When cooking Mexican tamales, you want to do everything you can to ensure they come out just right. After all, people can eat anywhere from two to five of them in one sitting. While they’re relatively easy to make, there are some issues you may encounter during the cooking process.
The most common tamale-making problem is that they become mushy after cooking. It’s also not unusual for tamales to stick to the husk, or for you to have some leftover tamales if you cooked a large batch.
What Are Tamales?
Tamales are a popular Latin American dish filled with meat, cheese, beans, or vegetables. These ingredients are stuffed inside a dough made from corn flour called ‘masa harina.’ Then, they’re cooked in corn husks or banana leaves that are removed before eating.
Tamales are a portable food, which made them particularly popular back in the day during battles and hunting trips. Because they are easy to carry around and delicious, they were a go-to food of choice. They’re also considered sacred food, so they’re often eaten during holidays like Christmas and other family celebrations.
Most Common Tamale Cooking Issues
While we all hope to make the perfect tamale the first time around, it doesn’t always work out that way. Here are some common tamale-making issues and how they can be fixed:
After cooking, have you ever wondered why your tamales are so mushy? This is probably because you’re either undercooking them or oversteaming them.
If your tamales seem mushy right after cooking, giving them some resting time can make a big difference. Freshly steamed tamales often feel soft and mushy, but they typically firm up as they cool for about 10 minutes.Honestly, the biggest reason people think they have mushy tamales is that they did not let them sit for a while after cooking.
If your tamales are still too mushy after you let them rest, you can place them in an oven preheated to 350°F for about 5-10 minutes. This will help to dry out any excess moisture and give them a better texture. Keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t dry out too much or become overcooked.
Tamales Sticking to Corn Husk
Why might your tamales be sticking to the husk? This is happening because you’re either making the masa too wet or you’re not letting the tamales cook long enough. They should be steamed until the tamale peels away from the husk. You could also be leaving out lard or another type of fat which prevents the tamale from sticking to the husk.
If your tamale dough is too wet, you can fix this problem by adding more corn flour to your masa harina. If you left lard out of your recipe for health reasons but still want to prevent sticky tamales, you can substitute it with vegetable oil.
Due to the risk of food poisoning, it’s not a good idea to reheat meat (or any perishable food) that’s been left out at room temperature for too long. To avoid having to throw away all your hard work, tamales should either be eaten promptly, frozen, or kept in the refrigerator.
How long tamales are good for can vary. Cooked tamales can stay in the fridge for up to four days, whereas uncooked tamales should be tossed or frozen after three days. If they’re being left out at room temperature, they should be eaten within two hours.
Tamales are not hard to make, but problems can arise if they’re not cooked properly. Thankfully, most of the issues can be solved with a few quick fixes. With a little bit of practice and a recipe from Savor the Best, you’ll have perfect tamales in no time!