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Tortilla Warmers

Published August 2014

How we tested

Tortilla warmers promise to keep tortillas warm longer than wrapping them in a dish towel or aluminum foil. We already have a handy method for warming tortillas that keeps them hot for about 30 minutes: Wrap stacks of six tortillas in foil and heat them in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes—is a warmer worth buying to do the same task?

To find out, we gathered five models, priced from around $6 to $45, made from a variety of materials, including plastic, fabric, terra-cotta, and ceramic. Some go in just the microwave and some work in both the microwave and oven; all can be loaded with preheated tortillas (if you make homemade or want to toast them first). We tested the warmers with a range of tortillas, from 6-inch corn to 10-inch flour burrito wraps, to see how many different kinds and sizes of tortillas fit in them. Then we heated each warmer loaded with six tortillas, plopped the warmers on the counter, and waited for the tortillas to cool, checking every 20 minutes for flavor, texture, and temperature.

None of the warmers affected tortilla flavor, but cooling times were a different story. The two plastic warmers were the first to chill, in about 20 minutes; their thin sides did little to retain heat. Next, the foil packet cooled at 45 minutes. Both the terra-cotta and ceramic warmers beat the foil packet, lasting 50 minutes and 1 hour, respectively, but any longer and the tortillas turned dry or soggy.

One model remained: the fabric warmer, which resembles a Technicolor pita pocket. After the fabric warmer spent 30 seconds in the microwave, impressed testers watched the clock until its tortillas finally chilled to lukewarm, an hour and a half later. The secret is its layered sides: Two layers of fabric sandwich a sheet of plastic; the plastic and outer layer of fabric insulate, and the internal layer of fabric wicks away moisture from the tortillas but holds it nearby, creating a warm, moist environment that kept them hot, soft, and pliable.

To top it off, this warmer was the only one with clear cooking instructions (printed directly on its side). At 12 inches it fit 30 tortillas, enough for a fiesta, and was the only warmer large enough to fit 10-inch burrito-size wraps. Our winner is inexpensive; it works in the microwave and can be tossed right in the washing machine with your oven mitts. Aluminum foil works fine for less than 30 minutes, but our winning warmer keeps tortillas hot and pliable three times longer, so you can prep the rest of dinner, or better yet, mix a margarita.

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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*