The Rival Sandwich Maker is a small two-sandwich device that presents unusual ridges: one large ridge through each sandwich and four smaller indentations on each half of a sandwich. This makes a pretty pattern, although you likely will need to stick to square pieces of bread and traditional fillings. This makes a fun grilled cheese, but given its design, you will not be able to use it as a panini press to make a true panini.
This device has a non-stick surface that works well, and sandwiches come off them with no difficulties whatsoever. The surface is easy to wipe clean, but the metal ridges slow down the cleaning process.
During our testing, we got tasty grilled cheese sandwiches that were evenly cooked. But be prepared for a letdown when you crave paninis. When we tried making one with bread, turkey, cheese and pesto sauce, it really turned out to be a hot sandwich and did not seem like a panini at all since this does not have genuine panini maker ridges.
This machine also has the smallest cooking area of any sandwich maker we reviewed, with a heating surface of only 40 square inches. With the unusually ridged interior design, this sandwich toaster can do a good job only with standard square-shaped slices of bread.
Cooking is easy with the Rival Sandwich Maker. You do not need to prepare the surface; you can just plug the machine in. When the power is on, you will know because a red indicator light flicks on. When the device is ready to cook, a green light will pop on. At that point, you simply put in the sandwiches, close the top lid and wait for the cooking process to be completed. The green light will turn off automatically once your sandwich has cooked, which takes an average of two minutes.
Our tests showed the temperature for this device were not completely uniform. The top interior tested at 225 degrees and the bottom to be 222 degrees.
Unfortunately, this kitchen appliance gets very hot on the outside. The instruction manuals state you should touch only the handles, keep this sandwich grill on a heat-resistant surface or mat, and avoid cooking anything under the cupboard because heat can build up. You also should not use it near or under curtains or any flammable material, according to the manual. The manufacturer also warns that this sandwich maker should not be positioned anywhere that children might have access to it.
The Rival comes with a cord wrapping capability to store the 27.5-inch electrical cord. This appliance can be secured shut so you can store it standing up, which is great when you do not have an abundance of storage space in your kitchen.
This is a small sandwich maker with a clever, almost waffle-like interior design, and we enjoyed the grilled cheese sandwich it made. However, it is small and does not fit large slices of bread. Its external temperature during cooking also raises concerns and keeps it from ranking higher in our product lineup.