Using a Tortilla Press

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If you find yourself regularly cooking Mexican food at home, a good-quality tortilla press is one of the best investments you can make. Chewy, fresh, handmade tortillas are just a press and a flip away. Not to mention that most tortilla presses are heavy duty and will last you a lifetime. However, what no one seems to tell you is that tortilla presses don’t really work unless you put a piece of plastic on each side. Otherwise, the masa for your tortillas will stick to the metal or wood and create a disaster in your kitchen. A quart-sized Ziploc bag that is cut along the sides so that it makes two perfectly symmetrical halves will work. Make sure that both sides of the press are completely covered in plastic so that the freshly pressed raw tortilla can peel easily. Remember, practice makes perfect. When starting out, don’t press too hard, since a thicker tortilla is easier to handle and less likely to rip in the delicate press-to-comal transfer. As you practice and get more confident in your tortilla-making skills, push harder to achieve the coveted handmade-thin tortilla.
Tortilla-making tip: Working with room-temperature masa is easier than cold masa straight out of the refrigerator, because it is less brittle. It is easier to shape and less likely to rip on you. Also, it’s best to get your comal or cast-iron skillet as hot as you can get it before gently laying your tortilla on it. Only let that first side of the tortilla cook just until it doesn’t stick to the pan anymore, which is about 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, flip to the other side and let that side cook for a minute or two, then flip it back to that first side to finish cooking. The tortilla is ready when it starts to puff up. A nonstick pan or thick griddle will also do the trick.