How To Prevent Cracked Homemade Tortillas

As with, well, everything, food made from scratch at home is almost always superior to the store-bought kind. Homemade corn tortillas are no exception. Astoundingly simple to make (yet a little tricky to master), these flat rounds of scrumptiousness are superior in every way to what's commercially available. For one thing, you control the amount and quality of the ingredients. For another, tortilla dough (along with the finished product) is so much better fresh. As you learn this process of tortilla-making, you'll almost certainly encounter the bugbear of all taco enthusiasts: cracking. While there are many reasons why tortillas crack, the home cook wishing to prevent it needs only remember two things: maintaining proper moisture and temperature. Simply put, the tortilla dough should be room temperature (or ideally warmed by a recent knead), and never allowed to dry out.

Here are the down-and-dirty rules for preventing tortillas from cracking: Make sure the dough is at room temperature. Keep it moist at all times but not sticky (experts say it should have the smooth, pliant consistency of Play-Doh). Cover the bowl of unrolled dough balls with a damp towel and have a bowl of water handy to moisten your hands when rolling. Now that you know the hows of preventing cracked tortillas, let's get into why it even happens in the first place.

Dryness, stiffness, and heat — oh my!

So, what do moisture and temperature have to do with cracked tortillas? The temperature part is pretty simple. If you've made your tortilla dough earlier in the day and are storing it in the fridge, the cold dough will be drier and stiffer — two surefire issues that will lead to cracking. Even non-glutinous doughs get stretchier as they warm. Proper temperature also matters in another way, at least if you're frying the tortillas. If your oil is too hot, the outside will cook more rapidly than the inside, creating a hard exterior that will inevitably rupture and crack.

Dry tortillas crack and break. Hydrated ones don't. Therefore, maintaining proper moisture applies to cooked tortillas as much as it does uncooked — at least with respect to keeping them fresh. Covering cooked tortillas in a wet paper towel and wrapping tightly in aluminum foil will preserve them for a day or two (although honestly, these guys are meant to be enjoyed immediately). Using a ceramic tortilla warmer or steaming them before serving will keep them pliable. Once you get the hang of keeping your tortilla dough the right temperature and moisture, making them at home will become second nature.