What the heck is nixtamalization, you ask?
The short answer: nixtamalization is the key to authentic homemade corn tortillas.
The long answer is quite a bit longer and involves science (SCIENCE!), but don’t be scared: the editors at Cook’s Science, the newest website from America’s Test Kitchen which launched in June, have already done all of the hard work so that you can produce abuela-quality tortillas at home with ease.
Although I am a huge fan of cooking, I am normally not too keen on science. My brain just doesn’t work that way. People like Alton Brown and Joanne Chang are culinary superheroes to me…not only because they create amazing food (if you’ve ever visited one of Chang’s Flour Bakery locations, you know what I’m talking about), but because they know why the food tastes good. As I read through the Cook’s Science article on nixtamalization, I realized that I actually understood some of the science (the cross-linking of pectin strands binding with water to form a gel, to be exact) thanks to having taken the Harvard Extension School class “Science and Cooking” a couple of years ago. Wait, me? Understanding a scientific concept? I felt smarter than a fifth grader.
For those of you who have a better grasp on chemistry than I do, which I assume is most of the population, be sure to check out Cook Science’s nixtamalization article and the rest of the website. I, for one, am a big fan of the site design; it’s a fresh departure from the look of the other ATK family sites (America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Illustrated, and Cook’s Country). I’m looking forward to trying out the runny yolk sauce recipe this weekend.
Now, to figure out how to work the word “nixtamalization” into a conversation today…