How To Use a Tortilla Press: 3 Steps to Tortilla Triumph!

A tortilla press is an essential tool for many food enthusiasts and professional chefs who aim to make authentic, fresh tortillas from scratch. This simple yet effective tool has been used for centuries, predominantly in Latin American countries, to flatten dough balls into perfect circles, ensuring consistent thickness and diameter.

While the concept may seem straightforward, using a tortilla press correctly requires a combination of technique and the right ingredients. Achieving that perfect tortilla can elevate a meal, providing a delicious, fresh foundation for tacos, quesadillas, or other dishes. 

So, we’ve written this article to provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to effectively use a tortilla press, ensuring that every tortilla is as flawless as possible.

What is a Tortilla Press?

A tortilla press, commonly used in traditional Mexican cuisine, is a kitchen tool specifically designed to flatten balls of dough into perfectly round and thin tortillas. Crafted with two flat plates hinged together, it uses leverage to produce uniform tortillas quickly and efficiently.

This device serves as an alternative to rolling out dough with a rolling pin, offering more consistent results. Typically made from materials like cast iron, wood, or aluminum, the tortilla press has gained popularity not only for its ease of use but also for its ability to produce authentic, homemade tortillas with minimal effort.

Step by Step Recipe Guide

Step by Step Recipe Guide

1. Supplies You’ll Need

  • A tortilla press (cast iron, aluminum, or wooden, all work great)
  • Plastic wrap or a ziplock bag
  • A skillet or griddle
  • A kitchen towel or cloth

2. Ingredients

  • 2 cups of corn flour (for corn tortillas) or all-purpose flour (for flour tortillas)
  • 1 ½ cups of water (adjust as necessary)
  • A pinch of salt

3. Preparing Your Tortilla Dough

Choosing the Right Flour:

For those wanting to make homemade corn tortilla, you’ll need corn flour. If you’re in the mood for flour tortillas with a tortilla press, opt for all-purpose flour. A pinch of salt enhances the taste.

Mixing the Dough:

In a mixing bowl, combine your chosen flour and salt. Gradually add the water, mixing until you form a smooth tortilla dough. If it feels too dry, add a bit more water; if it is too wet, sprinkle in some more flour.

Resting the Dough:

After mixing, cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for about 30 minutes. This gives it the right consistency for pressing.

4. Setting Up Your Tortilla Press

Using Plastic Wrap:

I recommend using plastic wrap or a cut ziplock bag to keep your tortillas from sticking to the press. Place a piece on the bottom plate and one on the top. This makes it easier to peel off the tortilla after pressing.

Portioning the Dough:

Divide the tortilla dough into golf ball-sized portions. This size usually results in tortillas that aren’t too thick or too thin. Place the dough ball in the center of the bottom plate of your press.

5. Pressing Your Tortillas

Using the Tortilla Press:

Lower the top plate of the press down onto the dough ball. Apply even pressure to flatten the dough into a round tortilla. If it’s too thin, make your next dough ball slightly thicker.

Alternative Method with a Rolling Pin:

If you find that the tortillas aren’t coming out as you like with the press, you can always use a rolling pin. However, the tortilla press provides a more even and consistent shape.

6. Cooking Your Tortillas

Heating the Skillet:

Place your skillet or griddle on medium-high heat. You want it hot but not smoking.

Placing the Tortilla:

Once the skillet is hot, peel your tortilla off the plastic wrap and lay it flat on the skillet.

Looking for the Puff:

After about a minute, the tortilla should start to puff up. This is a good sign! It means the middle is cooking nicely. Once it puffs, flip it over and cook the other side for another minute.

Storing Cooked Tortillas:

As you cook the tortillas, place the cooked ones under a kitchen towel. This keeps them warm and soft until you’re ready to serve.


Cooking Tips

1. Avoiding Stickiness

The plastic wrap trick really helps to keep your tortillas from sticking to the press. So, don’t skip this step!

2. Thickness Matters

A too-thick tortilla won’t puff and might feel doughy when cooked. Aim for a medium thickness for the best results.

3. Keep Them Warm

A warm tortilla is a soft tortilla. Always store them under a cloth or in a tortilla warmer until ready to eat.


Maintenance Tips

1. Choosing the Right Material for Longevity

When selecting a tortilla press to make your tortillas at home, it’s vital to understand the types of materials available. The most common materials are wood, cast iron, and aluminum

I recommend opting for cast iron because of its durability and consistent pressing ability. However, each material comes with its own maintenance needs, which leads us to the next points.

2. Cleaning After Every Use

One of the golden rules for any kitchen appliance is cleaning it immediately after use. It’s no different with a tortilla press. Ensure you wipe off any residual dough or flour from the press to prevent build-up. 

I recommend using a damp cloth for cast iron or wood presses and a mild detergent for aluminum ones. Always avoid soaking your press in water, especially if it’s wooden or cast iron, to prevent damage.

3. Protecting Your Press from Sticking

Most cooks, especially those in Mexico, use squares of waxed paper or plastic to prevent tortillas from sticking to the press. Another tip? I recommend dabbing a tiny bit of cooking oil on the surface occasionally to keep it smooth and non-stick.

4. Proper Pressing Technique

You might wonder how pressing technique can affect maintenance. Well, the truth is that improperly pressing can damage your press over time. For instance, pressing down with too much force can lead to warping or even breaking, especially with wooden presses.

To ensure you get uniform tortillas at home without straining your press, always place the dough ball between two pieces of plastic in the center and gently use the handle to press down.

5. Lubricate the Hinges

The hinge is a critical part of the tortilla press, ensuring smooth movement. Over time, this hinge can become stiff or even rusty. To prevent this, I recommend lubricating the hinge periodically with a bit of cooking oil or a food-safe lubricant. It ensures the press operates smoothly and prolongs its life.


Cleaning Tips

1. Supplies You’ll Need

  • Soft sponge or cloth
  • Warm water: about 2 cups
  • Mild dish soap: a few drops

2. Basic Cleaning Steps

Remove Excess Dough: After making those delicious homemade tortillas, first get rid of any dough residue. Simply use your fingers to peel off bigger chunks.

Warm Soapy Bath: Mix a few drops of dish soap in 2 cups of warm water. Dip your sponge or cloth into the mixture and gently scrub the press.

Rinse and Dry: Thoroughly rinse off the soap with clean water, and pat dry using a cloth or paper towel.

3. Dealing with Stubborn Spots

If, for some reason, you still have dough clinging on, don’t worry. Soaking the press in warm, soapy water for about 10 minutes usually does the trick. This softens any stuck bits, making them easier to scrub away.

4. Special Care for Cast Iron

If your tortilla press is made of cast iron, it deserves some extra attention. After cleaning, I recommend giving it a light coat of cooking oil. This helps to maintain its seasoning and ensures it doesn’t rust.


FAQs

1. What’s the basic process to make tortillas using a press?

To make tortillas, start by preparing the dough using masa harina, water, and salt. Once your dough is ready, roll it into small balls. Open your tortilla press and place a ball between two sheets of parchment paper. Press down until flat. Carefully remove the flattened dough and cook on a hot skillet or griddle until lightly browned on both sides.

2. Can you use a tortilla press for flour tortillas?

Yes, you can use a tortilla press to make corn and homemade flour tortillas. The pressing method is the same, but the dough recipes differ. Flour tortillas typically contain flour, water, oil, and salt.

3. How do you prevent dough from sticking to the press?

Prevent the dough from sticking by placing it between two sheets of parchment paper or plastic before pressing. This trick ensures a clean press and makes it easier to transfer the flattened tortilla to the skillet.

4. What’s the difference between a wood tortilla press and a cast iron tortilla press?

A wood tortilla press is typically lighter and can have a more rustic appearance. In contrast, a cast iron tortilla press is heavier, providing more even pressure, which might result in consistently flat tortillas.

5. How do I keep tortillas warm after making them?

After making your tortillas, it’s ideal to keep them warm, especially if you’re preparing a batch. Using a tortilla warmer or a cloth-covered basket will keep them soft and warm, ready for serving.

Final Thoughts

A tortilla press is a simple yet transformative kitchen tool designed to flatten dough balls into perfectly round tortillas. Specifically crafted to make your homemade tortillas, it can also be employed to make other dough creations. To utilize, place the dough between two pieces of plastic or parchment paper, ensuring even pressing and easy removal. 

After pressing, cooking the tortillas on a hot skillet will bring out their authentic flavor and texture. To keep the true essence alive, always keep your freshly made tortillas warm, ideally by wrapping them in a cloth towel or tortilla warmer.

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