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Jan 2, 2010 11:41 AM

tortilla press query

Has anyone had experiences that could steer me to a good tortilla press, or away from a not-so-good one? I'm not sure how much it matters what brand or material or quality level I get... I envision periodic home use on a fairly small scale. Thanks!

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  1. I've seen three types available on the market: wood, aluminum and cast iron. I have a nice 9 inch aluminum one of Mexican origin, quite heavy in weight, but have recently read that the cast iron ones are stronger and last forever. When you make tortillas, you need to put some pressure on the press, in order to flatten the masa dough into a tortilla, and the press has to be sturdy enough take the added stress. I like my aluminum one but if I was to purchase a new one, I'd get the cast iron. From what I've read, the wood models don't stand up to the task.
    For periodic home use, I bet the aluminum model would suit you just fine.

    8 Replies
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      There also are plastic tortilla presses that work just as well as the aluminum ones and are a bit cheaper. Pretty sturdy as well.

      1. re: Zeldog

        I'd be cautious about a plastic tortilla press.
        I got a great Mexican pot-metal lime-squeezer once, and when I noticed a lemon-squeezer in shiny yellow plastic I snatched it up. JUNK. The whole deal in squeezing citrus fruits with this device relies on rigidity in the handles to apply leverage. The lemon-squeezer handles behaved almost as if they were (doh!), plastic, and flexed before even a drop was expressed from a firm lime.
        I am never confident when I approach a seller about a return, but, without a word, I just held this one out to the cashier, with a "this is junk" look on my face, and he rang my refund immediately, without question.
        Could be specific differences make the tortilla press OK, but watch yourself.

      2. re: bushwickgirl

        Any experience with electric tortilla presses?

        1. re: ninasimmons

          Nope, I'm old skool. Seen 'em, though. Presses and bakes in one step. I just bought a new cast iron from IMUSA at Target, $20.
          I've seen some negative reviews online, something about "unrealistic expectatons by customers" of what the electric presses can do. From what I've read, they are versitile and can produce flatbreads, roti, gyro, Moo Shu pancakes, etc. along with tortillas. I wonder what else people thought they could do.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            Yeah, I saw the same thing. I'm curious to try it.

        2. re: bushwickgirl

          Be careful. I bought one I THOUGHT was aluminum. It was certainly very heavy. I used mine as a puri squasher. Anyway, I stuck it in the dishwasher one day - I know, but it was chromed so I didn't think it would hurt the aluminum.

          Well it probably wouldn't have - if what was under that chrome had actually BEEN aluminum. I don't know what it was - maybe plaster? But the thing melted in the dishwasher, leaving nothing behind but a metal frame with white gunk stuck to it and silver flakes in the bottom of the dishwasher from the "chrome".

          1. re: ZenSojourner

            Wow. Guess it wasn't cast iron either; that's sad. Never heard of anything like that. Any chance of money back?

            Look on the bright side though, now you have the opportunity to get yourself a nice, real cast iron press; IMUSA is a popular brand, and they are definitely, without a doubt, cast iron. Don't scrub off the paint, as other posters here have tried to do, and I don't put it I the dishwasher (don't have anyway) either, I just wipe mine off:


            Comes in a 6 inch model as well, but that's a little small for me. Target sells these as well.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Was many many years ago, I don't even remember where I bought it. I replaced it once, and lost the replacement, with an actual puri smasher from an Indian grocers here in the states.

              Once my son went off to college I didn't make puris anymore, so it didn't seem to matter, but now that I'm living with him for awhile, I'm reconsidering.

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            I try to avoid "one trick ponies." What about handmade? Using a rolling pin?

            1. re: c oliver

              Nahhh. Need a press for tortillas; and you can use the same press to make different Asian dumpling wrappers.

              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I'm seriously interested in this for Asian dumplings. I'm planinng on making XLB soon.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Millions of women who've made tortillas by hand are surprised to hear they're doing it wrong! It's harder to do by hand, and a press is easy and faster. On the other hand, a press can be improvised. I put a piece of wax paper on top of a plastic cutting board, put the ball in the middle, put another wax paper on top, and press (hard, it helps to weigh 200 lbs) with a second cutting board. Works fine, nothing to store.

                  1. re: dscheidt

                    I made no comment about or to the millions of women who make them by hand! In fact, I've been one of those women - in Guatemala, making them by hand and here in Colombia before I got a press. But that takes a lot of practice. And flat pressed tortillas are very different than the thicker hand-made ones. I would think that people in the US making tortillas would appreciate a simple press: they work well and can be used for other appllications.

                2. re: c oliver

                  I use my press for making anything that needs to be a circle -- pie crusts for mini muffin tins, pierogi rounds, date-filled cookie rounds. Just portion out uniform balls of dough and press lightly. No scraps to rework. I think I tried to use it making scallion pancakes once, but I can't remember if that worked or not! I offered it to a friend this Christmas to try it for individual sand tarts since he was having trouble rolling them thin enough and making the transition to cookie sheet, but he didn't take me up on it, preferring to do it the way his grandmother made them for his first attempt. Don't know if it would have worked.

                  I wonder if it would work for tostones?

                  1. re: nemo

                    Tostones need a lot more pressure.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      It's not so much that tostones require a lot of pressure. You could flatten tostones using a tortilla press, but they would end up wedge shaped (thinner on the side closest to the hinge) instead of flat. Easier to use a large wooden spoon or spatula.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        I make tostones with a meat pounder, and tortillas with a skinny chapati rolling pin, which I find easier to control than a larger pin - the edges aren't always perfect, but that's okay! My ancient tortilla press finally came unhinged and is now a good doorstop.

                      2. re: nemo

                        EXCELLENT! Now I get a new toy. Hurray :)

                        1. re: c oliver

                          There is a tostone press on the market but I cover them with wax paper and use the heel of my palm to flatten them with a quick smash, hot notwithstanding.
                          New toys are always nice, though.

                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      +1 on the cast aluminum. My first one was made of wood, and it didn't work so good.

                    3. Mine was about £10 I think, made from some kind of junk metal. It's not particularly good. It's a classic design, but the top is level with the bottom about 1cm away. This means I have to turn the tortilla several times to get something even close to being a uniform thickness.

                      And I haven't got room, but I guess I'd like a bigger one. Is there another way to make them?

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: Soop

                        I have a tortilla press that is heavy (cast iron I guess), that seems to be spray painted with silver paint. I can't figure out how to get the paint off, so I an reluctant use it. I've washed and scrubbed and some comes off... any suggestions? I got it at libertad in Guadalajara, and it says "hecho en mexico" on top. Thanks 'hounders in advance for your advise.

                        1. re: honeybea

                          do what my mom used to do - one plastic bag on the top flap, one tied around the bottom part. Discard/recycle after use. Tie on 2 fresh plastic bags the next time you use it. Works great to keep the crud out of your tortillas/rotis/puris etc. You can also use saran wrap if you like.

                          1. re: caliking

                            +1. Regardless of coating, the dough sticks mercilessly to the surfaces of the press. I use a single zip-top freezer bag (saran wrap tears too easily). Cut off the zipper and slice the sides open, then open up the bag, center a ball of dough, fold the bag closed again, press, and done. It's a lot easier to peel flexible plastic than rigid metal away from a formed tortilla.

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              Now isn't that just the sort of tip we come to CH for. Thanks, AB.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                I use those folder partition things of clear plastic. It's better if you get the thick ones that flex but don't crinkle

                                1. re: Soop

                                  AB and Soop - thank you. I've waited years.
                                  You have explained my first experience of tortilla press. I was invited to a participatory dinner, where we were to press tortillas. Nobody knew about the plastic, so irretrievably smashing a bunch of impossible goo was not exactly what we had in mind. [Plastic. Yes. That makes sense.]
                                  Then I watched the tortilla presser at a taqueria fussing with a piece of plastic-wrap and thought "well maybe not", so I never did.
                                  Now I have tools.

                            2. re: honeybea

                              You don't want to remove the paint. The cast iron models from Mexico are invaribly painted silver. More than likely, the paint is powder-coated or spayed non-lead based paint. You don't make the tortillas directly on the press, anyway, as they will stick. If you remove the paint, you run the risk of having the cast iron rust, unless you're planning on seasoning the press.
                              As other posters have suggested, I also use a sheet of plastic from a freezer bag or a square of wax paper, to press the tortilla out onto. If you use wax paper squares, you can stack the tortillas up on them for later use, with no sticking to each other.

                              1. re: bushwickgirl

                                Thanks cal & alan, that is great to know, I'll be using plastic or waxed paper next to the masa... alas, I already rubbed some of the paint away. It really smelled like the spray can silver paint. Thanks Bgirl, I stopped just short of removing it all and it has a shadowy silver patina left on it. I washed and dried on super low heat and lightly oiled it to prevent rusting. I can't wait to use it! You're all the best!

                                1. re: bushwickgirl

                                  When I volunteered in Latin America we used a press, it was cast iron, and didn't use any plastic or wax paper. Tortillas never stuck or got sticky because we sprinkled flour on bottom of press and on the ball. We never had a problem and we made a lot. We didn't know enough to worry if the paint was lead or not. So far, it looks like there make them with lead free paint and heat them so the paint is supposed to endure and be safe...but

                                  I want a cast iron press but can't find one that doesn't have paint. I don't understand why use the paint? Cast iron is not that hard to care for. I don't remember if the one we used was silver or black...

                                  I thought of just buying a cast iron dutch oven and using that, if i'm gonna have to use wax paper or plastic anyway, which i find extremely wasteful and unnecessary. if anyone ever finds an unpainted cast iron press please let chowhound know, lol.

                                  1. re: we_are_there

                                    Did I misread this? How could you make tortillas in a DO? I MUST not understand .

                                    1. re: we_are_there

                                      This particular tortilla press appears not to have been spayed with any paint but coated with some sort of oil, type unknown to reviewers, certainly food grade. I don't find this oil coated cast iron to be any issue, if I was to buy this:


                                      You can reuse the plastic sheets, as they are washable. I understand your concerns in the wasteful and unnecessary arena; there are options.

                                      If you read some of the reviewer's comments, you'll get other ideas that you can possibly adapt for making tortillas, but I have to say that for all the methods I've tried, a cast iron tortilla press is the best for me. I guess it's about how you roll. Buenas suerte, mami.

                                  2. re: honeybea

                                    No harm done. The paint would start to wear off eventually and you would need to oil it anyway. By the time you give it to your grandchilren it will probably look like a well used cast iron skillet.

                                    1. re: honeybea

                                      It may not be cast iron at all! Mine wasn't. I don't know what it was, but it melted in the dishwasher. Yours sounds just like mine. I thought the silver paint was chrome. See above for the whole story. I'd consider throwing it away and replacing it with something that you know for sure what it's made of.

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