136: Taco Stands

Tuesday may have been yesterday, but I’m still going to talk about tacos. Jen and I take turns cooking, and we both have mainstay dinner options that we pull out of the recipe book frequently. Jen’s basil chicken (a Thai dish) and buffalo chicken are both just the best, but when I think about which of my go-to dinners I’m most fond of… well, you saw the title. Easy guess, right?

Cilantro, onions, black olives, sour cream, cheese, and some hot sauce.

Tacos are just easy enough to prepare, and give me just enough room to experiment with adding spice, that it’s a meal I put together pretty frequently. Not quite weekly—Taco Tuesday be damned—but we have tacos at least once a month. Brown the ground turkey, bake the shells, and chop up cilantro, onions, and black olives. Pull together some shredded cheese, sour cream, and a selection of hot sauces. Douse the browned meat with Jennifer’s secret recipe taco seasoning. Then, drop some of those piping hot shells on your plate and stuff ’em full!

You’d think with that kind of frequency I’d have all of those steps streamlined already, but that last bit? It’s never been an easy task. It’s always a mess. We use long rectangular plates, and typically prepare three shells. It requires a kind of digital dexterity to hold three hot shells in a vaguely upright position while filling them with hot ground turkey without hurting yourself. The worst part is, we’ve known about this problem for years and have known the solution for nearly as long and just never bothered to get it done. This time, I got it done.

These taco stands were designed to fit our taco dinner habits. They were measured to fit the rectangular plates, and were made to hold three tacos. We didn’t want to do anything so fancy that it’d be hard to store, so we used plain cast acrylic that would cut quickly and cleanly and pack flat for storage. I had so much extra fluorescent hot pink acrylic in stock that Jennifer suggested we use that—aesthetics be damned—for the stands. They might not go well with the neutral grey plates, but that’s totally not what matters here!

The cardboard prototype holding a still-packaged stack of shells.

The design process was a little unorthodox; because it was going to be such a simple piece, it was easier for me to design each sides by laying them out on a top-down layout of the plate I threw together in Illustrator. I used quick rectangular wireframes to identify the bottom and top width of a standard taco shell, and used align and distribute tools to evenly space the three tacos out across the flat portion of the plate. Then I just drew the side design right on top, using those lines for reference.

The first prototype was cut out of cardboard. I was reasonably confident in the design, but wanted to make sure the angles weren’t too narrow or too wide for the shells, which would have inconsistent shapes. I did learn from that prototype, and redesigned the cross-beams, making them twice as tall to better prevent the sides from wobbling or leaning askew. When accounting for the laser kerf, I offset the path by a little less than usual so that the pieces would more easily slide together—I didn’t want them to fit so tight that they might break when disassembling the stand.

The fluorescent pink acrylic casts a magenta shadow. It’s not the aesthetic that matters here, though.

With the final stands ready to go on their plates, we set up our taco shells. They all fit, with a little wiggle room for the wider shells. I realized I should have reduced the amount of space between the tacos for ingredients to fall into the “gutter” below the stand. Still, preparing the tacos was a breeze! No more awkward claw grip to hold the plate and the upright shells in one hand. No more spilled ingredients and burnt fingertips. Just delicious tacos on hot pink stands.

2 thoughts on “136: Taco Stands

  1. J. Potter says:

    Nice! I also designed some taco holders in August. Was on quite a taco streak that month. Very similar design, I made the crossbeams much taller and cut them from 6mm … and added a second set of notches so I could chain the holders together. For some fine day when I need to set up an infinite row of tacos!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.