Corn tortillas are a staple in Latin America, and they’re popular in the United States, too. Here at Cook’s Illustrated, we love these south-of-the-border wraps: They’re the base for many of our Mexican recipes like Shredded Beef Tacos, Enchiladas Verdes, and Huevos Rancheros, to name just a few. And while we can recommend a favorite brand of store-bought corn tortillas, nothing tastes as good as homemade.
The process of making these tortillas is straightforward, though you will need a special tortilla press. After putting 4 presses through rigorous tests, we came away with a winning model that's easy on the eyes as well as a cook's hands.
MAKING YOUR OWN CORN TORTILLAS
Makes twelve 6-inch tortillas
The dough should be very wet; if it is too dry, the tortillas will be crisp and brittle. If the dough becomes too dry to work with, knead in additional water. Using two skillets to toast the tortillas in step 4 saves time. Don’t skip the final steaming step; it’s crucial for attaining a soft tortilla texture. To reheat tortillas quickly we found it best to use the microwave. Simply stack the tortillas on a plate, sprinkle them with a little water, cover them with microwave-safe plastic wrap, and microwave on high until warm and soft, 1 to 2 minutes—this method can also be used to heat store-bought tortillas.
2 cups masa harina
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups warm water
1. Cut twenty-four 8-inch squares of parchment paper; set aside.
2. Mix the masa, oil, and salt together in a medium bowl. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of the water with a rubber spatula to form a soft dough. Using your hands, knead the dough in the bowl, adding additional water as needed until the dough is very soft and has the texture of a very wet cookie dough (nearly too wet to handle). Cover and set the dough aside for 5 minutes.
3. TO PRESS THE TORTILLAS: Pinch off a 3-tablespoon-sized piece of dough, and roll into a ball. Lay one square of the parchment on the bottom of the press, place the ball of dough in the middle, and lay the second piece of parchment over the top. Press the ball gently into a 1/8-inch-thick tortilla (5 to 6 inches in diameter). Remove the parchment-encased tortilla from the press and set aside; repeat with the remaining dough and parchment squares. (The tortillas can be held, covered, at room temperature for up to 4 hours before cooking.)
4. TO COOK THE TORTILLAS: Line a baking sheet with two clean damp dish cloths; set side. Heat an 8 or 10-inch nonstick skillet (or griddle) over medium-high heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Working with one tortilla at a time, gently peel off the parchment, one side at a time, and lay the tortilla in the dry skillet. Cook, without moving, until the tortilla moves freely when the pan is shaken, about 30 seconds. Flip the tortilla over and cook until the edges curl and the bottom is spotty brown, 30 to 60 seconds. Flip the tortilla back over and continue to cook until the first side is spotty brown, 30 to 60 seconds. Lay the toasted tortilla between the damp dish cloths; repeat with the remaining tortillas. (The tortillas can be transferred to a zipper-lock bag and refrigerated for up to 5 days.)
RECIPE FOR MEMBERS: Shredded Beef Tacos
In order to achieve a moist, tender, and richly flavored beef taco filling, we cooked boneless short ribs slowly and gently in a covered Dutch oven over a sauce base of dark beer, vinegar, and dried ancho chiles.