Navidad, Three Kings Day, Cinco de Mayo, you name it, they are all perfect occasions to make tamales. But, let’s face it…tamales require lots of work and time. It doesn’t have to be a tortuous process, and I am going to tell you why…we re-discovered the tamale steamer!
Growing up, I saw my mother, aunts, and big cousins along with our kitchen helpers getting ready for battle. Yes, it was tamale time. The process of preparing the filling takes a while and the cooking part is no less of a job. My family steamed the tamales using the traditional method cooking them in batches.
Today, we discovered the tamale cooker or tamale steamer, many of us call it “vaporera de alumino” or “tamalera.” What exactly is a tamale cooker? It is a big pot that comes in 12, 16, 20, 21, 30, and 32 quarts to allow you to cook up to 8-dozen tamales at once, all depending on the size you make them.
Choosing a Good Tamalera
- A good tamale steamer has three components: the main pot, its lid, and a perforated rack to place at the bottom of the pot to hold the tamales just above the waterline holding the tamales upright.
- Make sure the lid is not too thin and that it closes tightly. I have seen tamaleras with flimsy tops that let the steam run off making you add water constantly, otherwise you may burn your tamales.
- Choose a tamale steamer made of a good durable material. The most common materials are galvanized iron, aluminum, stainless-steel or enamel. I prefer stainless steel or aluminum, these materials are durable and easy to clean. I also heard very good comments about the ones made of galvanized iron, and their price is low.
- Many people ask me what I use. The most important consideration when buying a tamale maker is to understand your needs. How frequently do you cook tamales? How many do you make at one time? What is your budget? What is your kitchen storage space like?
Thinking in advance about this simple questions helps you realize if you need one or not, set a budget, choose the right size, decide how much to spend, and consider if you have the space to store it. I have friends who live in remote areas of the U.S. who would love a tamale maker but can not fit it anywhere, therefore they buy frozen tamales!
Tamale Makers and Quality
- Imusa is a well known brand in Latin American countries. It is commonly made of enamel and comes in turquoise blue. It feels a bit flimsy and the enamel peals off if you are not careful. The price is low.
- El Mexicano is a brand that produces a bucket type steamer. It is made of galvanized iron and it is sturdy. It also comes in a convenient 30-quart size.
- Caphalon is a good brand. It is a bit heavy but well made. You pay more but you are buying a product that lasts with a top that closes properly not letting the steam escape.
La Mexicana is a famous brand in Mexico. It is an enamel pot in white color with painted vegetable decorations. This is a traditional Mexican cookware product.
- Ingrid Hoffman, a well know Latina cook has a very good tamalera that is made of enamel, come with a glass top and the rack for steaming. It is also well priced.
- Mexgrocer offers a good aluminum tamale steamer that comes in 2 sizes. I prefer the large capacity one.
Where To Find an Excellent Tamalera — My Favorite Ones