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How To Steam Your Tortilla

May 7, 2019

Want to get me fired up? Let’s talk about wraps. Yesterday’s post about burritos, included a mention of making sure to steam your tortillas if you are making them at home. Today’s follow up post was originally going to be called “Cold Tortillas: A Crime Against Humanity”

As I started writing, it all felt very familiar. That’s when I remembered, we covered this subject before. The original post was called Bad Wraps and if you haven’t read it, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with why this is such an important issue.

But if you’re at home and want a wrap, you probably don’t have the stand alone tortilla steamer that is pretty much standard issue at every taqueria on the west coast. Sure, some places will warm up the tortillas on the griddle. Heck, one of my favorite tacos gets dipped in a cauldron of simmering fat before being griddle warmed. But at home, it’s unlikely you have the griddle space for a large flour tortilla.

And I can’t think of anyone besides Mr. Dave who might have a pot of simmering fat in which to dip tortillas. Actually, my friends at Field Notes might. Actually, I could see a bunch of my chef buddies doing something like this. Josh, if you’re reading this, maybe there’s hope for a tacos al pastor night?

Anyway, if you’re not a chef, here are a couple simple tricks to up your wrap game at home.

Forget the old adage that says never eat soggy wheat. I have no idea what that’s about. Probably from someone who never had tres leches before. And the only way to steam your tortillas is to get them wet.

My preferred way is to put an oven on low heat—something like 250 F—then I put a piece of foil on the counter that’s larger than my tortillas. I wet my hands, and rub water all over each tortilla. As each one is moistened, I stack it on the foil. Then I put a piece of foil on top, seal the edges, and throw the pouch in the oven for about ten to fifteen minutes.

Easy peasy. If they aren’t soft enough, go longer next time. Or put fewer tortillas on the stack. Or crank up your oven. Whatever. This isn’t rocket science. Just know you may have to be careful in peeling the tortillas away from each other, but they will also be remarkably pliant.

I’ve also dialed in exactly how many seconds one has to nuke the Trader Joe’s Handmade 100% whole wheat flour tortillas to make them the right elasticity. Except for this technique you lay down a paper towel on the bottom of the microwave. And after wetting the tortilla, you don’t even have to cover it up.

Twenty three seconds, and it’s done.

However, the microwave technique is not without its faults. It’s a method for doing just one tortilla at a time. In part because you have less time to work with the hot tortillas before it becomes stiff and dried out. But if you work quickly, and get that thing filled with hot ingredients and wrapped in a foil cocoon where it can continue to steam a bit, you’re all good.

So now you know. Which means now you cannot say you were never told. There is no longer any excuse for you to eat a cold tortillas at home. I mean, unless you’re some kind of monster. In which case, go right ahead.

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