The Steaming Treatment Rick Bayless Uses For Luxurious Fresh Tortillas

Corn tortillas can taste like a dry and rubbery mess if they are not properly warmed. Unlike flour tortillas, which can retain a softer texture, corn tortillas do not contain gluten, which means that when they cool, they can become stiff. That's why Chef Rick Bayless says you should use steam to keep this favored taco-making ingredient soft and luxurious.

During a Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Bayless explained that the process is quite easy. "They really want to be steamed," he said. "An easy way to do it is in a little vegetable steamer." Bayless went on to break down the process step by step, sharing, "Just bring some water to a boil, put the tortillas over your vegetable steamer, put a top on it, and just let them sit off the fire for 10 to 15 minutes."

Bayless also noted an alternative method, saying that one can wrap the tortillas in damp paper towels and microwave them for 30 to 45 seconds.

Make your own warmer

Bayless stressed that the taste of a corn tortilla is largely connected to the quality of the tortilla. He said he always uses fresh, but let's face it, not every Taco Tuesday lends itself to making fresh corn tortillas. Luckily, store-bought corn tortillas are just fine when life is overwhelming and there simply isn't time. Steaming your favorite brand will soften them up and make them flexible and supple so you can keep all those taco fillings in place.

And if you don't have an authentic tortilla warmer to trap all that heat and moisture, you can create a makeshift version with damp towels or paper towels, a bowl or basket, and something to use to cover the container. Simply wrap the warmed tortillas in a clean cloth or paper towel that has been dampened, place them in an appropriately sized container, and cover until you are ready to use.