Nacho Architecture: 7 Tips for Building the Best Nachos

Mastering homemade nachos takes more than just a great recipe (though we have those, too). These 7 tips will help you build a better nacho plate.

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©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

1. Choose the Right Hardware

A low-sided 12-by-18-inch metal baking sheet is the best tool for building your nacho masterpiece, though any pan with plenty of surface area and a little lip on it will work.

To reduce cleanup and ensure that all your nachos travel safely to the serving platter, line your baking sheet with foil, folding the short ends over a couple times to serve as handles.

Get the Recipe: Beef and Chorizo Chili Cheese Nachos

2. Lay the Foundation: Chip Choice Is Key

You'll want a weight-bearing chip capable of maintaining its structural integrity under layers of melted cheese, meat, refried beans and all manner of condiments. Thick tortilla chips, often labeled "restaurant-style," tend to work best. And while wedge-shaped chips are best for scooping, a well-constructed round chip works well too.

3. Build a Solid Base

Spread your chips instead of stacking them. Lay out your chips in a single layer with some overlap on your baking sheet. This maximizes chip-to-topping contact, avoiding the disappointment of a dry and cheeseless chip. Work in batches if necessary. If you must construct a leaning tower of nachos, do so by mounding chips on the serving platter after cooking.

4. Plasterwork

To make sure every chip is covered in cheese, lay down the cheese on the chips first. The cheese will serve as a blanket, protecting the chips from liquidy, sog-inducing toppings. No chip will be left behind!

Before you add the other toppings, give the nachos a turn under the broiler or in a hot (400 to 450 degrees F) oven, just to warm the chips and melt the cheese.

5. Assemble Smartly

Layer your hot toppings wisely on top of your melted cheese, spreading down beans first, if using. Beans will act as nacho mortar, protecting the cheese layer from susceptibility to sogginess, while cementing other toppings to the chip.

6. Landscape

Distribute toppings evenly over the chips. The goal is for every chip to be flavored with all the toppings without being sunk by them. Accordingly, spread beans thinly and show some restraint when piling on the toppings. You can always serve extra on the side.

Get the Recipe: Beef Nachos

7. Save Finishing Touches for Last

Leave the salsa, sour cream, guacamole, cilantro, scallion, lettuce and whatever other toppings for the end. These elements exist to provide contrast: freshness, juiciness, zest. They are intended to serve as condiments and shouldn't be heated in the oven. Serve them on the side, or scatter them over the top before serving.

Get the Recipe: Spicy Buffalo Chicken Nachos

Not-cho Average Nacho Recipes

Why serve average chip-and-cheese recipes when you can make these inventive nachos, smothered with meats, sauces and everything in between?

See More Photos: Nacho Recipes

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