From time to time I’m going to evaluate some of the kitchen gadgets I use and like. I’m not a gadget nut; I don’t have special tools for cutting mangos, avocados and strawberries. The gadgets I’ll talk about make my cooking life easier (or at least more fun).
Today’s gadget, a tortilla press, certainly falls into the “fun” category. It’s much easier to just buy a bag of corn tortillas the next time you’re making fish tacos. I consider my tortilla press a worthwhile gadget because: It’s surprisingly cheap; homemade tortillas definitely taste better than store-bought ones; and making homemade tortillas is fun, satisfying and very impressive.
I really had no idea what a tortilla press would cost before I started shopping. When I saw they were less than $20 on Amazon, I bought one on the spot. While there are cast aluminum and cast iron models available, opt for the cast iron. It weighs more, so the plates are much better at pressing the tortillas flat.
The difference between store-bought and homemade tortillas are striking. Homemade tortillas have only two ingredients – masa harina (corn flour) and water. Store-bought tortillas have preservatives, which results in a tortilla that doesn’t have as much sweet corn flavor. Store-bought tortillas are also more fragile than fresh homemade tortillas – a problem when serving juicy tacos.
Making your own tortillas doesn’t make sense for every occasion. When the occasion is right, however, there’s no doubt it’s impressive. It took me a couple of cooking sessions to master the tortilla-making rhythm. Now I can make 20 tortillas in 30 minutes (cooking with two burners going).
The press is compact (less than 3 inches tall), which means it’s easy to stash when it’s not in use. It weighs under 6 pounds, so it’s not outrageously heavy, but strong enough to flatten some dough.
I’m not going to stop buying tortillas from the store – that wouldn’t be practical. Because homemade tortillas don’t have any preservatives, they keep for 24 hours at the longest. The more I use my press, however, the faster I get at making tortillas. Cooking should be fun, and using this press is always a blast for me.
Coming Monday: A step-by-step guide to making homemade tortillas, plus an amazing recipe for pork tinga tacos. Heck, order a tortilla press this weekend, then follow along with the tutorial on Monday.