Before there were panini, there were ToasTites – at least, that’s the way it happened in my house. A ToasTite (also “toas tite,”as two words or with a hyphen) is a grilled sandwich maker. To the best of my knowledge, they originated in the 1930s and 1940s and were made to cook sandwiches over a hot, open flame. The earliest models have round toasting plates and long handles, to keep valuable body parts away from the fire as the food cooks. My model – the same I’ve used since childhood – is a slightly newer electric ToasTite maker produced by Salton and there is no need for a roaring fire to use it.
It may sound like a primitive panini press, but the ToasTite is an entirely different beast. Instead of simply pressing the sandwich bread and its contents together, the ToasTite actually seals the sandwich. The edges of ToasTite makers, both the oldest models and my own, are designed to press down on the layers of bread and flatten them without flattening the inside of the sandwich. This creates a pocket full of cheese, meat, veggies, etc. to enjoy. The bread gets toasted evenly and the sealed edges are thin and crispy, especially if you stick with using sandwich-type breads (the kind that make good grilled cheese sandwiches, as opposed to crustier panini breads) for the ToasTites.
Since my electric model (makes 4 triangular sandwiches) is decidedly not in fashion, the only source for one just like it is an antique store or an older relative. You can still find the manual, fire-powered ToasTite makers at camping stores (often sold as “pie irons“).
DavidJune 19, 2008
This brings back memories! When my brother and sister and I were growing up my father would make us little sandwiches. He would make them with cheese and bacon and grill them in something similar. We loved them!
JosephJune 19, 2008
Here in New Zealand these are known as “Toastie makers” or “Toasted sandwich makers”. They’ve never gone “out of fashion” here; a majority of family or student households probably have one, and they’re easy to find in shops. Of course, the latest style to be “in fashion” are the flat ones for grilling paninis or the like.
mrs potato headJune 19, 2008
Here in Australia they are definitely not out of fashion, they are in every store selling any type of kitchen appliances – they are even in the supermarkets!!! They are sometimes called “Jaffles” here.
We use ours all the time. My favourite filling is a whole raw egg. It gets sealed in, and by the time the toast is cooked, so is the egg!
KalynJune 19, 2008
I used to have one of these! I’m actually not sure what happened to it, but I do remember it made the best sandwiches!
KelliJune 19, 2008
Oh, my husband brought one of those with him when we got married, he loves it and I get “free supper” from him every once in a while. I think they still sell them under the Snackster name at places like Target. (In the midwest United States, anyway)
EagleJune 19, 2008
I had the electric model too for the longest time. Unfortunately it was one of the things that went with my ex when we split. It was great for quick and weird meals though, I still miss it. Yum!
sharonJune 19, 2008
We always made these in college after a long night out. Brings back such good memories! I was never patient enough and always burnt the roof of my mouth. My sandwich maker must have gotten lost in one of the many moves during my college years.
AmyJune 19, 2008
We used to have one of these too, I think ours was called the Snackmaster? We bought it off the infomercial. My parents are moving, I’m sure they tossed it, sadly.
SarahJune 19, 2008
My grandma had one of these when I was little (the electric kind) and I remember it was a special treat to use it for lunch . . .
And when I lived in Alaska I remember a backpacking trip when a friend of mine hiked in a cast iron pie iron, a bag of white bread and a can of cherry pie filling . . . though heavy (for backpacking standards) though were some of the best cherry pies ever! Anything tastes good at 40 degrees after hiking six miles! 🙂
Thanks for the memories!
arundathiJune 19, 2008
That’s funny!! That’s what we use at home all the time. We don’t get panini presses in India, and this works for us. Its actually very popular here!
kayenneJune 20, 2008
we have one of those too, here in manila! i still see them at the mall’s kitchen department. i love that! PB & strawberry jam with fresh bananas are wickedly delicious done that way!
LeahJune 20, 2008
Here in the UK (like Australia) we call them toasties and toastie machines are still widely available. Most households will have one tucked away in the cupboards even if they don’t use them. They’re great for a ham, cheese and tomato snack, we put plenty of butter on the outside of the bread to help crisp up those edges.
You can get them at most supermarkets or catalogue shops for as little as a few pounds (under $10) We used to do toastie sales in school when fundraising.
They are a bugger to clean after though….melted cheese sure can stick!
Delicious ChronclesJune 20, 2008
i’ve had those since i had 7. in mexico there i had a double one, here i got one for $10 and i love it. Tofu ‘panninis’
KristiJune 20, 2008
Those things cost about $10 at your local US discount store. I think I recently gave one to Goodwill, as we had 2 (they are kind enough to throw away things that my husband won’t…he just doesn’t have to watch!). Hubby loves them for making grilled cheese sandwiches. I don’t like my sandwiches all smashed like that (I *like* bread). I keep thinking that I could use it for making omelets or some sort of muffinish thing, but then wonder why I should bother when I have a perfectly good stove & oven, etc….
DeborahJune 20, 2008
My husband makes sandwiches in the waffle iron and calls them toastites – I always thought he was making up the name, but now I believe they really exist!
courtneyJune 20, 2008
I used to love to make grilled cheese on these, for some reason my step mom threw it out, and I was so sad.
KellyJune 20, 2008
We had one of these college. Makes the best PB&J. I may try to hunt down of these $10 models.
KarenJune 20, 2008
This brings back great memories of my childhood. For a treat in the winter when we had a fire in the fireplace, we would use these to make cherry pies in the fire…white bread and cherry pie filling. We LOVED those little pies.
JennJune 20, 2008
Ah, they’re still out there! I bought a Krups one a couple of years ago. A quick search turned up a Cuisinart model at Linens ‘n Things and Bed, Bath & Beyond for about $25, and Williams-Sonoma have a deluxe Cuisinart model for $70
joyosityJune 20, 2008
Oh man, those sealed, toasted sandwiches were the best! I loved the savory (deli meat and cheese) and sweet (sliced apples with sugar and cinnamon) sandwiches I could make with these. I even once “grilled” a chicken breast using this!
ChelseaJune 21, 2008
This was my fave way to make grilled cheese samiches when I was a kide at home during the summers. We would also fill them with canned pie filling for mini pies. I bought one when I went to college so I could have grilled cheese in my dorm, though we weren’t supposed to. I haven’t used it in a couple of years, but may have to pull it out soon.
HmneilsonJune 21, 2008
TFal makes something that looks a lot like yours – it’s called the Avante Sandwich & Waffle maker….
I have a panini press at home that I do really like…. but now that you’ve pointed out the whole edge-sealing warm gooey pocket effect, I am thinking that I would actually like this style better….
katherineJune 27, 2008
I use mine for things other than sandwiches.
I prefer making my fried eggs on the sandwich maker than using a pan on the stove. Just a little bit of oil and you get perfectly triangular fried eggs with no work!
I’ve also made pancakes and cooked sausages on this little machine.
GregJune 27, 2008
My father was CFO of Toas-Tite Mfg. in Cincinnati back in the early 1950’s. The company was owned by the Woodruff family, who also owned the Coca Cola Bottling Company of Cincinnati.
My mother had a “deluxe” electric model, with a handle that brought the heated metal halves together, then sealed the sandwich and cut off the bread crusts. It was like a tiny machine tool the way it looked and operated. It weighed about 20 pounds too!
I remember loading them with hot dog pieces and Velveeta cheese. What a great machine! My mother sold it in a garage sale before I realized it was gone. Sure wish I could find another one.
BJune 29, 2008
I used them all the time as a kid. I was in Bed Bath and Beyond the other day and was surprised to see that Cuisinart makes one. I might have to get it.
GeriJuly 25, 2008
I practically lived at my friend’s house, and her mother would make us crustless ToasTites (using the electric, long-handle model) and serve them with quarters of cold lettuce with mayonnaise. Remember how everything always tasted so much better at someone else’s house?! I may check out a new model, but here’s to our “olden days” memories!
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lucky duckJune 5, 2010
I am curently trying to find toast ite double machine…they are great and at my old age still bring back the memories…does any one know of a mfg. or some one who has the double toat-ite..
DarkbyteAugust 7, 2011
Yum toasties! I love these soo much.
What you have photographed is what we call a toasted sandwich (‘toastie’) maker. Its different to a Jaffle maker.
Jaffles have one pocket, whilst the toasted sandwich is cut into triangles.
My fav recipe so far is ricotta (60g), white chocolate (20g) and raspberries (about 1 tbsp). Make sure you use white bread and cut the crusts off once you have buttered them.