Could these products keep tortillas warm longer than simply wrapping tortillas in aluminum foil and heating them in the oven?
Published Aug. 1, 2014. Appears in Cook's Country TV Season 8: Enchiladas and Huevos Rancheros
Tortilla warmers promise to keep tortillas warm longer than wrapping them in a dish towel or aluminum foil. We already have a handy method for warming tortillas that keeps them hot for about 30 minutes: Wrap stacks of six tortillas in foil and heat them in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes—is a warmer worth buying to do the same task?
To find out, we gathered five models made from a variety of materials, including plastic, fabric, terra-cotta, and ceramic. Some go in just the microwave and some work in both the microwave and oven; all can be loaded with preheated tortillas (if you make homemade or want to toast them first). We tested the warmers with a range of tortillas, from 6-inch corn to 10-inch flour burrito wraps, to see how many different kinds and sizes of tortillas fit in them. Then we heated each warmer loaded with six tortillas, plopped the warmers on the counter, and waited for the tortillas to cool, checking every 20 minutes for flavor, texture, and temperature.
None of the warmers affected tortilla flavor, but cooling times were a different story. The two plastic warmers were the first to chill, in about 20 minutes; their thin sides did little to retain heat. Next, the foil packet cooled at 45 minutes. Both the terra-cotta and ceramic warmers beat the foil packet, lasting 50 minutes and 1 hour, respectively, but any longer and the tortillas turned dry or soggy.
One model remained: the fabric warmer, which resembles a Technicolor pita pocket. After the fabric warmer spent 30 seconds in the microwave, impressed testers watched the clock until its tortillas finally chilled to lukewarm, an hour and a half later. The secret is its layered sides: Two layers of fabric sandwich a sheet of plastic; the plastic and outer layer of fabric insulate, and the internal layer of fabric wicks away moisture from the tortillas but holds it nearby, creating a warm, moist environment that kept them hot, soft, and pliable.
To top it off, this warmer was the only one with clear cooking instructions (printed directly on its side). At 12 inches it fit 30 tortillas and was the only warmer large enough to fit 10-inch burrito-size wraps. Our winner is inexpensive; it works in the microwave and can be tossed right in the washing machine with your oven mitts. Aluminum foil works fine for less than 30 minutes, but our winning warmer keeps tortillas hot and pliable three times longer, so you can prep the rest of dinner after you heat them up.
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.