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Tortilla Presses

Published March 2013

How we tested

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.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*