Tamales are a traditional Mexican delicacy made with Masse, a dough made from corn, and a meat or cheese filling. Steaming tamales is an easy and delicious way to cook them. Use a steamer or improvise and use a plate and aluminum foil to create the same steaming effect. Enjoy the savory tamales on their own or serve them with your favorite Mexican sides.

Using Aluminum Foil

1. Rub the foil into 2 inches (5.1 cm) balls

Tear off pieces of aluminum foil and crumple them into a ball. Continue to add foil to the ball until it is approximately two inches wide and high. Screw the foil tight so that the balls do not fall apart while the tamales are smoking.

  • Try to make the 3 balls a similar size and shape so that the plate can easily balance on the balls.

2. Place the balls in the pot and arrange them in a triangle shape

Choose a pot large enough to hold a plate. Put the foil balls around the edges of the pot to form a triangle shape. This will give the plate even support to rest on.

  • Make sure the pot has a lid as this is essential for the steaming process.

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3. Balance a heat-resistant plate on top of the aluminum balls

Choose a plate that fits in the pot with at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) space from the rim of the pot. This will give you room to pour water into the bottom of the pot. Adjust the position of the plate until it rests evenly on the 3 aluminum balls.

  • Choose a heat-resistant plate so that it won’t crack or melt when the water starts to boil. Look at the bottom of the plate for a heat-resistant sign to indicate that it is safe to use. If the plate is ceramic or thick glass, it is safe to use.

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4. Pour water under the plate

Use a jug to pour cold tap water under the plate. Continue to fill the pot until the water is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the plate.

  • Avoid pouring water up to the line of the plate as this can make the tamales wet when the water begins to boil.

5. Divide the tamales on the plate

Place the tamales on the plate with the open side up. Distribute the tamales on the plate so that they cook evenly. If you cook a lot of tamales, lay them on top of each other.

  • Make sure the plate is well balanced before placing the tamales on it. This prevents the tamales from accidentally falling into the water. If necessary, rearrange the location of the aluminum balls to make the plate more stable.
  1. This method can be used for fresh and frozen tamales.

6. Bring the water to a boil

Place the pot on the stove, increase the heat to medium and wait for the water to boil. Put a lid on the pot to speed up the boiling process.

  • Be careful when moving the pot not to shake the tamales in the water.

7. Lower the heat and steam the tamales for 1 hour

Lower the heat and put the lid on the pot if you haven’t already. The lid traps moisture and heat inside the pot, which helps steam the tamales.

  • Set a timer for 1 hour to remind you to check out the tamales.
  • Check the pot every now and then to make sure there is still water under the plate. If necessary, add more water to the bottom of the pot.

8. Remove the tamales from the pot and let them cool for 5 minutes

Use a pair of metal tongs to transfer the tamales from the pot to a plate. The tamales will be very hot, so it’s best to let them cool for 5 minutes before eating them. Enjoy hot tamales with your favorite side salad.

  • Let the plate cool inside the jar for an hour. This makes it much safer and easier to remove for cleaning.

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Using a steamer

1. Line the steamer with a single layer of banana leaves

Place the banana leaves in the steamer to create a barrier between the boiling water and the tamales. Make sure the entire base of the steamer is covered with leaves.

  • If you don’t have banana leaves, use corn husk strips instead.

2. Place the tamales in the steamer

Distribute the tamales on the base of the steamer with the open side facing up. If you have a lot of tamales, stack a second layer on top of the bottom layer. Distribute the tamales evenly on the steamer so that they cook at a similar speed.

  • Do not steam more than 2 layers of tamales at a time, as this prevents steam from reaching the middle layers.

3. Steam the tamales for 1 hour and 20 minutes

Place the steamer rack in the steamer and place the lid on it. Set a timer to remind you to check out the tamales. If the water in the steamer stops boiling, simply turn up the heat.

  • Check the steamer every now and then to make sure there is still plenty of water boiling. If necessary, add more water.

4. Let the tamales stand for 30 minutes in the covered steamer

Turn off the heat but leave the tamales in the steamer with the lid on. This helps the tamales to soften further and brings out the flavors. Set a timer to signal that 30 minutes have passed.

5. Enjoy hot tamales with your favorite Mexican sides

Transfer the tamales to a dish with wire tongs. Eat tamales on their own or with aside. Corn chips, guacamole, beans, and salsa are delicious Mexican side dishes.

  • The tamales will be really hot. If you prefer hot tamales, wait five minutes for them to cool slightly.