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Tortilla Presses

Published August 2021

How we tested

A good tortilla press should do most of the work for you, cranking out consistently sized corn tortillas every time—without requiring too much elbow grease. Our winning model, the Doña Rosa x Masienda Tortilla Press, combines heft with a thoughtful design that makes it easy to apply steady, even pressure and form perfect tortillas. We also loved the less expensive Victoria 8in Tortilla Press, which offers wide plates that prevent dough from squeezing out the sides and a compact size that makes for easy storage. 

What You Need to Know 

People have been making corn tortillas by hand for millennia, but tortilla presses, or tortilladoras, were patented in the early 20th century to standardize and streamline tortilla making. These simple devices generally consist of two flat plates that are joined by a hinge and a handle. The plates can be made from metal, wood, or even plastic. The top plates of most presses feature a raised ridge that acts as a fulcrum when the handle is pressed down, helping distribute the weight evenly across the entire top plate. To press a tortilla, you place a ball of masa on the bottom plate and then push down on the top plate, using the handle to apply even pressure. 

What makes a good tortilla press? We spoke to Lesley Téllez, a Mexican American recipe developer, journalist, and cookbook author, about what qualities she looks for in a press, and we kept an eye out for them in our testing. The most important factor she identified was weight; she recommended a press with enough weight to produce an evenly thin tortilla. She also recommended paying attention to the size of the press: Larger presses provide more sizing options when making tortillas. Bearing these tips in mind as we started testing, we soon learned that not all presses are created equal. 

What to Look For

  • Heavy Metal or Wood: We got the best results from the heavier presses in our lineup, which were made from cast iron, steel, or wood. You don’t need to use as much force when working with a heavier press because the weight of the top plate does the work for you. 
  • Wide Plates: We preferred models with plates that were at least 8 inches wide, but the wider, the better. Wider plates allowed the tortillas to spread evenly without threatening to ooze out the sides. We used the presses to make 5.5-inch corn tortillas, but we appreciated having the option to make larger tortillas. Models with wider plates also kept the dough balls in place as we pressed; on these models, the distances from the hinges to the centers of the bottom plates are longer, so the top plates approach the dough balls from the top as the pressing starts, thereby anchoring the dough balls in place. Conversely, the top plates of smaller presses made initial contact with the sides of the dough balls, pushing them off-center and creating mangled tortillas. 
  • Smooth Material: We had the most success with models made of smooth metal or wood because their handles slid easily over the raised ridges when we pressed, helping ensure steady, even pressure and flat tortillas. 
  • Long Handles: Handles that were at least 10 inches long were easy to securely grip. They also created more leverage when we pressed, keeping us from having to push too hard to create thin, even tortillas.

Nice to Have 

  • Folding Handles: If your storage space is limited, we suggest opting for a press with a handle that lies flat so that you can store it easily in a drawer or cabinet. Presses that were no more than 3 inches tall when laid flat were the easiest to store. 

What to Avoid

  • Aluminum or Plastic: Presses made from lighter materials such as aluminum or plastic didn’t provide enough heft, so we found ourselves having to exert more energy to press tortillas to our desired thickness and width. Lighter presses routinely resulted in smaller, thicker tortillas (as small as 3 inches wide) that were difficult to cook all the way through. 
  • Small Plates: The plates of one lighter model were only 6.25 inches in diameter. While using this model, we couldn’t create a standard 5- to 6-inch corn tortilla unless we centered the dough on the bottom plate perfectly. If the ball was even a little off-center, dough would ooze out the sides.
  • Rough Material: The surfaces of one cast-iron press were quite bumpy and rough, and this roughness prevented the handle from gliding smoothly against the top plate’s ridge, resulting in misshapen tortillas. 


Methodology

  • Make Corn Tortillas 
  • Make Corn Tortillas, excluding the vegetable oil (to see how the presses fared with dough prepared with no added fat)
  • Open, close, and press down each press an additional 100 times
  • Wash each press 10 times

Rating Criteria

Ease of Use: We rated the tortilla presses on how easy they were to operate, clean, carry around the kitchen, and store.

Performance: We evaluated each tortilla press’s ability to create consistently sized tortillas of a desired thickness. 

Durability: We tested how well each tortilla press held up to repeated use and cleaning.

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*