The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tortillas on a Baking Steel?

Goats In The Kitchen's picture
Goats In The Kitchen

Tortillas on a Baking Steel?

I have a question about the flattest of flat breads...tortillas! I make a batch up once a month or so and store them in the freezer for our Saturday morning huevos rancheros breakfast. Cooking them does make an awful lot of smoke in our small home though, and this morning while making up a batch I wondered if I could cook them on a baking steel placed on the BBQ so I could cook them outdoors and avoid all that smoke in the house. I don't have a steel yet, but am seriously considering getting one once our kitchen reno is done at the end of the month. Anyone have experience with this that they could share?

charbono's picture

Tortillas are normally cooked on an non-greased skillet.  Why are you generating smoke?

Goats In The Kitchen's picture
Goats In The Kitchen

I'm cooking in a cast iron pan and there is always some (tiny bit) oil on the surface from the seasoning.  I'm not deep frying by any means, just the heat coming off the pan and the cooking of the tortillas at high heat creates smoke. Perhaps because our home is quite small it's very noticeable. I use my cast iron pan daily for frying up onions, mushrooms and other veggies for our morning omelette and I never get much smoke from that, it's easily cleared by the fan. But when cooking tortillas I need the windows open as well.

idaveindy's picture

Uh... tortillas aren't supposed to make that much, or any, smoke.  Perhaps....

1. you could wipe the pan drier from what residual wet oil is already on it.

2.  reduce the temperature at which you are cooking the tortilla,  The temp should not be higher than the smoke point of most oils.   Of course, lowering the temp will also cause you to have to cook them a slighter longer time.  My electric burner goes from LO - 1 - 2 - 3 ... 8 - 9 - HI.   I cook tortillas at setting 3 for a cast iron pan, and 4 for a non-stick coated aluminum pan.  I cook pancakes at the same settings.  

What burner setting (X out of Y, where Y is your max number on the dial) do you fry your veggies at, where you are not getting smoke?  And what burner setting do you cook you tortillas at?

3. Could you have too much oil/lard/shortening in your tortilla that is causing smoke?  But still, it should not be cooking at above the smoke point.  Having brown spots on the tortilla is okay, but not stiff/crispy or very dark blisters.

4. One way to cook tortillas faster without using higher temps is to use a metal spatula to press spots against the pan.  I've seen that trick in videos of how to make Indian (India) flatbreads. Press it until that spot starts to puff up, maybe pierce the bubble with a fork or toothpick, then move to another spot.

Goats In The Kitchen's picture
Goats In The Kitchen

Thanks for the suggestions Dave.

The pan is normally quite dry because after each use - especially if I have to wash it out - I put it on the heat with a drop of oil, then once it heats up I take a paper towel and rub the oil in, taking any excess off on the paper towel. So I'm not sure I could get any more up by wiping it.

I cook on an induction cooktop and my dial is like yours. I cook most things around medium veggies for omelettes (I turn it down to 3 once the eggs go in as they tend to want to stick), pancakes, and tortillas, sometimes with slight adjustments up or down as needed. I find if I have the heat lower than med, my pancake batter just keeps spreading and doesn't set up fast enough before they all run into each other. But I cook those in a non-stick pan. I cook my tortillas at medium also, but it almost seems like the pan keeps getting hotter...maybe it's the nature of cast iron? 

I don't use any oil in my tortilla recipe, just masa harina, salt and water. So I think I can rule that one out.

I do the pressing trick actually, mostly because I love watching the air bubbles come up!

It seems I could try cooking at lower temps and just be patient, which I'll certainly try. But now I'm wondering even more about cooking the tortillas on a steel on the BBQ, just because I could get probably 6 cooking at a time, vs one at a time in a pan on the stovetop.