Do you enjoy travelling? If yes, going around the world allows you to interact with many cultures. Additionally, it exposes you to various delicacies and how to prepare them. A visit to Mexico will allow you to taste one of their traditional dish called tamales. It’s delicious and rich in macro-nutrients and minerals. Getting the right recipe is crucial since you would neither enjoy undercooked or overcooked tamale. An undercooked one is gummy and pasty and can cause foodborne diseases. You can make a tamale using dough or masa. You can cook it or even steam it.
Many people prefer steaming tamales because of its abundant moisture. The main reason why you steam tamales is to make them soft and moist. For your masa to get fully cooked, steam the tamale for 30 minutes to an hour. If you bought the frozen one in the supermarket, only steams them between 15-30 minutes. Time will depend on whether they are warm, cold or even frozen. When steaming your tamale, they should not come into direct contact with water since it will make them soggy. What if you don’t have a steamer, how should you steam them?
How to Steam Tamales without Steamer
1. Aluminum Foil
If you don’t have a steamer, you can invent one using an aluminum foil. Start by scrunching it into a ball of two inches ball in both width and height. Once you finish with the first ball, make two more with similar size. Arrange the three into a triangular shape inside a large pot. The pot should be large to allow a plate to fill in and should also have a lid. That means, once you place the plate inside the pot, it should leave a gap of one inch. To ensure that the plate is well supported, make sure that the balls are arranged well at the edge of the pot.
Remember, the plate you need to use should be heat-proof since some plate melts when exposed to heat. A ceramic or one made of thick glass is okay. Pour some water into the pot one inch below your plate. That will ensure that your tamales don’t get wet once the water boils. Check if the plate is well balanced and make the necessary adjustments if it’s not. Take the tamales and spread them evenly on your plate. Ensure that the open part faces upwards. You can pile them on each other if you are cooking many tamales.
Place the pot carefully on your stove without shaking it. Cover it with a lid to speed the water to boil. Once it boils, you should reduce the heat to the minimum. The lid on the pot will trap the moisture and the heat, thus helping in the steaming process. Tamale should be ready in an hour, and therefore you need to have a timer. In case the water dries up before an hour, add some up to one inch below the plate.
Check the tamales once an hour ends and use a tong to remove them from the pot to a plate. They usually are very hot, so you need to leave them for at least five minutes before eating them. Ensure you unwrap the corn husk or plantain before munching it. Some people prefer using a fork and a knife while others hold it in their hands as they enjoy its delicious taste. There are no limitations on how to enjoy tamales. You can enjoy it alone or serve alongside other delicacies.
2. Metal Strainer
You can either use a mesh strainer or even a metal colander. Unlike the steamer, the metal strainer can be trickier to use. Boil some water and suspend the strainer/colander over it. The lid of your pot may not fit the handles of your strainer/colander well. That means some heat will get lost, hence the need to add more minutes to your cooking.
3. Bowl and Chopstick
Boil some water in a pot then take a bowl that is a little bit smaller than the circumference of the pot. Place the bowl upside down the bottom of your stockpot. At the bottom of your bowl, arrange 3-4 chopsticks. On top of those chopsticks arrange your tamales without stacking them.
4. Steam In an Oven
You will require a Dutch oven and a casserole dish with lid. In the oven settings, ensure that the temperature is at it’s lowest. It is to ensure that the water in your improvised steamer since it will cook or dry your tamale. Check your recipe and prepare your tamale accordingly. Open the Dutch oven and place a steam rack. Don’t worry if your house lacks a Dutch oven. A large casserole dish with a lid can serve as an alternative.
You need to place the steam rack in it. On top of your steam rack, arrange your tamales and ensure that the folded end is facing down. Take a cup of boiling water and pour it in your Dutch oven/casserole dish depending on the one you are using. Then place a lid on your Dutch oven.
Place the Dutch oven in the oven and leave it for 40 minutes to Steam without raising the temperature. The heat in the oven will allow your water to Steam while your tamales stay warm. Remove your tamales from the oven. Finally, remove the lid carefully to allow Steam to escape.
Arranging the Tamale
There are two ways you can arrange your tamale. You can lay them down and pill them up on each other. You can place them vertically ensure that the opening faces upwards. If you were to arrange them horizontally, ensure that the corn husk opening faces upwards. Remember that tamales at the end will cook faster than those in the middle. So keep on checking them to avoid overcooking.
It’s crystal clear that you have a variety of options to steam tamales without steamer. You can steam in an oven, metal strainer, heat-proof plate or bowl, and chopstick. Tamales are rich in nutrients that support the proper functioning of the body. Avoid putting the tamales inside the water. Use whichever method that is convenient for you to steam it.
John DiBella is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, a cooking enthuthiast and a writer. When he’s not writing blogs about home kitchenware, he enjoys hiking, camping, sailing and cooking.