I love the tortilla press! And have been collecting them for over 20 years. I have cast iron tortilla presses, aluminum tortilla presses, and tortilla presses made of wood. My collection isn’t huge: less than a dozen made out of wood, a few made of cast iron, and a couple made of aluminum. (In the last few years there has been at least one company who has come out with a plastic tortilla press. Perhaps I’m just old school but I can’t even consider a tortilla press made of plastic.)
Besides collecting them, I actually use a tortilla press …regularly. On average, I probably use one of my tortilla presses a couple of times a week. And I have been using them for over twenty years. I love to cook, esp., Mexican food. We have “Mexican night” for dinner two to three times a week. I just enjoy it. It’s “my thing.”
What Is Wrong With Store Bought Tortillas?
Short answer, in my opinion, “nothing.” Depending on the brand, of course, as some are better than others, but most store bought tortillas aren’t bad. But there is nothing like a fresh, just-cooked, hot-off-the-stove, homemade tortilla. Store bought tortillas just can’t compare with homemade.
I have made literally thousands and thousands of tortillas over the years. Using a tortilla press they couldn’t be easier to make and you can make a batch of them for just pennies.
What Exactly Is A Tortilla Press?
In simplest terms, a tortilla press is a mechanical contraption used to make corn tortillas. Known as a “tortilladora” in Mexico, a tortilla press is a simple appliance usually made of either metal or wood. To use a tortilla press, a small ball of corn dough, or masa (see How To Make Corn Tortillas), is placed in the center of the tortilla press, pressure is applied via the handle of the press, and the dough is flattened into a round, flat tortilla which is then cooked.
A tortilla press is usually made of wood, aluminum, or cast iron. (They are now also making tortilla presses out of plastic. But I have never used a plastic tortilla press so I just can’t comment on them.) Let’s take a brief look at each of the different types and I’ll give my opinion as to the advantages and disadvantages of all three (including our favorite).
On this site we have also provided some pretty decent videos on the tortilla press including How To Use a Tortilla Press, and How To Make A Tortilla Press. If you have any interest, I would recommend you take a look.
Wooden Tortilla Press
The wooden tortilla press can be a beautiful addition to your kitchen counter and can be a stunning conversation piece… at least the ones at the higher end of the price range. And there can be quite a range in prices with the wooden tortilla press. At the low end, expect to pay around $20. But I have seen them upwards of $80 or even more. The old saying, “You get what you pay for” I think is generally true when it comes to wood tortilla presses. Without commenting on any individual specific press, I would stay away from the lower priced ones.
The lower priced wood tortilla press will almost always be made of pine. Not that there is anything wrong with pine. But pine is considered a soft wood and it is lighter in weight than some of the other varieties. I’ve owned a few presses made of pine and in my experience they just don’t hold up.
The higher end wood tortilla press will usually be made of oak, or maple, or my favorite, mesquite. All of these are a much harder, heavier wood. You will pay more for them but in the long run they should hold up much better. These higher priced woods also just look better. When sanded smooth – as they should be – and oiled, the grain of the wood can really be spectacular.
However, besides costing more, another problem of the wooden tortilla press is they will usually have a bigger footprint than their metal counterparts. Though they can be as small as 7″ x 9″, I have seen them as big as 10″ x 13″ and even larger. That is a large area when sitting on precious counter top space and their heavy, bulky size can be a potential problem when trying to find a place to store ‘em in the cupboard.
Aluminum Tortilla Press
The cast aluminum tortilla press is light and easy to handle. In fact, they can weigh less than half that of a wood tortilla press, usually even less! I have a couple of these and they both come in at under two pounds. That is both good and bad. They are easier to handle, no doubt. But being lighter, you do have to press harder. And too much pressure has been known to break these presses (sadly, I know from experience).
Another problem I have encountered is the aluminum top plate is just not sturdy enough for the job. When pressing out a ball of dough, the top plate will actually warp or bend in the middle where the ball of dough sits. This then seems to create a tortilla which is uneven in thickness. You can even out the thickness with a rolling pin of course, but isn’t that defeating the purpose of having a tortilla press to begin with?
On the bright side, they are relatively inexpensive. You should be able to get an aluminum tortilla press for around $15.00… maybe less. They also have a smaller footprint than their wooden cousins so storage should not be a problem.
Cast Iron Tortilla Press
The cast iron tortilla press is generally about the same size as their aluminum counterpart but much heavier. Though their weight does make them harder to move around, it actually provides more leverage when pressing tortillas. If you have ever made a lot of tortillas at one time, you know what an advantage that can be.
And unlike the aluminum tortilla press, the top plate of the cast iron tortilla press seems much more able to do the job. No bending or warping when pressing out the balls of dough. And I don’t experience the uneven thickness of the pressed tortilla when using the cast iron press.
Though I have never had a problem, I always wonder about the finish on our counter top. Will the cast iron scratch it? …mark it? …crack it? To be safe, I use a piece of cardboard which I always set the press on when using it. I also use the same piece of cardboard when storing it. It works for me. (I once bought a used tortilla press on which someone had glued felt to the bottom of the feet. I suspect for the same reason I use cardboard. Though I have never tried that, I thought it was a good idea.)
The price of a cast iron tortilla press is usually around $20 to $25 …sometimes a little less. That is for the standard 6.5″ model. If you prefer a larger tortilla, you can usually find the cast iron in an 8″ model as well. The larger press will generally cost a few dollars more.
So Which Is The Best Tortilla Press?
My vote has to go to the cast iron tortilla press. Specifically, the Victoria Cast Iron Tortilla Press made by Imusa. It is a very sturdy and durable appliance. Our 1st one was bought over five years ago and is still operating like the day we bought it. And we use it a lot!
The weight of the cast iron tortilla press, I think in this case, is a plus. The handle, the top and bottom plates, just the whole appliance seems much sturdier and more able to get the job done. And in my experience, it is less likely to break. The weight of our 6.5″ cast iron tortilla press is just under five and a half pounds. It’s heavy for its size but it’s not bulky.
If you’re worried that cast iron will rust, the one I recommend is “hot-tinned”. This is a process which coats the cast iron. Ours has yet to show any rust.
When new, there is a coating which has been applied to protect the finish. Simply hand wash in warm, soapy water and dry. It will be good to go! To clean after using, we just wipe it off with a damp towel.
TO SAVE up to 30% (subject to change) and be eligible for free shipping, please use this link: Victoria Cast Iron Tortilla Press
They also offer an 8″ model: 8″ Victoria Cast Iron Tortilla Press