Rick Martinez's Rule For Tidy Taco Eating - Exclusive

Rick Martinez, the chef, cooking show host, author, and recent James Beard Award winner, is filled with useful tips for making great tacos. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, he shared numerous mistakes to avoid when cooking tacos. However, he also stressed that there are very few hard-and-fast rules when it comes to taco cookery. In fact, he told us he has only one unbreakable rule, and it's about how to properly eat tacos, not how to make them.

Martinez said, "When you bite a taco, you always keep the taco completely straight and tilt your head." If you always have trouble with your taco falling apart as you try to eat it, this is why — you're using improper technique. "If you tilt the taco, all the filling and salsas will fall out. If you tilt your head, everything will stay in the taco. You can always tell who is taco-savvy and who isn't by the head tilt." With this rule in mind, you'll never look like a taco noob again.

The head-tilt rule is most useful with soft tacos; it's still a good idea with crunchy tacos, but they still might fall apart because of the brittle nature of the taco shell. Beyond the technique used for eating tacos, Martinez also shared some tips for building tacos that stay together better.

Rules for building sturdy tacos

In order to put together tacos that are pleasant and relatively tidy to eat, you have to think about the texture of your fillings. Crumbly, loose fillings require a different building strategy than chewy, tough ones. For the former, you need to pack them in your tortilla alongside something gooey or sticky so they don't spill out. Per Martinez, "If I make a chorizo taco, I'm probably either going to bind the chorizo in scrambled eggs or use a schmear of refried beans. You could even use melted cheese."

Meats like steak that can be hard to bite through present their own problems. Martinez has a beef (pun intended) with the way fajitas are served in America. "One thing that I don't like is when things aren't chopped enough ... In the U.S., if you order fajitas, they always come in strips, and it's like pulling a rubber band with your teeth." To avoid this issue, he recommends serving steak tacos the way Mexican taqueros do. "Here, in Mexico, when they make a carne asada taco, it'll be chopped really fine." That'll make your tacos much easier to eat and less likely to fall apart.