tall handle kept fingers sufficiently far from the hot cooktop.
What we didn’t like: The narrow space between ridges allowed food to cling to the press and, in the case of smash burgers, get stuck. The top of the press has some small details in its design that trap grease and gunk, adding to difficulty when cleaning.
Price at time of publish: $22.
- Dimensions: 8.5-inch diameter
- Weight: 3 lbs
- Materials: Cast iron, wood
- Cleaning Instructions: Hand-wash and dry
What we liked: This long, wide press offered great coverage for everything we tested. Four slices of bacon fit comfortably underneath it, resulting in evenly crisped, flat bacon, and it easily covered two burger patties and grilled cheese sandwiches at once. The heat-resistant, textured handle stayed cool and didn’t get slippery even when grease splattered up onto it.
What we didn’t like: This press is too large to fit into a 12-inch skillet, meaning you can only use it on a flat-top griddle or a grill. Its heavier weight smashed grilled cheeses almost too much and would likely crush more delicate proteins like fish. The ridged press surface allowed burger patties to stick to the press and made it harder to clean.
Price at time of publish: $32.
- Dimensions: 10 x 5.5 inches
- Weight: 4.3 lbs
- Materials: Cast iron, heat-resistant plastic
- Cleaning Instructions: Hand-wash and dry
- Lodge LGP3 Rectangular Cast Iron Grill Press, Pre-Seasoned, 6.75-inch x 4.5-inch: While this press performed well in testing, its slightly smaller surface area put it behind other presses. The handle also heated up faster than others, and the screw holes on the press surface caught food and grease, making it harder to clean.
- Pit Boss Cast-Iron Grill and Griddle Press with Soft-Touch Handle: This was the largest press we tested and, at 5.25 pounds, the heaviest by a wide margin. It was too big to fit in a 12-inch skillet, and we needed two hands to use it during testing. It was so large that it was difficult to monitor the cooking of food underneath it. Unless you want a press only for an outdoor grill or stovetop griddle and plan on using it to press mainly large, thick cuts of meat, this model is too big to be versatile.
- Norpro 8.75-Inch Cast Iron Bacon Press with Wood Handle: This press is very similar to our winner for best round press, but with ever so slightly deeper ridges, which led to burger patties sticking to it, making it tougher to clean. The smooth handle also got noticeably slippery when grease splattered onto it.
- Lodge LGPR3 Cast Iron Round Grill Press, Pre-Seasoned, 7.5-inch: While we liked the size and weight of this press, the metal handle got hotter faster than other models, and the screw holes on the press surface acted as nooks that caught food and grease and were hard to clean out well.
- J.B. Prince 8 oz Chef’s Press: This model is designed to be modular, nesting together to create more weight. While we do like it, compared to the other presses, though, it was lighter and the wide surface gaps made it more difficult to smash burgers.
- Victoria Rectangular Cast-Iron Meat Press with a Wooden Handle: While this press boasted one of our favorite handles, its dimpled pressing surface clung to food and was difficult to clean.
Can you use a grill press on a grill?
You sure can! You can press steaks, chicken pieces, and even thick burgers on a grill. Thinner burgers can be more delicate and might benefit from a stable, smooth surface like a griddle being placed between the burger and the grill grates, ensuring no meat makes its way through once weighed down by a press. Pressing meat while it cooks squeezes out liquified fats and juices. If you’re cooking over an open flame, be mindful of flare-ups from dripping grease. Be sure to use a folded kitchen towel, pot holder, or heat-resistant glove when handling the hot press, since the intense heat from a grill can heat up press handles even faster than a stovetop.
What can you use a grill press for?
Grill presses are useful any time you’re looking for uniform browning on something like steak, chicken pieces, fish, or vegetables. They’re also useful to press foods flat like bacon, hot sandwiches, or smashed burgers.
How do you clean a grill press?
It depends on what it’s made of. Firstly, always check the manufacturer’s instructions for recommended cleaning directions. If your grill press is made of stainless steel, you can either wash it by hand or pop it in the dishwasher. If it’s made of cast iron, you’ll need to wash and dry it by hand, and likely re-season it from time to time. Always allow your press to cool completely before washing it, but it’s probably best to clean it before any leftover food has a chance to dry and get really stuck.
Can you use cooking spray on a grill press?
Aerosol cooking sprays are more than just oil in a spray can, they contain emulsifiers that help improve their performance. One very common emulsifying ingredient is lecithin, which helps the spray stick to cookware. The downside of lecithin is that it can build up over time, leaving a sticky film on cookware after repeated uses. While this is not a big problem for presses made of stainless steel, which can be scrubbed and/or go into the dishwasher, cast iron has more gentle cleaning needs, making the residue left by cooking spray harder to remove. If you’re looking to enhance the nonstick properties of your press, you might opt for a manual refillable mister, which you can fill with the oil of your choice that won’t leave a buildup of residue behind.
Why We’re the Experts
- Andrea Rivera Wawrzyn is a freelance food writer and recipe developer and was formerly an associate editor at America’s Test Kitchen.
- She has developed recipes for multiple New York Times bestselling cookbooks, including an IACP award winner.
- For this review, we tested 11 grill presses by using them to press bacon, smash burgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches. We also examined how easy they were to maneuver and clean, and if their handles kept our hands from getting hot.