Published March 1, 2013. From Cook's Illustrated.
Homemade tortillas are a cinch when you've got a tortilla press up your sleeve.
Corn tortillas are easy to make at home, especially if you use a tortilla press (instead of a rolling pin) to flatten the balls of masa, or dough, into disks. (Tortilla presses are only for corn, not flour, tortillas, as the gluten in the wheat flour is too elastic and would not work in a press. Flour tortillas must be shaped with a rolling pin.) We tested four brands, made of wood, cast iron, cast aluminum, and plastic and priced from $14 to $65, pressing a dozen tortillas in each (and then browning them in a skillet). We noted the amount of force required with each press, the diameter of the pressing surface, and the thickness of the tortillas. Because our recipe calls for the press to be lined with a cut zipper-lock bag, neither sticking nor cleanup was an issue: A quick wipe with a damp cloth was the extent of the cleaning required.
The biggest difference was in the evenness of the tortillas and the amount of effort required to press them. The heavy cast-iron and wood models practically flattened the tortilla for us, while the lighter-weight cast-aluminum and plastic models required more muscle. Both of our purchased copies of the plastic tortilla press were warped, resulting in tortillas that were too thick or thin in different spots. We preferred presses with a large pressing surface; on smaller presses dough sometimes squeezed out the sides if the dough ball wasn’t perfectly centered. Some presses lent themselves to overpressing, making the sides of the tortilla too thin and liable to tear. Our favorite press had a sliver of wood attached to the pressing plates that kept the tortillas from getting too thin.
In the end, our winner, a handsome, rustic wooden press, was weighty enough (almost 12 pounds) to make pressing effortless; had an ample 8-inch pressing surface; and made even tortillas. If $65 is too steep, we recommend our runner-up, which offered good heft and almost 8 inches of pressing surface.
By far the largest press, this wooden behemoth caught the eye of every cook in the kitchen. Lovely appearance aside, this machine was easy to work, though its heavy plates can be a bit intimidating at first.