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Most tortilla and pita bread recipes I see specifically call for cooking the dough in a cast iron skillet. At the moment, I only have stainless steel.

My only attempt at making pita bread in a stainless steel skillet failed miserably. For the first batch I used a thin layer of oil and the dough ended up 'fried' (very crispy and oily on the outside). Then I tried with very little oil and the dough stuck and burned.

Should I expect the same problems with making tortillas, and is there anything I can do differently?

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Tweaking your technique, rather than pan choice, may help a bit - people often use whatever is to hand to make recipes, and what you have is what you have as far as pans go. I've used the same techniques on a a cast iron thaava and stainless steel griddle, and it was workable on each of them, for what it's worth.

I usually don't find using a lot of oil helpful when heating tortillas or pitas. The oily/fried crispy outside is a familiar thing, even with a cast iron pan - for some recipes made with tortillas it can be nice, but for making the tortillas themselves it's less useful. Using very little oil, or even using none at all and dry-roasting on the pan, is a better tradeoff for me - though the possibility of sticking and burning is there, and needs some work to avoid.

The oil used should be very less (if it is being used), barely brushed onto the pan, or rubbed on and off with a paper towel (one dab on a towel will last a whole batch). Sometimes, it might be easier to brush just a bit over the tortillas instead, and leave the pan dry. If your recipe has oil in it, or if you just don't want the added oil, you can also just dry-roast the tortillas (and probably pitas, but I have less experience with those) - I tend to do it this way the most, since the wrong amount of oil can even encourage sticking by making the pan tacky.

If I'm dry-roasting the tortillas, I find it really helps if the surface of the tortilla is quite dry - perhaps you could lightly dust it with a bit of flour if the dough is on the moister side (and I don't even mean damp, just slightly tacky might let it catch and stick more), you want just slightly dusty on the surface. When the pan is hot, I sort of sweep the pan with the tortilla for a few seconds at first - that is, lift the tortilla by one side, and rest a half or so on the pan for a second, dragging it forward. Then, move my grip to the other side of the tortilla, and repeat.

What exactly this five second dragging-about step does I'm not quite sure, it may dry the very surface just that little bit more, it may prevent sticking while the surface of the dough is warming, but when I do this, the tortilla tends to sit loosely on the surface of the pan, and I can skitter it around with my fingers while it warms up and starts roasting. As long as I can keep it moving for those first seconds, it rarely sticks and never badly, it's always easy to pry up (or tug away from) any little areas that catch before they become problems. Half the time I keep skittering it around with my fingertips as it cooks, it doesn't seem to cause a problem in its cooking and I'm right there with nothing else to do - but once the first few seconds of cooking have dried out the surface enough so it won't stick, you can just as easily leave it alone for the few minutes cooking takes.

It also is usually only the first one or two in a batch that can get tricky, and try sticking... usually once the batch gets going the later ones don't cause problems (though I'm not sure if that's because I've worked out the variables for this batch of dough, or if the pan gets seasoned or heated to the right amount as the cooking goes on).

(I'm not sure if it actually matters, but while I have worked with tortillas, I am actually a bit more familiar with chapati... so my techniques or perspectives may be colored by that background)

  • Impressive explanation, must say! Perfect way to make Tortillas. – user50547 Sep 24 '16 at 6:05
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    @SaurabhCooks - I'm glad you liked it! – Megha Sep 24 '16 at 6:55
  • It was totally awesome! ✌ – user50547 Sep 24 '16 at 8:24
  • Just finished my first attempt. With no oil in the pan (but oil in the dough), I 'skittered' the tortillas around with my fingertips and managed to keep them from sticking. Thanks! – rcorre Sep 24 '16 at 15:35
  • @rcorre - Excellent! It's so much easier to keep them from sticking with fingertips rather than a flipper... it's worth it even if I sometimes scorch my fingertips being impatient :) – Megha Sep 24 '16 at 16:07
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My tortilla griddles are 14-16 gauge mild steel, made in Mexico, and purchased at the local Mexican grocery for ~$12.00 each. Each rectangular griddle covers two burners, so workflow is 4 tortillas at a time. There's no need for stainless, cast iron, a nonstick coating, or even oil. If you get the masa consistency right, the tortillas won't stick. Use a thin steel flipper, not one of the plastic ones, so as to get under the tortilla properly. If you can't find one big enough in your area, just cut most of the flipper part of a nylon flipper off, and bolt a 20 gauge piece of flat steel of the size you want onto the handle.

  • If he is looking at a recipe I guess he has proper measurements to do the dough right? – user50547 Sep 24 '16 at 4:53
  • The stuff is tricky. Corn pulls in different amounts of water depending on type of corn, how long you nixtamalize it, how many times you rinse the kernels afterwards and how long you let it sit, mixed and hydrating, before grinding, and how long you let the masa sit before turning it into tortillas. Instant masa is easier but the correct water range is still pretty tight. – Wayfaring Stranger Sep 24 '16 at 12:10
  • Don't you think that the guy needs a much practical solution. With all the variables(which could affect the dough) mentioned above, I don't have a reason to believe that an amateur could ever get the dough right in the first place. Result, burnt tortillas! @Wayfaring – user50547 Sep 24 '16 at 13:24
  • @SaurabhCooks It's not that bad. Like bread dough you just need to get hydration right; before you start pressing tortillas. Lot's of amaters, such as myself, do it with great results. – Wayfaring Stranger Sep 24 '16 at 15:10
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I believe to make Pita or Tortillas you need a skillet with a heavy base be it cast iron or stainless steel. Don't fret if you presently don't have it. Firstly, just don't make tortillas too thin(not too thick either, keep them somewhere in between). Secondly, cook on medium high. Thirdly, keep turning them frequently and you would definitely get good results this time around.

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    Would I need oil as I don't have a the nonstick seasoning of cast iron? If so, how do I avoid the tortillas turning out 'fried' and crispy (and not pliable)? – rcorre Sep 23 '16 at 15:37
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    In my experience, if you have used oil/butter(any oil based ingredient) while kneading the dough then you won't need oil while cooking on skillet. Even otherwise if you wish to skip on oil(health reasons etc.) just keep flipping tortillas frequently to avoid burning them. Also don't press the tortillas after putting them on skillet or else they could stick to the surface(due to the pan not being non-stick). – user50547 Sep 23 '16 at 16:10

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