Traditional Mexican cooking utensils needed in every Mexican kitchen. This is the second part of the most used tools in my home. Used by generations and essential in Mexican cuisine, these tools are part of everyday life in Mexico. Learn how to use them and what food is prepared with them to add these unique tools to your kitchen.
Mexican Cooking Utensils
Some time ago, I wrote about a few Traditional Mexican Cooking utensils, and I guess it was about time to write the second part of that article. Some of the items you will see here are common in many Mexican homes, where the traditional home cook still treasures our roots and might even attach some sentimental value to these items. But why do I say that? Well, times change, and change is good: the new electronic kitchen appliances make our hectic and busy lives easier.
- Mexican Cooking Utensils
- Tortilla Basket / Warmer
- Traditional Mexican Cooking Tortilla Press (Tortillera)
- Rodillo (Rolling Pin)
- Machacador de Frijoles (Bean masher)
- Cucharas, Espatulas and Cucharones de Madera
- Cazuelas de Barro (Clay Pots)
- Exprimidor (Lime Squeezer)
- More Traditional Mexican Cooking Utensils
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Younger generations are learning to live in apartment homes that are small with tiny spaces where they may fit a mini fridge rather than a regular-size refrigerator. Some small electric appliances can make 2 or 3 different things, like chopping, mixing, kneading, and even ice cream, with just one piece of equipment. So call me old fashioned, but personally, I still like to use my traditional kitchen utensils.
Tortilla Basket / Warmer
The tortilla basket (Nahuatl name is “chiquihuite”) Has been part of the kitchen utensils since Aztec times. The natural fibers of this basket (palm, reed, or sugar cane plant) maintain the tortillas warm and fresh.
Tortilla baskets come in different sizes and materials like natural fibers, plastic, wood, and ceramic. Nowadays, tortilla baskets are not only for storing tortillas but for saving time and warming them. For example, newer plastic baskets provide the advance of warming a stack of tortillas with a damp napkin in your microwave all at once.
Traditional Mexican Cooking Tortilla Press (Tortillera)
Tortillera is a serious kitchen workhorse for those who still like making their own tortillas at home, although these are now fewer and fewer since tortilla factories have existed for decades. But if you decide to make some fresh homemade tortillas for your tacos, just keep reading. Tortillera are also great to help make gorditas, corn quesadillas, and sopes.
There are two types of traditional Mexican tortilla presses, those made out of wood, and those made out of metal, like the one above. These presses tend to last a long time and can sometimes even last for generations. (Other tortilla presses in the market are made of plastic and also of Aluminum.
To make a tortilla, you press a small ball of corn masa between the two pieces of the press (using sheets of plastic from a plastic bag as a liner), using the handle to press down and flatten the dough to form the tortilla's circular form. Then, peel the plastic and cook it in a hot comal.
Rodillo (Rolling Pin)
The rolling pin is mostly used to make flour tortillas in the northern areas of Mexico. Even though flour tortillas are known all over the country, corn is the most consumed. The rodillo is usually small and thin and made of wood. In some regions, they even use a small round wooden board to roll the tortillas on. Because of their wheat gluten content, flour tortillas are rolled instead of pressed like corn tortillas.
Machacador de Frijoles (Bean masher)
Bean mashers are very similar to potato smashers. You press down on the beans in a circular motion around the frying pan to give the beans a silky smooth texture. Using your machacador de frijoles will give your beans a perfect texture compared to using your blender.
The one in the picture’s foreground is a metal masher with a wooden handle; the traditional wooden masher is very hard to find nowadays. The bean masher in the background has been with me for almost 30 years. I don’t use it anymore; it’s just a keepsake in my kitchen!
Cucharas, Espatulas and Cucharones de Madera
These wooden Mexican cooking utensils are budget friendly and practical to use. Plus, over time, they absorb flavors from the spices used for cooking. Perfect for stirring big stews cooked in cazuelas (clay pots) like Mole poblano, serving salsas or relishes at a family gathering.
Wooden utensils are more gentle for cooking surfaces than metal ones and are essential in Mexican cuisine. From the spatula folding quesadillas in a hot comal to the big cucharas helping cooks stir chicharrones in copper cauldrons, wooden utensils have been part of Mexican traditions for generations.
Cazuelas de Barro (Clay Pots)
These clay cooking pots have been used since Pre-Hispanic times and are considered a Mexican cookware. They can vary in size and shape depending on the Mexican dishes: small bowls for salsas, large and tall pots (olla de barro) for cooking beans (with narrow mouths to minimize evaporation), casseroles to make stews and huge casseroles used to make dishes for large parties, and weddings.
These huge casseroles have a rounded bottom and two large handles so two people can carry them. People who cook using these clay pots claim their food tastes better when cooked inside them. Clay pots are easy to use and even easier to clean, which is the thing I love about them.
You just have to make sure to clean them once they’ve cooled down. They can crack if you don’t wait and wash them with cold water while they’re still warm. Cazuelas are the favorite cookware for rice, mole, soups, and carnitas, to name a few.
Exprimidor (Lime Squeezer)
This essential and simple tool is in almost every Mexican home. Budget-friendly and in different finishes, this hand tool is a useful item to have in your kitchen. First, cut the lime or lemon in half and place one half into the squeezer facing down. Then, press the half lemon with the top portion by closing the handles together. The Lime squeezer will extract the juice from the limes or lemons and keep the seeds in the squeezer.
More Traditional Mexican Cooking Utensils
The following tools are used occasionally but not in every Mexican kitchen. What do I mean by this? Like in every home, space, budget, and modern tools are things to consider when buying cooking gadgets. But it is good to know about them in case you want them.
Steamer (Vaporera | Tamalera)
Large metal steamers are a great pot if you make tamales in large batches. Most of the time, one family member will have a steamer, and others will borrow it or get together to have a tamalada (tamal-making gathering).
Vaporeras are also ideal to have for family gatherings and cooking outside. But if you are like me and make tamales only on special occasions, you can always improvise and use smaller pots.
You probably think that every house in Mexico has one of these cast iron griddles. The truth is that we don’t. Fajita pans are mainly found in restaurants to bring sizzling cuts of meat to hungry customers. But if you decide to impress your friends, get a fajita pan to serve your meats on your next get-together.
Masa Hand Mill (Molino para Masa)
With so many factories and stores selling ready-to-used masa, Molino's para masa is almost a thing of the past. However, growing up and visiting my Grandmother, this was a tool of everyday use. My sisters, cousins, and Aunts took turns grinding corn kernels to make fresh masa. If you would like to learn how to make your own masa at home check corn masa recipe to see the step-by-step process.
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If you enjoyed this list of Mexican tools, take a look at this other post to learn more about Mexican utensils like the molcajete made of volcanic stone, molinillo, metate, and comal :
Click on the picture to read Part I of Mexican Cooking Utensils.
So, do you have any of these utensils at home?