Table of Contents
- About Grill (AKA Bacon) Presses
- TEST KITCHEN
- BACON PRESSES | Ranked & Rated
About Grill (AKA Bacon) Presses
What is a Bacon Press?
A bacon press is a tool of many names. You might also find them sold as a grill press, griddle press, burger press, steak weight, or maybe something else entirely. This being bacon camp, you know where our hearts lie.
A bacon press is a nice chunk of (usually) cast iron with a handle on it. Set it on top of something, and it pushes your food directly into contact with the surface of the pan. This gets you great browning since the meat can’t curl up and pull itself away from the heat. The signature image of this test was one of those thin boneless pork chops sitting flat with a beautiful sear on both sides instead of a little cup with a sear on the outer ring. It tasted as good as it looked.
How to Use a Bacon Press
To use a bacon press, set it in the pan while it heats up. The extra heat helps by cooking the top side of your food a little bit too. Put your food in the pan and set the press on top. Monitor your food carefully — it’ll be done soon. You’ll want to flip anything that’s not super-thin and finish the top side.
Most of a bacon press’s job is just to sit there and be heavy, but you can use it actively too. A weight on a handle is exactly what the (non-cardiologist) doctor ordered for making pressed sandwiches, smashed burgers, and hash brown patties. The press gets a nice, consistent mash at the start, then the extra browning you get from leaving the press on top finishes the job.
You also get a faster cooking time when something is under a bacon press. Like, a lot faster. I figured the thin bacon in our test would usually take about 10 minutes on the griddle without a press, and picked up the presses at about 4 minutes to see if the bacon was ready to flip. I was surprised to find the bacon done to the point of shattering when I bit into it.
On future tests (and a retest of the first group), the bacon was done around 3 minutes. This kept up throughout the tests, with everything taking a third to half the time I would have expected without the press. As you might guess, bacon presses are much beloved of short-order cooks, who use them to push the food out fast to a big crowd.
Like all cast iron cookware, you need a couple of extra steps to keep your bacon press in shape. Some presses come preseasoned, others need seasoning, so follow the manufacturer’s directions on that score. To maintain your seasoning, avoid soap as much as possible when washing. Use plain water and elbow grease when you can (which should be most of the time, unless you’re pressing caramel for some reason). Dry completely as soon as you’re done washing, and rub a little bit of vegetable oil over the press before storing.
Our testing pointed us towards a Goldilocks press. Not too heavy, not too light; not too little, not too big; not too dense, not too, uh… not dense. The press will get hot when you use it, so a wooden handle will let you move it around without needing a glove. A smooth (or smoothish) surface is better than one with big ridges.
We tried a variety of tests with each of the bacon presses. First was bacon (as you might expect), followed by frozen hash browns (to try using the presses actively to compress the hash browns into patties).
From there we moved on to lunch foods, cooking thin pork chops to see which presses could get a great sear, then pressed ham and cheese sandwiches to see how the presses would deal with a more delicate bread.
What We Were Looking For
We want to see:
- Good browning
- Quick cooking
- Comfortable to use and easy to clean
- Is it capable enough to do a variety of jobs
BACON PRESSES | Ranked & Rated
1. HIC ★★★★★
2. Fox Run by Outset ★★★★☆
These are two different presses, but we’re grouping them together for the purpose of this review because they’re all but identical. Both presses are rectangles that measure 6⅞”×4” and feature lengthwise wooden handles. The bottom on each features a pig design and the words BACON PRESS so you don’t forget what you just bought.
Practically, they act as if they were smooth, although you need to be more careful when cleaning them to get them completely clean and dry. These presses need to be seasoned before use. The biggest difference: The HIC weighs 25.6 ounces while the Fox Run is slightly heavier at 26.2 ounces. The pig designs are also very slightly different.
These presses work great. The bacon cooked up quickly and flat. The hash browns pressed down easily to a tasty patty with solid browning. The pork chops came off absolutely beautifully: perfectly flat with great browning. The sandwiches cooked easily, and we were able to keep the pressure under control to produce a tasty sandwich with good browning and texture.
The handles on these presses were good, and didn’t get too hot to handle on the hot griddle. Cleanup was easy enough, though they need a little extra work to dry and oil because of the pig design. We knock the Fox Run down a notch because of the only meaningful difference — the HIC is nearly half the price.
3. Norpro Cast Iron Pig — ★★★★☆
I admit, I thought this press would wind up being a joke. It’s a big pig-shaped press that says BACON PRESS in big letters across the top. Nothing else in the test surprised me more than when it turned out to work really well. The pig is roughly 8”×4¾” (the sticky-outie bits are surprisingly compact) and weighs in at 31.3 ounces. The surface, which requires seasoning, has small ridges of pig design, but acts as a smooth surface. The handle is a wooden ball.
Bacon wasn’t the pig’s best event, and the large size of the press appears to have been too much for the bacon, which steamed a little more than it fried. The bacon wasn’t bad, in fact it looked like TV commercial bacon, but it was more chewy than the others.
The hash browns came out just fine — the extra thickness of the patty gave enough room for steam to vent easily. The pork chop was very good with a nice sear. The sandwich had a beautiful level of browning, and the relatively low density makes this easy to control.
Overall, the pig wasn’t the best of the presses, but was consistently pretty good. Unlike the other large presses, enough steam was able to vent from underneath it to get good browning. The design is nice, and would look good in your kitchen. This is the best press to give as a gift, but you might also keep one for yourself.
4. VonShef — ★★★★
The VonShef press has a special feature none of the other presses offer: a folding handle. This is a great extra, and means the press can fold flat to store in a drawer instead of needing shelf space. Setting aside the folding metal handle, the VonShef is a truncated oval 7¾” long and 3¼” to 5” wide. Weight is relatively high at 39.5 ounces. The preseasoned surface is smooth.
The bacon came out perfectly flat and crisp under the VonShef; the hash browns were also fine, although the folding handle makes it a little more difficult to actively press. There’s a stay-up notch that holds the handle just over vertical, but you have to either balance the handle centered or press the plate itself to get a straight-down push.
The pork chop stuck to the press, and got a little less sear than I would have liked (although it was a little thicker than some of the other chops). The sandwich came out great, with excellent browning. The handle was a little less trouble here, and might have helped not over-compress the soft roll.
On the whole, the VonShef was a good press, but not brilliant. Still, it’s my pick as the most practical of the presses because of the folding handle. I don’t have a big kitchen, and the handle makes it possible to keep a bacon press around.
5. Home GadgetWiz — ★★★☆
The Home GadegetWiz press is the best of the ridged presses, and features a unique enamel-coated cast-iron surface. This means that it can be cleaned with soapy water without harming the seasoning (and you don’t have to oil the surface after drying. You should be nice to surface to protect the enamel, so wash it with a cloth instead of a harsh scrubber. Beyond the surface details, this press weighs 33.8 ounces and measures 7⅞”×4”. The handle is a lengthwise piece of wood that stays cool enough to handle without gloves. The surface is lined with significant ridges.
The bacon came out OK under the Home GadgetWiz, but not as conspicuously crisp and flat as the bacon produced by the smooth presses. The hash browns came out a bit mushy, though that might have been a cooking error. Evidence pointing towards the press being the problem mounted with the pork chop, which didn’t have as good a sear as the others. The sandwich came out fine with sold browning, and the control was good, making a nicely textured sandwich.
Overall, the Home GadgeWiz is an OK press, and while I like the enameled surface, it’s not enough to make me want to step down from the smooth-surface presses to get it.
6. Lodge Rectangle — ★★★
I love Lodge’s cast-iron skillets, so I had high hopes for this press that weren’t quite met. This was the second-heaviest press of the bunch, weighing in at 44.7 ounces. The press is rectangular, measuring 6¾”×4½”, which is a little smaller than our other rectangles. That combination of size and weight makes this one of the densest presses in the lineup. The surface is smooth and comes pre-seasoned, though you do have to mount the metal handle to the press with two screws. Assembly is a bit fiddly, but not unreasonable.
The bacon cooked great under the Lodge, though it did stick to the press when I lifted it (with a side towel, since the handle gets quite hot). The hash browns came out OK, but kept up the sticking problem and had to be peeled off with a spatula. We got a good sear on the pork chop after it too stuck on the bottom of the press. The sandwich was crushed under the heavyweight Lodge and we were left with a hard crunchy Panini.
The Lodge rectangle isn’t a bad press, but it had consistent problems with sticking and was too heavy to control effectively. The handle isn’t doing it any favors either, so I can’t think of any compelling reason to pick this over one of the better-ranked presses.
7. Cuisinart — ★★☆
The Cuisinart press is a whole collection of traits that are not that bad, but not quite good enough. It’s a little too big, measuring 8¾”×4½”. That doesn’t seem that far off some of the other rectangles, but it’s just big enough to not want to fit on the griddle without facing longwise. It’s also too big for a Lodge 10” skillet and only fits a Lodge 12” skillet right down the middle. The weight is on the high side as well at 37.6 ounces. The surface is ridged and the handle is long and wooden.
The bacon came out fine under the Cuisinart, but the hash browns were the worst of the test, with a texture closer to mashed potatoes than hash browns. The sear on the pork chop was adequate but not brilliant, but the chop stuck to the press when going to flip it. The ham and cheese sandwich had acceptable browning, but didn’t cook through as well as the other presses. One other problem stemming from the Cuisinart’s size is that it balanced awkwardly on the sandwich, making it more difficult to get and maintain a good press.
The Cuisinart would have needed some brilliant finishes in the various cooks to get past the awkward size, but it didn’t deliver. Pass on this one.
8. Lodge Round — ★☆
Where the Cuisinart was too big, the round Lodge press was entirely too heavy. Weighing in at a whopping 69.8 ounces, this was the heaviest press in the test by a wide margin. This smooth-bottom press is a 7½” diameter circle, and also the densest press by a substantial margin. The press is preseasoned, but does require the somewhat awkward assembly of a metal handle.
The bacon cook didn’t go too well. The bacon was more steamed than fried, with a distinctly fatty texture, despite a longer cook time than the other presses. The hash browns got smushed down into a thin potato cake that stuck to the press and still didn’t get an especially good crust.
The pork chop came out from under the Lodge noticeably thin. It was well-browned, but pretty dry, like a classic diner pork chop and not in a good way. The ham and cheese sandwich was well-browned, but compressed to the density of a cracker. As a novelty, we joked about serving a burger between two of those, but it was not an enjoyable sandwich.
We played around with a hamburger for kicks, but it didn’t do any better under the Lodge. It’s just too heavy to be effective in a variety of roles.
9. NorPro Round — ★☆
One notch down in the rankings from the heaviest press is the biggest. The NorPro round press is a circle 8¾” in diameter. That’s too big for a 10” skillet and covering almost the entire bottom of a 12” skillet. Weight is 42.3 ounces, making the density the lowest of the metal presses. The surface is lightly ridged and the wooden handle is sufficiently cool to handle without a glove. This press does require seasoning when you first use it.
The bacon cook was average with the NorPro, but the bacon curled right up after the press came off and the texture was unsatisfactory. The hash browns were equally average, featuring a mushy interior and questionable browning. The pork chop was where things went from OK to bad, with an inadequate sear. Steam just can’t escape the giant-sized press, which keeps the effectiveness down. The sandwich came out lacking browning, even with a relatively long cook. The low density made it easy enough to control the amount of press.
The NorPro is just too big to work effectively. Food steams under it, slowing down cooking and inhibiting browning. Steer clear of this one.
10. Carol Wright Gifts — ★☆
We always like to throw a curveball into tests when we can. Sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise, but this time it’s not. The Carol Wright is made of glass, with the idea that you can monitor your cook. It’s not a crazy idea — the metal presses leave you very much in the dark until you pick them up to check on your food. The big question mark comes from the extremely light weight of just 10.5 ounces. The main body of the press is a glass disc 7⅞” in diameter. You have to screw on the plastic handle, which gets marked down because the screw protrudes out the bottom of the disc. The only thing that comes to mind is, “You had one job!” The handle doesn’t want to stay on that well either, and the screw collects grease like crazy.
After trying to come up with ways to clown the Carol Wright, it shut us up when the bacon was good and it can be used in the microwave. The glass top was nice for seeing how the bacon was coming along, and the weight kept the bacon in reasonable form, though it did take a little while longer than the others. The hash browns came out pretty good too, but I did give it an extra-powerful smush to form the patty. The pork chop is where it all came crashing down. The light weight of the press couldn’t keep the chop from curling up into a little cup. The sandwich was adequate with another powerful smush, but not brilliant.
Ultimately, the Carol Wright is an interesting idea that doesn’t really work. Fix that stupid screw problem and this might be somewhere in the middle of the rankings with big caveats about only cooking flat things under it. As it stands, it just doesn’t work.
I’m convinced of the value of a bacon press now, and I plan on using one in the future for cooking up picture-perfect foods quick with great browning. It’s not just for meat. We threw a press on some chile strips since it was sitting right there, and they got an absolutely gorgeous level of browning that I’ve never been able to get before.
The price is reasonable, so grab one of our favorites, the HIC or Fox Run, for yourself. Grab the NorPro pig as a great gift for the bacon lover in your life, or maybe the VonSheff for the folks with limited kitchens.
We ate some good stuff making the video that goes with this review. Here’s the sandwiches we had, and another sandwich we could have had.
Bacon Camp Dot Org Sandwich
In-line with our history of tasty creations like the Bacone, here’s the Bacon Camp Dot Org Sandwich: Cook two strips of bacon on a griddle under your best bacon press. When crispy, use the grease to cook about ¼ cup of Mexican chorizo, breaking it up with a spatula as it cooks. Cut an Anaheim chile into strips and cook those in that grease under your bacon press. Finally, load up the chorizo, chile, bacon, and some pepper jack cheese onto two slices of crusty bread. Cook the sandwich, compressing with your press until well-browned on both sides.
Pork Saltimbocca Sandwich
Cook two strips of bacon in a cast-iron skillet under your press until crispy. Remove the bacon and reserve. Add ½ teaspoon minced fresh sage to the bacon fat and cook until fragrant. Whisk together the bacon fat, sage, 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar, and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise in a small bowl. Cook a thin boneless pork chop in the skillet under your press until well-browned and cooked through. Build a sandwich from crusty bread, bacon, the pork chop, and a good smear of the bacon-sage mayo. Add butter (or bacon fat) to the skillet and cook the sandwich under your press until well-browned. Serve with remaining bacon sage mayo on the side.