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-   -   Taco shells: Soft, Fried Crisp, or Store Bought? (http://www.discusscooking.com/forums/f21/taco-shells-soft-fried-crisp-or-store-bought-77883.html)

Greg Who Cooks 02-11-2012 08:42 PM

Taco shells: Soft, Fried Crisp, or Store Bought?
Which do you prefer and if you make your own how do you make them?
  • Soft shells: Steamed, heated over a direct flame, or what?
  • Fried crisp: What oil do you use and what is your method?
  • Store bought: What brand and do you heat them?
And let's not forget to express preferences, corn, flour or what?

Please comment on anything else bearing on the tortillas you serve tacos in, and how you prepare them.

I have mixed opinions. I like soft shells because I think they're healthier not being coated with oil. I prefer flour tortillas for soft tacos. I heat them one at a time over an open gas burner flame, using tongs to flip it a few times until there's some browned spots. Corn can be used too but flour tortillas are more flexible when fresh while corn tortillas tend to split when you bend them.

I like fried shells because they taste so good! I usually prefer corn tortillas when I fry them. I heat about a 1/2 or 3/4 inch of oil in a skillet. This is a three step process. I place a tortilla in the oil and push it down with my tongs until it's completely submerged and then let it fry until it's just barely losing its flexibility. Then I pick up one edge and lift it out of the oil until a bit more than half is out of the oil, and continue cooking. When the submerged part is starting to crisp I reverse the place I'm holding the tortilla and continue cooking the opposite end. Important: I leave a spot in the middle that isn't cooked yet! When the second end is cooked I pick up the tortilla with both ends held together and put the bottom uncooked part in the oil and finish cooking, so that the shell has the classic "U" shape. I place the completed shells in a warm oven, on a cookie sheet with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

I usually use Canola oil although I'd probably use anything else I had on hand. I usually stock only Olive, Canola and Peanut oil. I think it would be great to cook taco shells in lard!!! :smile:

Sometimes I cook the shell part way (until it's just beginning to stiffen) and then add the meat and return to frying the stuffed taco. Use minimum depth oil if you try this. They are somewhat greasy even after draining but they are so good!!! When using this method I usually use corn tortillas but sometimes flour tortillas are amazing! They get a delicate crispy texture rather than the chewy texture you get from corn tortillas.

I never use store bought shells. I imagine it would be a good idea to warm them in the oven if you use them.

I've made my own corn tortillas a few times, with varying results. Sometimes they came out great, sometimes didn't keep together very well. I used masa harina, lard and IIRC some water. It's been a long time since I've made home made tortillas.

Hammster 02-11-2012 08:46 PM

Generally store bought. Always soft. Hard, store bought - blech.
Preferences -
Tacos - corn
Burritos - flour

Greg Who Cooks 02-11-2012 09:26 PM


Generally store bought. Always soft. Hard, store bought - blech.
Just to clarify, by "store bought" I was referring to prepared hard or crispy shells purchased in packages in the store, already formed into taco shells and ready to use.

I presume most people will buy fresh tortillas at the market for making tacos, and then heat them in some way.

PrincessFiona60 02-11-2012 10:14 PM

We have a local place that makes corn tortillas and taco shells on site and will sell them by the dozen, they also do flour tortillas. So I buy them pre-made because I can't make them better. Time saver for me and I don't have to do the frying in my non-ventilated apartment. I buy regular corn tortillas for enchiladas, tostada shells, taco shells and flour tortillas for soft shells and burritos...if I call early enough (6am) they will make taco salad bowls out of flour or corn tortillas for me. They will also fry up fresh tortilla chips anytime of the day.

Hammster 02-11-2012 10:23 PM


Originally Posted by Gourmet Greg (Post 1106835)
Just to clarify, by "store bought" I was referring to prepared hard or crispy shells purchased in packages in the store, already formed into taco shells and ready to use.

I presume most people will buy fresh tortillas at the market for making tacos, and then heat them in some way.

Grocery stores in San Diego always have soft corn tortillas so I don't even look at the hard ones. We just don't care for those cardboardy hard shells available at the grocery store.
Flour tortillas get toasted directly on the grate over the gas flame.
Corn tortillas get microwaved, usually wrapped in moist paper (or cloth) towels. Unless I'm making enchiladas then the corn tortillas get dipped in the warm enchilada sauce before filling and rolling.

Greg Who Cooks 02-11-2012 10:28 PM

Wow PF, I'm amazed that you have so many Latino options in a place (MT) where I would presume would have none of these options. If I could buy freshly fried taco shells maybe I would totally reconsider using pre-made. The freshly made taco salad bowls and fresh tortilla chips sound delicious too! Maybe I should look around more. If you can find that stuff in MT then it would be astounding if I couldn't find them in my part of Los Angeles.

We have plenty of Latinos here. That's probably why I cook so much Mexican food. It's impossible to grow up in L.A. without learning to enjoy Mexican cuisine, or at least unlikely.


Originally Posted by Hammster (Post 1106844)
Unless I'm making enchiladas then the corn tortillas get dipped in the warm enchilada sauce before filling and rolling.

I'm curious if you've cooked your enchiladas "Mexican style"? You dip them in enchilada sauce and then fry them. Then fill with stuffing, cover with sauce and bake. It's very messy but very good. Too messy for me to do that very often.

PrincessFiona60 02-11-2012 10:32 PM

You just have to make friends with the folks who own the restaurants.

GLC 02-11-2012 10:55 PM

Yes. Corn for tacos. I prefer soft, briefly frying corn tortillas of the coarser variety to soften them. (If you're worried about fat, shouldn't be eating Tex-Mex anyway.) Soft tacos are not nearly the exercise in trying to keep the fillings under control as crisp. Store bought crisp shells are an abomination. For those who like crisp shells, at least buy a good corn tortilla and fry it yourself. (Lay the tortilla in a shallow layer of hot oil. As it starts to stiffen, lift on half to form the fold and roll the shell back over to do the other side.)

If I am making tortillas, I want a not very fine masa, if I have any choice. Strictly masa and water, pressed, unless you are practiced in the Mexican mama hand jive method of patting them out. Cooked on a seasoned steel or cast iron griddle of comal without oil or fat.

I know you see lard and shortening regularly listed and used, but when you see an old time Mexican girl making tortillas, you'll see them working limed corn (hominy) wet on the metate, scraping up a ball of properly ground dough from the low end of the metate, hand forming the tortilla and putting it directly on the comal. It's a rare and special thing to get a chance to eat tortillas that were made from corn processed at home, worked to masa on a metate, and cooked on an iron plate over a wood fire. It's on my list before I die to start with dried field corn and do all the steps to a traditional tortilla. But a real metate is dang expensive.

Now freshly made fried chips are infinitely better than commercial chips, although a few commercial makers do a good job. But what's a "good" commercial chip can be argued according to tastes. I think that the thinnest of thin chips serves the purpose best.

The tortilla was the measure of the old rural Mexican hospitality, no matter how poor. The saying was that, if there's tortillas enough for one, there's enough for two. And if there's enough for two, there's enough for three.

Claire 02-11-2012 11:12 PM

All of the above!

Greg Who Cooks 02-11-2012 11:14 PM

I may have misremembered the lard in my homemade tortillas. It's been years since I've made them. Maybe the lard was for my homemade tamales. Those are good too, and I'm sure you use lard. I still think it's a great idea to fry taco shells in lard and I hope to try it some day. I bet they'll be great!

I think I erred in my OP regarding the depth of oil. Probably more like 1/4". Maybe less if you are cooking them already stuffed. Am I the only one who has done that?

I'm not worried about fat. I'm near the middle of the recommended BMI. I just don't like food when it gets too greasy. Well except for greasy but good tacos, and greasy but good hamburgers. You understand love/hate, right? :smile:

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