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Today, October 4, is National Taco Day! The holiday was allegedly started in 2009 by the Del Taco chain, but the history of the food itself is even murkier. Many claim that taco variations have existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. However, specific records of the food only date back as far as the late 1800s, with its first mention in American newspapers in 1905. What we do know for sure is that over the century since its stateside introduction, the taco has become a staple of American cuisine.
It just so happens that October 4 falls on a Tuesday this year, a.k.a. Taco Tuesday! There are plenty of discounts and freebies to take part in fit for the occasion. Once you’ve scored deals at your favorite restaurants, we’re here to help you make the best tacos right at home for round two with these game-changing tools. After all, you can never have too many tacos.
► Taco Day deals: Here's where to get free food, deals on National Taco Day
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1. Meat grinder
No matter what type of protein you decide to use for your tacos, many recipes call for it to be ground. If you have a stand mixer, you'll be able to use an attachment to inexpensively grind your meat at home. KitchenAid offers easy-to-use metal and plastic meat grinder attachments for use with various models. Without a stand mixer, meat grinders become a little pricier, but Turboforce offers an affordable option with its 3000 Meat Grinder. Its foot pedals keep your hands free while you grind the protein.
2. Frying pan
If you're planning to cook your protein on the stove, allow us to direct you to the OXO Non-Stick Pro 10-Inch Open Frypan, the best nonstick frying pan we've tested. It heats quickly, retains the heat and has a comfortable handle, making it a cinch to use. Most importantly, it’s affordable.
When it comes to spatulas, we recommend the Material Soft-Edge Turner, which we found to be the best nonstick spatula. Since it’s nonstick, cleaning it is a breeze because seasoning and meat don’t cling to it while cooking. It's also sturdy enough that you'll have no trouble using the head of the spatula to break apart your protein while cooking.
4. Tortilla press
Did someone say homemade tortillas? To go the homemade tortilla route, you'll want a tortilla press. The best tortilla press we tested is the Victoria 8" Cast Iron Tortilla Press. The Victoria’s weight makes pressing dough into consistently flat tortillas a simple affair and the press stays in place as you do so. Even if your dough isn’t perfectly centered, the press is big enough that it won’t spill out the side. If you’re making several tortillas at once, make sure to pick up a tortilla warmer, as well.
5. Slow cooker
Looking to try something new for National Taco Day? Consider preparing your protein using a slow cooker. This cooking technique offers specific texture and flavor not possible from a skillet. We recommend using the Cuisinart 6-Quart 3-in-1 Cook Central Multicooker, the best slow cooker we tested. It's easy to clean and even easier to maneuver thanks to its handles that stay cool to the touch.
6. Air fryer
Recipes that call for frying can be made using an air fryer. A classic variation on the taco is the crispy, gooey chimichanga and thanks to an air fryer, you can make it without the need for calorie-dense oils. The best air fryer is the Philips Premium Airfryer XXL. As the name implies, it boasts a massive four-quart capacity. If that wasn't reason enough to get it, it doesn't require preheating and its food consistently comes out crispy.
7. Cutting board and knives
While the meat is essential, the toppings might be even more important. Tomatoes, onions and lettuce are just a few of the tasty toppings you can add to your taco to enhance it. We recommend the Mercer Culinary Genesis 6-Piece Forged Knife Block Set, our favorite budget knife set, to slice and dice all of your fixings. Don't let the price fool you—it can hold its own against the more expensive options. Plus, it comes with a snazzy glass case for storing. If you're in need of a cutting board, we recommend the Totally Bamboo Kauai Cutting Board. It’s the best cutting board thanks its design, durability and ease of cleaning.
Cheese is another great topping to give your taco a wonderful flavor contrast. You can either buy cheese pre-shredded from the store or grate it yourself. By grating it yourself, you can choose from a wider variety of cheeses to feature on your taco— havarti, anyone? What’s more, you can also use a grater to make preparing certain vegetables easier. The best grater we tested is the Microplane box grater. Each of its four sides is very sharp, its blade panel can easily be removed for cleaning and the rest of the grater is dishwasher safe.
9. Mortar and pestle
Guacamole offers a fresh, nutty flavor to your tacos. Pair it with sour cream and you'll have a combo that can't be beaten. To make your own guac, consider a mortar and pestle for easy mashing. There are few better options than our value pick for the best mortar and pestle, the ChefSofi Mortar and Pestle. This durable set comes with a non-slip pad so that your mortar doesn't move as you're mashing. Where it really shines is in its size, which is small enough to be easily stored.
10. Ramekin set
For a place to store your freshly cut, grated or mashed toppings, consider getting a ramekin set. That way, you'll have a way to easily access your ingredients while assembling your tacos. Sweese has the best ramekin on Amazon, with reviewers loving the set's construction that feels premium without paying a premium price.
11. Casserole dish
One new dish to try for National Taco Day is a taco casserole. It has all the things you love in a taco but in a new shape. The best way to make it is by using a dedicated casserole dish, like the Great Jones Hot Dish, which is the best one we've tested. There's a lot to love about the Hot Dish, be it the five-quart capacity, the stylish design or sturdy handles. With the Great Jones Hot Dish, you'll be whipping up a new favorite in no time.
12. Tortilla bowl
If you prefer a bowl shape for your tortillas, we recommend picking up a tortilla bowl. WOOPOWER's non-stick fluted tortilla bowl is one of the best on the market and it has hundreds of rave reviews to prove it, with customers praising the high quality. It's as easy as putting a tortilla in the bowl, popping it into the oven and waiting for it to get nice and crispy. Since the bowls are non-stick, you'll be able to slide your tortillas out with no fuss when you're ready to eat.
13. Taco rack
Whether you like your homemade tacos hard or soft-shelled, you likely know how difficult it can be to keep them upright. Thanks to the Fiesta Kitchen Taco Holder Stand, you won't have to worry about tumbling tacos again. The stand makes it easy to fill tacos, as well as keep them upright until it's time to eat. The taco holder can be used in the oven to toast your shells and features handles for easy carrying. When you're done, the dishwasher-safe material makes it a breeze to clean.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: National Taco Day 2022: Upgrade food, Taco Tuesday with homemade tacos