Introducing How To, a series of step-by-step guides designed to take the mystery out of life’s more important pursuits. First important skill you can’t possibly live a full and rich life without? Nacho-building. You’re welcome.

168449798Not long after man learned how to walk on two legs he learned how to make nachos. (It’s true. I saw it on a recent episode of “Cosmos.”) Still, after all these centuries of making nachos, people still jack them up to high hell. And there is nothing more unappealing then jacked-up nachos. The assumption that you can just throw together a delicious plate of nachos without even trying is a worse misconception than assuming that humans have nothing to do with global warming. There needs to be effort. There needs to be forethought. There needs to be a plan when building the perfect nacho. Here is THE plan.

Now, the ingredients don’t necessarily matter.  You can’t reinvent the ingredients of nachos so don’t even try. Any combo of tortilla chips, shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, beans, and ground meat is the standard fare and there is no need to rock the boat with trying to be cute with the ingredients. (No matter how hard you try, you won’t make friends with “alternative style nachos” consisting of thinly-sliced sweet potatoes and raita.) The ingredients aren’t what are crucial in your perfect nacho building. Here is what is:


Placement of your nacho ingredients is everything. All ingredients need to be put together with the utmost care. Don’t just throw the things down all willy-nilly. Show your nacho creation some respect by following these easy steps:

*Place a layer of chips on the tray.

*Carefully put the cheese on the chips, making sure that each chip gets a little bit of lovin’. Nothing is worse than a naked, neglected tortilla chip.

*Add a second layer of chips on top of that first layer.

*Flip the script and add a layer of beans (pinto, kidney, black – all are good).

*Add that second layer of carefully placed cheese.

* Place the third and final layer of tortilla chips.

* Now add the ground meat, followed by the final layer of shredded cheese.

See? It’s all about carefully proportioned layers. Think of yourself as a food architect building a delicious building you can happily cram down your gullet.

More importantly, it’s all about the cheese. If you have not used the entire bag of shredded cheese in this process then you are doing it completely wrong and need to start over. And throughout your nacho build, double-check to make sure every chip is covered with cheese. Then triple-check. Then check again. Seriously, if the cheese placement is off, then the dish is not worth feeding to the dogs. No one in the history of nacho eating has ever said, “I wish these nachos didn’t have so much cheese.” Even the lactose-intolerant will back me up on that.

Finally, slide that glorious mound of nacho goodness into a pre-heated oven (microwaves are for people who lack imagination and don’t appreciate flavor) at 350 degrees for approximately eleven minutes and thirty-seven seconds so that even the cheese on the bottom layer has melted. When you pull them out of the oven they should be slightly browned and bubbling.

And for all that is sacred in the world of overeating, DO NOT put the salsa, sour cream, or guacamole on your nachos until AFTER the cheese has melted. Seriously. I have seen people put the wet condiments on the nachos before putting it in the oven and it is a full-on train wreck. Doing that is a JV mistake and if you do it don’t be surprised if your friends insult you and make you cry. (That’s what I would do). Just a dollop of each will do, or, better yet, keep each in individual side bowls and double-dip until your heart s content.