How We Tested (and How to Make Corn Tortillas)
Hi, I’m Lindsay Mattison, a trained professional chef and a life-long taco fan. I could eat tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and, I have on more than one occasions). After a visit to San Antonio, Texas, I became obsessed with recreating the corn tortillas I ate there. It turns out it’s super easy to do, and I’d love to help you learn how!
While you can use a tortilla press for rolling out homemade dumpling skins and making empanadas, our tests focused around the one thing the press is designed to do: making corn tortillas. We wanted to know if the material made a difference in the pressing process, both in the effort required to flatten the dough and the final quality of the tortilla itself.
We started by making a standard corn tortilla dough. After mixing 2 cups of masa harina with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1-1/2 cups warm water, we divided and rolled each portion into 1-ounce balls (which, in case you’re wondering, makes about 19 tortillas). Since tortilla presses aren’t designed to be non-stick, we lined each press with a plastic bag cut in half. Then, we flattened five tortillas in each press before cooking them on a preheated cast iron skillet, flipping them every 30 seconds for two minutes.
With each press, we noted the amount of force required to flatten the dough ball, and whether it created a 6-inch tortilla after the first pressing. We also measured the thickness of each tortilla and assessed whether it was even all the way around. The press lost points if the tortilla was thinner on one side or if the dough spilled out of the side of the press as we used it. Then, we tasted the tortillas to see if we could detect any thick, uncooked pockets or if the edges crisped up because they were pressed too thin. While all of the presses successfully flattened the dough into discs, some of them certainly did a better job than others.
What You Should Know About Tortilla Presses
It’s important to note that tortilla presses are for corn tortillas only. Flour tortillas are best rolled with a rolling pin, as the gluten network starts to shrink up as soon as it leaves the press.
A tortilla press is simply two flat surfaces joined together by a handle. When the press is closed, the handle exerts pressure onto the plates, transforming a round dough ball into a flat disc. These presses can be made from anything, but traditional Mexican presses are made with wood. The wooden models are rarely round, and their bulk can make them awkward and cumbersome to use. Cast iron is a great alternative, with the same heft of wood but a significantly smaller profile. You’ll also find aluminum and plastic presses, which are lightweight but require more force to use.
There are also electric models designed to cook and press the tortillas in one fell swoop. We’ve found that these gadgets rarely create restaurant-quality tortillas as they’re also designed to make everything from flatbreads to pancakes. So, we focused on the manual models and cooked each tortilla on a pre-heated cast-iron skillet.