When it comes to homemade versions of our favorite bar food, nachos are pretty easy to whip up. But there's a world of difference between gooey-cheesy-spicy-crunchy-salty-awesome nachosand soggy nachos. Don't make soggy nachos. Don't make these common mistakes.
1. Choose Your Chips Wisely
A thick, sturdy restaurant-style tortilla chip is your one, your only when it comes to homemade nachos according to Dawn Perry, BA digital food editor. Perry, who tested a lot of nacho recipes in the search for the three best we've ever had, explains: "A thin chip may be crunchy and crisp, but it can't take the weight of all of the toppings." Whether you choose a big name chip or an artisanal, small-batch brand, be sure that it's hearty and heavy: "Those kinds will have the greatest structural integrity," says Perry. And just in case you think we're being overly fussy, consider the tragedy of a chip that crumbles under pressure and falls apart halfway to your mouth. You should never have to know such sadness.
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Nachos with All the Fixings. Photo: Christina Holmes
2. Pick the Perfect Combination of Cheeses
Forget about buying the best quality, most expensive sharp cheddar you can find. "Those tend to be extra crumbly, which isn't great for nachos," says Perry. Choose a combination of cheeses for both flavor and meltability. A Monterey Jack cheese will have the oozy-melty quality sought after in the best nachos, while a standard sharp cheddar will offer a little tang. "I also like a little pepperjack," says Perry, "but I know that's not for everyone." And it should go without saying: There is never a right time for pre-shredded cheese, but it's an especially poor choice here. Packaged, pre-shredded cheeses contain stabilizers which hinder their meltability. Shred your own cheese instead of chopping or tearing it: Smaller pieces will melt quicker, which means your nachos will be perfectly gooey without charred or overdone chips.
3. Layer Like a Pro
One layer of chips and toppings is good. A double layer is better. For maximum crunchy-to-gooey texture, start with a layer of chips that completely covers the bottom of your tray. Then, slather it with any toppings that need to be hot and/or melted, like beans, shredded meat, and cheese. Finally, do it all over again with another layer of chips and another of toppings. The last thing your nachos need before taking a spin in the oven? Cheese. It will get bubbly and golden, while keeping everything underneath it moist.
4. Keep Everything Bite-Sized
"Nachos are a beautiful messand that's the point," says Perry. That said, there's no need to make them so messy, they're impossible to eat. Obviously knives and forks are banned at the nacho table, so make sure that every element is small enough to eat in one bite. Shred chicken finely and cut steak into small pieces. Ground meat should be broken up into smaller clumps, too. It's hard to look sexy while eating nachos, but there's no reason to make it harder than it has to be, either.
5. Separate Your Hot and Cold Ingredients
What do beans, meat, chips, and cheese have in common? They're all delicious hot. Those should go in the oven together. Fresh herbs, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, or avocado on the other hand? Keep 'em cool, and don't dollop or spread 'em on until just before serving.Alex Lau
Asian-Style Pork Nachos with Red Cabbage and Scallions. Photo: Alex Lau
6. Do Experiment With Different Flavors
We love a classic cheese, bean, meat, and salsa number, but we're also pretty excited about the new recipes for Asian- and Indian-style nachos we created. Keep the basics the same (remember those sturdy restaurant-style tortilla chips), and riff on your favorite flavors. Curry crema? Tamarind chutney? Why not!
7. Do Make Cleanup Really, Really Easy
Two words for you: Aluminum foil. While melted cheese is the best thing, ever, to eat, says Perry, it's the worst thing to scrape off a baking sheet. Line your rimmed baking sheet with foil, and when the feast is over, all you have to do is crumple it up and toss it in the trash. And maybe make another batch of nachos.
Ready to tackle your own batch? Check out our best nacho recipes.
Now something fresh to wash it all down: