February 23, 2011 by Flora Dawn
“Corn tortillas are a pain to cook with,” I hear this all the time. After all, they don’t roll, they just bend and break. Right?
Well, not really. If heated correctly, corn tortillas taste great and roll easily. And let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of convenient gluten-free tortilla options out there. Corn tortillas are easy to find and really inexpensive, making them the best choice, and most authentic choice, for Mexican food.
Although I do make my own corn tortillas (I posted the process here), sometimes I just need the convenience of the store bought variety; however, they are rather dry and brittle directly from the bag. Personally, I would never serve them without heating them first.
I have found that heating correctly not only improves the texture of corn tortillas, but also greatly improves their flavor. Here are a few of my tips for how to cook with store bought corn tortillas.
If you need to fold tortillas to hold in your hand for fajitas or tacos:
1) My preferred methods to heat the tortillas is on my gas grill (it only takes a couple minutes per side). I know, it sounds weird, but it really works. And if you are grilling meat for the filling, why not just use the preheated grill anyway? The tortillas get nice dark spots from the flames, and often will get huge air bubbles. Just be careful not to forget about them, or you’ll soon have tortilla chips!
2) If it’s winter or just don’t want to grill, a Cast Iron Griddle works perfectly. On a hot griddle, the tortillas will heat in less than 1 minute per side. If you don’t have a cast iron griddle, the pan or griddle you use to make pancakes should work just fine.
I really like my cast iron griddle though; it’s what I use to make my homemade tortillas. It is really a great kitchen item to have, especially if you are trying to get away from non-stick pans. I use my cast iron griddle almost daily to cook grilled cheese, quesadillas, french toast, etc.
If you need to heat corn tortillas so you can roll them for enchiladas:
3) I have found the microwave works really well. I take a stack of 8-10 tortillas and wrap them in a damp dish towel or paper towel (to get the towel damp just run some tap water over the towel and ring out all the excess water); then place the wrapped stack on a plate and microwave for about 2 minutes. The steam softens the tortillas and allows them to roll or fold easily without breaking. Well, and occasional tortilla might still crack, but not the whole stack!
I keep the tortillas covered with the damp towel while I am working, to keep them warm and pliable. I use this method only for dishes that will go in the oven, like a casserole or enchiladas, because the tortillas become damp while heating; not really the desired texture for a burrito or taco.
I hope these tips help you use corn tortillas without frustration. If you have a different method, please share!