Tortilla steamers are sometimes called portion steamers. They are small sized countertop units designed to provide a blast of steam to tortillas and other foods. They typically feature a shallow well that contains a perforated ½ size pan (12-3/4” x 10-3/8” x 2-7/8”). Food is placed in the pan, and the cover folds down to create an enclosed steaming compartment. With the push of a button, steam is injected into the compartment. In several seconds, the lid can be opened and the food removed, or another blast of steam can be provided.
Tortillas are a very thin unleavened bread product made of corn and/or wheat flour, water, oil, and salt. They can easily become dry, fragile, and cracked around the edges. Tortillas that have been frozen or refrigerated often tear when rolled or folded. Steaming them restores moisture and elasticity while rethermalizing them for service.
Most tortilla steamers feature a reservoir that is manually filled and holds up to three quarts of water. Distilled water prevents scale. After filling, units typically require about 25 minutes to preheat. Some units feature indicator lights that tell the operator when the unit is ready to steam, and some include low-water indicators. Although primarily used for tortillas, some manufacturers recommend them for steaming and rethermalizing bread, rolls, sandwiches, baked goods, and pre-cooked refrigerated vegetables or pasta. They are also recommended for melting cheese on dishes that could become over dry if placed under a traditional broiler or cheesemelter.