How Does A Tortilla Press Work?

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Whether you’re looking to make some delicious tacos or cook up some yummy quesadillas, you’re going to need some tortillas to make them.
I know you must’ve already learned that. Chances are you’re looking to make some tortillas yourself and aren’t too sure how to use that tortilla press you have lying around.
Don’t worry; you’ve come to the right place. I am going to answer all your questions step-by-step.

Let’s start with how the tortilla press works.

The underlying principle behind the tortilla press is pretty straightforward.
Imagine the walls of a room are closing in. You have nowhere to go. Now, what’s going to happen once there is no space left between the walls? Anything that stays between the walls will be flattened like paper. That’s what the idea behind the tortilla press is.

Apologies to the ones with claustrophobia reading this; this was just for illustration purposes. You aren’t going to be flattened, but the tortilla dough definitely will be!

So, when you place the dough (also called masa) on the tortilla press’s bottom plate and press down the top plate on it, the dough gets flattened. 

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Prepare your dough/masa for the tortilla. Keep it moist to make more your tortillas softer.
  2. Get parchment paper or any clean plastic to make a protective layer. This is what will prevent your tortilla dough from sticking to the plates. Make sure the paper/plastic is big enough to cover the top and the bottom plate when folded in half. Additionally, I recommend you get your hands wet a bit for extra moisture. This will also help in keeping things from sticking.
  3. Now, make golf-ball-size pieces of the dough. Place it in the center of the press. With your finger, make small indentations on the dough. This will prevent the dough from developing creases. 
  4. Close the press by bringing the top plate down. Engage the handle for absolute pressure. Your tortilla dough must be flattened now. But before you open the press, give it a little wiggle so that any thickness on the edges will also dwindle.
  5. Gently disengage the handle and open the press. More the flattened dough by 180 degrees and repeat step 4. Do this two times to ensure that the dough flattens out evenly and adequately.
  6. Once done, gently take out the tortilla from the press. Place it on your preheated skillet or comal. Cook for 10-15 seconds till you start seeing some brown spots. Flip it over and cook the other side too.

 

Many people prefer this method instead of using rollings pins due to the ease of use and the uniformness of the result. You may struggle to get a consistent thickness and a proper shape on the tortilla with rolling pins. Trust me; the tortilla press is a much more straightforward option!
Now, let’s talk about the different types of tortilla presses.

Different Types of Tortilla Press

When it comes to the Tortilla Press, there are two types; Electric and Manual. These are the most common.

I shall discuss both. I will also talk about the different sizes and materials.

Electric Tortilla Press

The electric Tortilla Press not only flattens the dough but also cooks it. Usually, these machines will have a non-stick coating on their surface too. Why is that important? Because it eliminates the need for parchment or waxed paper. Hence, saving you a lot of precious time. 

With the electric Tortilla Press, you’ll be ready with your delightful tortillas in no time!
While this might sound perfect, but you’d be surprised to know that most people still prefer the manual counterpart. Why? Because electric Tortilla Presses can be bulky, expensive, and prone to breakdowns

Manual Tortilla Press

The manual Tortilla Press is what you will usually find in kitchens. They are made in a variety of materials like wood, iron, aluminum, etc. They are inexpensive when compared to the electric Tortilla Press.
The function is similar to the electric Tortilla Press, but it won’t cook the tortilla for you! You can do that on a stovetop with a skillet or comal. 

Remember that you will most likely need parchment paper or clean plastic sheets to keep the tortilla from sticking to the plates. Don’t make the mistakes I made. It is quite the pain to clean up stuck tortilla dough!

Sizes

You’ll find 6-inch and 8-inch to be the most freely available when it comes to the Tortilla Press sizes. You can choose either of those depending on your preference. Remember to consider how much space you have in your kitchen for storing the Tortilla Press.
For example, if you have plenty of space in your kitchen, you can go for an 8-inch tortilla press. Usually, Cast iron and Wooden tortilla presses come in this size.

On the other hand, aluminum and plastic tortilla press can be found in the 6-inch size. You can go for these if you don’t have adequate space and would like a lighter machine.

Materials

There’s quite a variety in the materials used in making a Tortilla Press. I’ll run you down through the most common ones.

Cast Iron is probably the most popular material used in Tortilla Presses. You likely find it in traditional Mexican kitchens. These are heavy, and because of that, they effectively flatten any dough you put in it. They are very durable and are known to last for generations provided they are washed properly.
The problem with Cast Iron Tortilla Press is, however, the weight. Yes, what makes it great is its drawback too. They are pretty bulky. So, consider that when buying one.

Aluminum is the next most popular material. What makes aluminum great is its ability to stay light while remaining durable. You’ll have a better with handling these than their cast iron counterparts. However, due to the loss of weight, aluminum tortilla press will not perform like the cast iron ones.

Wooden is another traditional material used in the Tortilla Press. My Mexican friend has had her pinewood tortilla press in her family for generations now. These are reliable and lightweight. Also, note that prices for wooden Tortilla Presses depend on the type of wood used.
The only problem you might run into with wooden presses is that they are not very compatible with dishwashers!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you use a Tortilla Press for flour tortillas?
Yes, you can. Tortilla Press can be used for making any type of tortilla or anything that you want to flatten really. I recommend using a cast iron tortilla press if you can’t make them with rolling pins or want to save a lot of time and energy.

Is a Tortilla Press worth it?
Oh, yes. It is absolutely worth it because of the time it saves for me. Although I have to be honest, if you can use a rolling pin and have the patience for it, use it. If you’re like me, who is short on time usually, use a Tortilla Press.

Can you cook on a Tortilla Press?
Not unless it is an Electric Tortilla Press. Manual tortilla press can only flatten the dough for you. Electric Tortilla Press can not only flatten the dough but also cook it for you. You can get an Electric Tortilla Press if that’s what you’re looking for. Keep in mind that they are a bit expensive than the manual Tortilla Press.

Why are my flour tortillas not puffing?
There are two culprits here. The water content in your dough and the heat on your comal/skillet. Your dough needs to have moisture, and the comal has to be preheated. When the amount is just right, you’ll find your tortillas puffing on their own. You don’t need baking powder or any other additional ingredient to achieve it.
Work on your dough. It will solve the problem.

Which is better, cast iron or aluminum Tortilla Press?
I always recommend a cast iron Tortilla Press. They are heavy and last a long time if you maintain them properly. I like it mainly because of its weight. It ensures that it gets the dough flat quickly. But this is where the problem with cast iron Tortilla Press is. It can be too heavy for some to use and move around.
Aluminium Tortilla Press is much lighter and easier to move around the kitchen, but they don’t last as long as the cast iron Tortilla Press. From my experience of using both of them, I have found that the cast iron Tortilla Press does a much better job. 

Summary

Using a Tortilla Press significantly reduces the time needed to make tasty tortillas. It is effortless to use. If you remember to utilize a protective layer, heat your comal to the proper temperature, you’ll significantly increase your success rate.
When choosing between an electric Tortilla Press and a manual Tortilla Press, think of your budget and how often you’d be using it. As a general recommendation, go with a cast iron manual Tortilla Press. They are easier to use, last much longer, and they produce excellent tortillas.
If you have any questions, you can ask them in the comments.