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Chef Aarón Sánchez has our new dream job: He gets paid to eat tacos. On his new show, Taco Trip (which airs on the Cooking Channel Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. EST), Sánchez travels the country tasting all of the best tacos America has to offer. Between the show and Johnny Sánchez, the taqueria he recently opened with chef John Besh in New Orleans, Sánchez has become a serious taco expert. Here, he shares his seven top tips for making the best tacos ever.
Keep it to two bites. When it comes to tortillas, Sánchez always opts for 4-inch corn tortillas, double-stacked to maintain the taco’s integrity. Typical corn tortillas are 6 inches, but that’s too big in Sanchez’s opinion. “If you have a 6-inch tortilla, then when you take a bite things start falling out,” he says. “The 4-inch tortillas keep everything compact and down to two bites.”
Soften up the tortilla. Sánchez is strongly opposed to hard-shelled tacos. “Never do a hard shell,” he says. “That’s a tostada, not a taco.” To make sure his tortillas are the perfect consistency and temperature, he warms them on a griddle with a squirt of equal parts oil and water.
No ground beef allowed. “That’s no bueno,” Sánchez says. Instead, he prefers slow-cooked beef, lamb shoulder or goat simply marinated with ancho chile, garlic and Mexican oregano.
Get your meat placement right. Sánchez recommends keeping a quarter-inch border of open tortilla around the taco, that way the contents won’t spill out.
Keep the cilantro stems. “When I see people not using the stems, that’s what I call a gringo move,” he says. One of his favorite garnishes is cilantro complete with the stems, which give the taco a zesty punch of flavor.
Only use white onion. “Spanish onions are too aggressive,” Sánchez says. Instead, he garnishes his tacos with chopped white onions, which are much milder.
Pump up the flavor with something pickled. Sánchez pickles anything he has in the kitchen, from Swiss chard stems to cactus to ramps. He uses their bright flavor to cut through the richness of the meat.