How To Steam Tamales?

How To Steam Tamales

Tamales are Mexican delicacies which are very easy to prepare. There are various kinds of tamales i.e., fried pork tamales, steamed pork tamales, baked pork tamales, etc. They have fillings of the same ingredients – pork, beef, chicken, etc. wrapped mostly in corn husks and some in banana leaves.  However, this doesn’t stop you from filling them with ingredients of your choice.

The wrappers are not for consumption, but they only convey a particular taste to the tamales when steamed. There are various methods of tamales steaming e.g., use of a rice cooker, oven, steamer, etc.

Steaming tamales is healthy as it preserves a lot of nutrients and lessens the quantity of cooking oil you use. It keeps your tamales as moist and juicy as possible. It is healthy for your body and helps to minimize the number of calories you take in. Furthermore, they quickly soften easing the process of digestion; thus, you absorb all the nutrients with ease.

How to Steam Tamales in a Steamer Basket

  1. Add a little water (about 1 inch) into a deep pot. Insert a steamer basket inside the container. Let the water be precisely below the steamer basket.
  2. Position the tamales in the steamer basket in a vertically arranged manner. (Open ends to face up while folded ends stand on the bottom.).
  3. Cover the steamer using a lid and heat over medium-high heat for about 1 hour.
  4. Add more boiling water after 15-20 minutes to maintain the steam.
  5. The tamales are ready once the husk separates easily from them after unwrapping.
  6. Remove them once ready, peel and top with toppings such as cheese or sauce.

It may happen you don’t have a steamer basket in your possession. You may need to settle for other options. One way would be to use a metal rack or aluminum foil, among other methods.

Use of a metal rack

  1. In a deep pot, set a circular metal rack. Add almost an inch of water into it to rest just below the rack top.
  2. Position the tamales on the rack in single layers. (Place them vertically upright.).Ensure the tamales do not get into contact with the water while steaming lest they get soggy. Enough space should be in between the rack and the water to avail sufficient room for the creation of steam used for cooking. Also, ensure water at the bottom of the pot won’t dry up. If it happens so, the base will begin to scorch, and so will the tamales.
  3. Cover the pot using a tight lid and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat for 1-2 hours. (Depends on the size and texture of your tamales.). Keep on checking the water level every 15-20 minutes. The moment the water reduces, add more hot water. Once the tamales are ready, the dough easily separates from the husk. If not, steam for another 10-15 minutes.
  4. Remove them from the pot once they are ready, allow them to cool for several minutes then serve.

Use of an aluminum foil

  1. Rip up a couple of pieces of aluminum foil and crumple them into balls – 3 of them (almost 2 inches – width and height.).
  2. Place the balls of the aluminum foil at the bottom of a large pot in a triangular shape form. Insert a plate to stand on the foil balls. The plate should be heat-proof to prevent it from melting or cracking due to the pressure of boiling water.
  3. Fill 1 inch of water below your plate at the side spaces between the pot and the plate. If there isn’t enough space to do this, it’s better to start by filling your container with water, then afterward placing other items.
  4. Add your tamales and spread them evenly on the plate. The open part should face upwards. Lay the tamales over each other if they are many.
  5. Put your pot on top of a stovetop. Be keen not to tilt it, dropping the tamales in the water. Cover the container with a lid and bring it to a boil over medium heat for approximately 1 hour.  After the water boils, reduce the heat to low and frequently check on the water level under the plate. If it happens, the water dries up before the time is out, add more boiling water at the pot’s bottom.
  6. Carefully remove the tamales from the pot, allow them to cool and serve while warm.

Steaming Tamales in the Oven (Dutch oven)

  1. Preheat your oven to 225 degrees-250 degrees Fahrenheit. Low temperature is the best as high temperatures could dehydrate your tamales.
  2. Put a steam rack inside the Dutch oven.
  3. Place your tamales on top of the steam rack in an arranged manner, with the open ends facing up.
  4. Add a cup of hot water into the Dutch oven and cover with a lid.
  5. Steam for 40-50 minutes. The temperature inside the oven is convenient to warm the water, keeping up the steam, cooking the tamales as well.
  6. Carefully remove your tamales from the oven, serve.

In place of a Dutch oven, you may use a casserole dish.

Steaming Tamales in a Rice Cooker

  1. In a rice cooker bowl, place in a rack. Add at least 2 inches of water (not more than 5 inches.).  The water should be below it. You don’t want the rack submerged in hot water.
  2. Place the tamales in single layers on the rack. Lay your tamales seam side down. Avoid the tamales touching the boiling water since they will be soggy.
  3. Cover the rice cooker with its lid and boil the water over mid-high heat. Steam for 1-2 hours; it depends on the size and texture of the tamales. Frequently check on the water level and add more boiling water when necessary on the sides of the tamales and not over them directly. When water dries out, the tamales will get burnt.
  4. Remove the tamales once cooked; allow them to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Final thoughts

We all love tamales, don’t we? – The pockets of corn dough stuffed with either sweet or tangy fillings, wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves. The fillings vary from cheeses and meats to vegetables, fruits, mole and chilies.

To some, it’s quite an effort to prepare them, but I promise you, it’s worth it. Tamales make a perfect meal for weekday lunches, especially when served very hot.

Tamales filled with pork, chicken, beef, and tomatoes are a special treat in every bite. I’m a big fan of beef chili with tamales. Then when you squeeze some lemon juice, what a great, authentic one-dish-meal! They form a healthy diet with the vitamins, minerals, and sodium they contain.

The various methods of tamales steaming keep tamales moist, preserve their good taste, and what a quick and convenient way of cooking them. Remember to throw away the corn husks or banana leaves before eating.