Taco night never fails in its hallowed duty to deliver an evening of reasonless celebration. And while kits may be convenient, you can do better. Make your own salsa, your own seasoning and, for chrissake, your own damn tortillas. Here’s the gear you need to get it all done.
Chef’n Small Citrus Press
Lime is a staple of taco night, and this is the best hand juicer around. Chef’n’s hand juicer uses a two-gear press instead of the usual one, resulting in significantly more pressure on the fruit and less effort from the squeezer. An inverted filter and finer-than-average slotting for the juice to run through means less pulp and more juice. Check out Chef’n’s larger tabletop juicer for an upgrade in the form of a Red Dot Design Award finalist.
Tacos: Recipes and Provocations
With its slightly dramatic title, Alex Stupak’s Tacos: Recipes and Provocations is a 240-page love letter to one of the world’s great food exports. For a slightly less taco-focused, but still taco-inclusive, cookbook, check out Diana Kennedy’s tome on one of the world’s most diverse culinary regions in Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy.
Victoria Cast-Iron Tortilla Press
The only tool you really need to make your own tortillas — not to mention, impress the shit out of your guests — is a press. Victoria’s 8.5-pound option is affordable, sturdy and used by people who know way more about cooking than you do.
Calling a molcajete a guacamole serving plater is tantamount to calling a cast-iron skillet a wall ornament. The molcajete is the Mexican answer to the mortar and pestle, but with one significant difference – it’s porous. The basalt rock used to make a traditional molcajete is covered in tiny little holes that help it do what it does best – crush spices, chunkier sauces and rubs. Notice the word crush. A molcajete is not for grinding or emulsifying. It’s a tool to just barely crack open garlic, whole seed spices or small veggies. It doesn’t hurt that it’s incredibly satisfying to use. (Pro tip: Crush uncooked white rice in yours before using it for the first time. The rice will catch and remove the sandy, gritty particles on the top layer of the bowl so they don’t get in your food.)
RSVP Stoneware Tortilla Warmer
You’ve undoubtedly had to ask a waiter for more tortillas, and what typically arrives at your table is, at best, a flimsy plastic container that loses heat in a minute, or, at worst, tortillas wrapped in wax paper and aluminum foil. Note that neither of these things retains heat well. Not the case with RSVP Stoneware’s offering. Sized perfectly for a stack of eight-inch tortilla, and with enough weight to lock heat in for more than 120 seconds, it effectively extends the life of the perfect tortilla. For better results, warm in an oven on low before placing tortillas in it.
Cuisinart SG-10 Electric Spice Grinder
You know that taco seasoning that comes in a little yellow packet? This one? It’s basically pure salt. The art of seasoning well is to avoid seasoning packets altogether by making your own mixes. Cuisinart’s electric spice grinder blasts whole seed spices to flavor dust in seconds, and the grind chamber can be removed for cleaning and easier handling.
Baking Steel Double Burner Griddle
Behold, a 23-pound behemoth of a griddle that will smother half your stovetop. At first glance, a wieldy, fairly pricey griddle seems a questionable investment – that is until you remember the sheer number of pots and pans used to make the average taco meal. A skillet for your onion and peppers, a skillet for the tortillas, a skillet (or grill) for the meat of choice, a burner to char poblanos and a saucepan for beans. This griddle can replace each of these. Coupled with the added benefit of having the best breakfast griddle money can buy, this heavy duty griddle may just become your most trusted kitchen ally.
Vitamix Explorian Blender
Because a molcajete has its limits, and some sauces are better liquified than chunky. Vitamix’s E310 blender is the brand’s latest and most affordable option. Its performance isn’t noticeably different from the famed 5200 model, and it will make quick work of whipped sour cream, a finer sauce and any raw or charred veggies (read: poblanos) or, if you’re fairly industrious, a homemade mole.