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Tortillas, those Mexican flatbreads that cradle your tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and wraps, have become as much a pantry as sliced bread. They can be made from corn, white flour, wheat flour, or a variety of alternative flours.
If you’ve ever eaten a taco on a warm, freshly made tortilla, you know why you might want your own tortilla press. Unlike the dry, easily broken packaged tortillas you find at the supermarket, fresh tortillas are pliable, fragrant, and dramatically better tasting than the commercial alternative.
“Fresh tortillas hold food so much better. They’re typically thicker and more fluffy, almost like a fresh flatbread versus something packaged,” says Jocelyn Ramirez, owner of the Los Angeles-based catering business, Todo Verde, and author of the cookbook La Vida Verde.
There are benefits beyond flavor: Pressing your own tortillas lets you decide how thick or thin you want them to be. “I like them a little thicker, I grew up with guisados, Mexican stews, and a thicker tortilla really holds up without falling apart,” she says.
When you’ve got your own press, you can also experiment with flour tortillas for burritos and a variety of homemade flatbreads, such as chapati or roti. Here are some of the best tortilla presses available now for a variety of needs and budgets.
This handsome tortilla press will make quick work of flour or corn tortillas. “Wooden ones are more traditional because, in rural areas of Mexico, it was easier to make a wooden press than one out of cast iron,” says Ramirez. Available in 8-inch and 10-inch versions, as well as solid red oak instead of the pictured walnut and red oak striped design, this handmade press comes from a shop based in Santa Maria, California, and is treated with food-grade mineral oils and beeswax.
It has a long arm, which provides the ideal leverage to easily press perfect round tortillas of even thickness. The wooden construction gives it a very different look than the usual cast iron or cast aluminum models. That also makes it a good candidate for countertop storage. It’s as much a sculptural decor item as it is a tortilla tool.
Many tortilla presses are made with cast iron, and for good reason. Ramirez thinks cast iron is the best bet for most home cooks. “The heaviness does a lot of work for you,” she says. This model has a slightly bigger plate than many other models, allowing you to make a bigger tortilla for when your cravings lean more burrito than taco.
All cast-iron cookware needs to be seasoned to prevent rust and minimize food sticking to the surface, and this one comes pre-seasoned with organic flax oil (one of the best oils you can use for seasoning cast iron). This makes cleaning and maintenance a breeze.
All of the nonelectric tortilla presses here require lining the plates of the press so the tortillas won’t stick. Some tortilla presses come with pre-cut parchment rounds for this purpose, but a heavy-duty plastic storage bag you slit open up the sides will work even better and last through several rounds of tortilla making. You can also use the non-printed side of a plastic bag from the store.
Doughs made from corn are typically softer and easier to press than those made from flour. This 7.3-inch press is a good choice if you’re making primarily flour tortillas because its cast-iron handle is especially heavy. The design is well balanced, which helps you get the even thickness that can be hard to achieve, especially with flour dough.
Alternative flours can be even stiffer, but this press is up to that job as well. Those who make low-carb or paleo-compliant tortillas from flours like coconut, almond, cassava, and more will find this model to be the right tool for the job.
This press is a bit smaller than some tortilla presses out there, but that can work in your favor if what you desire are the smaller corn tortillas traditionally used in Mexico for tacos. It comes seasoned with flax oil, making it ready-to-use, easy to clean, and generally low maintenance.
Victoria’s plates are specially designed to avoid pinching the dough or any stray fingers, and an extra screw is included for when the first one inevitably goes missing. Its slightly more compact size makes it just a bit easier to store for those with less kitchen space.
If what you want is great style in addition to utility, this eye-catching, fire engine red design may be the right choice for you. The powder-coated finish is durable and easily wipes clean. Made from heavy cast iron, the press makes it easy to press out your tortillas.
Billed as a tortilleria kit, this set includes a decorative napkin for keeping fresh tortillas warm until serving, as well as a booklet full of helpful tips and recipes. It’s a good reminder to use your tortillas for dishes beyond tacos, including another Mexican classic, enchiladas.
Most tortilla presses are made from cast iron, but there are quite a few cast aluminum versions out there, and this material has its own advantages. For one thing, presses made from cast aluminum like this one are less expensive than the alternatives.
When she first launched her catering business in Los Angeles, Ramirez bought several cast aluminum presses to save money. It’s still plenty heavy to help you get the job done, but it’s not so difficult to move around your kitchen. One caveat: “They don’t always press as evenly as cast iron, so your tortillas might be a little lopsided,” says Ramirez. This model has an attractive polished finish and compact design, making it easier to stash away when not in use.
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Joy Manning is a food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in many publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post. She’s the author of Almost Meatless and Stuff Every Cook Should Know. For this piece, she interviewed Jocelyn Ramirez, owner of the Los Angeles-based catering business, Todo Verde, and author of the cookbook La Vida Verde.