Nothing beats the joy of tearing into the husks of a steaming hot tamale and then enjoying its soft, warm fillings. Coming from Central and South America, Tamales cook easily, travels well, and can be frozen and reheated, without losing their taste. However, what is the best way to reheat Tamales?
There are five common ways to reheat Tamales, and none is better. The best ways to reheat Tamales may depend on your kitchen equipment and tools, as well as if your Tamales are cold or frozen. People commonly use a microwave, oven, stove, steamer, or air fryer to reheat tamales.
This article discusses Tamales, specifically the best ways to reheat Tamales. We also detail the steps you can take to reheat your Tamales using each of the five methods. Finally, we discuss how you can beat and reheat frozen Tamales.
What Are Tamales?
Tamales are a Meso and South American food, commonly based on cornmeal with meat fillings wrapped in corn husks. It is then steamed and enjoyed on the go. Fillings are commonly savory, although sweet ones do exist. Tamales can vary widely by region.
Tamales may be a popular dish today in Meso and South America, but it has a pre-Columbian origin. This means Tamales may have been consumed by native Aztec or Maya peoples before the Spanish arrived.
When preparing Tamales, you focus on preparing two parts: the corn dough (tamale masa) and the fillings. You then marry them together in a corn husk before steaming.
Tamales tend to use a specific type of cornmeal known as Masa Harina. It is rather common in many department stores and can be different from regular cornmeal. Masa Harina is ground-up corn kernels and then treated with lime to remove skin and hulls. The leftovers are then turned into a dough, dried, and ground up again. This results in fine cornmeal.
You then combine the Masa Harina with some broth, usually the leftover from cooking and preparing the filling. Some cooks like to introduce lard and fat into the corn dough, so it remains soft and gives a glistening shine. Seasonings are also added to the dough to flavor it.
When preparing the Tamale fillings, the ingredients used may depend on the flavor. Common savory Tamale fillings are made with chicken or pork, usually slow-cooked or stewed over herbs and spices. Sweet versions may contain fruits such as bananas or other tropical fruits.
The mixture is then scooped into some corn husks, then wrapped up before being placed in a steamer. Some regional versions use banana leaves instead of corn husks.
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When done steaming, the mixture forms into a tight, cake-like clump. It is then opened up and enjoyed on the go. Sauces or condiments are not common with Tamales.
Tamales are eaten widely across Meso and South America, meaning you may hear many regional names being used to describe the dish. Some areas may call them Tamals, Tamalitos, Hallacas, or Pasteles.
The term Humitas may be more common in Southern American countries such as Peru or Bolivia. Tamales are also becoming more popular in North America, as Spanish-speaking communities are popularizing the dish there.
What Is The Best Way To Reheat Tamales?
There are many methods to reheat Tamales, and it may not be possible to claim that one of these methods is the best. The best way to reheat Tamales may depend on your situation, such as the type of kitchen equipment and tools you have, your culinary skills, and if your Tamales are frozen, cold, or at room temperature.
One good thing about Tamales is it freezes and travels well. It means you can easily make a batch of Tamales, freeze it, put them in an ice box, and then travel with it to a family gathering. There you can unpack and reheat the Tamales, and they will taste just as good as when it was fresh.
There are many ways to reheat Tamales, with many preferring to use a steamer. However, you can also use kitchen appliances such as a microwave, a stove, an air fryer, and an oven to reheat them.
You may wonder if there is the best way to reheat your Tamales. The answer here is that there may be better ways to reheat Tamales. This is because if reheated properly, any of these methods can reheat Tamales well and make them taste as great as when they first come out from the steamer.
Instead, the best way to reheat your Tamales may be a more practical question, as which method is the most convenient for you. This means the best way to reheat Tamales may depend on factors such as:
Depending on the occasion that made you decide to reheat your Tamales, you may have all the time in the world or be pressed for time. For example, if you are reheating some frozen Tamales for a lazy Sunday morning, you can take your time and use a steamer.
However, suppose you are hosting a dinner party and need to serve Tamales for appetizers. In that case, you may need a way to quickly reheat them to serve them faster. This means a microwave may make more sense.
Kitchen Appliances Available
The best way to reheat Tamales may also depend on what you have in hand to reheat them. If you are in your own kitchen and have a steamer, then you use it. You place the cold Tamales back into the steamer as if you are cooking a new batch of Tamales, steam away, and you’ll have hot piping Tamales in no time.
However, if you are in someone else’s kitchen, you may need a steamer and may need an oven, or a microwave. If you are at an outdoor BBQ station, you may not have the ability and luxury of using a steamer. You may need to make do with a pot placed over the grill for heat.
There are five popular ways to reheat Tamales. Depending on your culinary skills, you may not be able to master reheating your Tamales with all five methods. This means the best way to reheat Tamales may be the method you are most comfortable with.
Most people cook their Tamales by using a steamer. This means if you cook yours the same way, then the steamer may be the best way to reheat your Tamales since you know how to control the heat and water.
However, for someone with little culinary skills who bought some frozen tamales from the market, the best way to reheat Tamales may be using the microwave.
Your Tamales’ State
Depending on the state of your Tamales, the best way to reheat them may differ. For example, suppose your Tamales are simply cold or at room temperature. In that case, a simple time in the microwave may be able to steam them back up nicely.
However, if your Tamales are frozen, the microwave may not work, as you first need to thaw the ice. Using a steamer is the best method since it allows the ice to slowly thaw, and then the moisture is reabsorbed into the fillings. The hot steam eventually heats it up, resulting in piping-hot, moist Tamales.
What Are The Best Ways To Reheat Tamales?
The most popular ways to reheat Tamales are to use a microwave, a steamer, an oven, a stove, or an air fryer. Each reheating method can reheat Tamales and make them as nice as when they first leave the steamer, provided you execute the reheating process properly.
In the previous section, we discussed how there is no best way to reheat Tamales and that the best way to reheat Tamales is based on your situation. Now, let’s look at the five most popular ways to reheat Tamales.
Use the microwave if you are hard-pressed for time or do not have great culinary skills. This is because it is the fastest way to reheat Tamales.
However, using a microwave to reheat Tamales can produce rather unpredictable results, as the rapid reheating can cause moisture loss or uneven heat distribution.
As a result, you may end up biting in drier Tamales, with parts still cold and some parts piping hot. However, the risk of drying out your Tamales can be managed with the right technique.
To reheat your cold Tamales using a microwave:
- Arrange your Tamales on the plate, lying flat.
- If possible, have the opened side facing outwards so they are tilted slightly upwards. This prevents the juice from the Tamales from flowing out from the husks.
- Moisten the husks with cold water. Use a spoon to scoop in and spread water around the husks.
- You can also use damp paper towels and wrap each individual husk with it.
- These actions help to moisten the Tamales as the microwave heat cooks them, preventing them from drying out.
- Run your microwave on high power for about one to two minutes to reheat them.
- It may be better to run the cooking process for a short time and check the Tamales’ condition before adding more microwave time. This ensures you do not overcook the Tamales, causing them to dry up too much.
If your Tamales are frozen, microwaving them directly will not work, as you need to first thaw the ice. Allow some time for the Tamales to thaw at room temperature, or use the defrosting features on your microwave to speed up the thawing time.
Provided you have the time and the steamer, it may be the best way to reheat your Tamales. If a steamer can cook raw Tamales and make them taste heavenly good, it sure can recreate the same taste again.
However, reheating with a steamer may take a lot of time. This is because you need to spend some time preparing the steamer, as well as allocating enough time for the hot steam to penetrate into the cold Tamales.
To reheat your Tamales with a steamer:
- Place your steamer on a heat source.
- Fill the steamer pot with about 2 to 3 inches of water.
- Add in your steaming rack. Ensure that the water does not touch the bottom of the steaming rack.
- Heat the water, and allow it to boil.
- As the water heats up, arrange your Tamales into the steaming basket with the opened side facing up.
- When packing, ensure not to pack them too tightly, as this may make it hard for the steam to penetrate into the Tamales.
- After the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a medium level.
- Place the steaming basket into the pot, and close the lid.
- If your Tamales are frozen, allow 30 minutes of steaming to reheat them back nicely.
- If your Tamales are at room temperature or refrigerated, 20 minutes of steaming should do well.
Depending on the kitchen you are reheating your Tamales in, you may need a steamer. Some simpler kitchens or pantries may not even have a microwave to help you reheat your Tamales.
However, suppose the kitchen has an oven. Then you can use the oven to reheat your Tamales. The key to reheating Tamales with an oven is to ensure you flip the Tamales on time. This allows even reheating and avoids one side being piping hot and the other side cold.
To reheat Tamales with an oven, follow these steps:
- Preheat your oven to 325°F (about 163°C).
- Wrap each Tamale with aluminum foil, and wrap it generously like a jacket potato.
- Squeeze each wrapped Tamale to remove trapped air.
- Wrapping thickly and tightly ensures that the moisture is trapped inside the Tamales. This helps to keep the Tamales moist and soft after reheating.
- Place the Tamales in an oven-safe dish. If you don’t have one, use the oven sheet pan, and try to not stack the Tamales or pack them too tightly.
- Place the Tamales in the oven. Allow the Tamales to reheat for up to 20 minutes.
- If your Tamales are frozen, allow up to 30 minutes of oven heating.
When reheating in an oven, remember to flip your Tamales after they have been sitting in it for about 10 minutes. This helps to ensure even heating.
Another tip to check if your Tamales are well reheated is to use a meat thermometer. Your Tamales are good to serve when the inside has reached 165°F (about 74°C).
Using a stove may be a good option to reheat your Tamales, as most kitchens have a stove. This method may also bring out a good flavor. However, with a stove, you will be essentially pan-frying your Tamales, which means your Tamales may not be soft but slightly crispy.
This may work if you enjoy crispy Tamales on the outside but juicy, soft, and warm on the inside.
To reheat your Tamales using a stove, simply follow the steps below:
- Start by removing the husks from the Tamales, and keep only the fillings. You cannot have the husks on your Tamales when you pan fry them.
- Add a teaspoon of cooking oil to a pan.
- Olive oil may be a good choice, as it is a neutral oil without too much flavor and smell.
- Allow the pan to heat up, which should take up about two to three minutes. When the oil is hot, it will become more liquid, and flow around the pan easily like water.
- Place the Tamales into the pan, ensuring not to place the Tamales too closely to each other.
- Close the lid, and allow the Tamales to pan fry for two to three minutes.
- Open the lid, flip the Tamales, and close the lid again. Allow to pan fry for another two to three minutes.
- Repeat the heating and flipping process several times until the Tamales are hot and well-reheated.
It may generally take around minutes for your Tamales to heat up. If you reheat your Tamales this way, the exterior should be crispy and brown, while the inside is soft and hot. You Tamales may not taste the same as freshly steamed Tamales, but the new texture may appeal to some people.
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In the event you need to reheat your Tamales using a mobile kitchen, the best reheating appliance you can take with you is an air fryer. Air fryers are small and should be easily brought into your car. You can also easily connect it to a power source.
Using an air fryer does not mean you fry your Tamales. You will instead leverage the heat from the air fryer to heat up the Tamales. You will preserve the moisture inside the Tamales by using water.
To reheat your Tamales using an air fryer, you can use these steps:
- Start by heating the air fryer to a mid-range temperature. This should take up to several minutes, depending on your dryer’s power.
- While the air fryer heats, take some water and moisten the husks of your Tamales. You can use a spoon and drizzle some water on the husks.
- Take out the fryer basket, and then place it in the Tamales. Avoid overcrowding the Tamales to allow the hot air to travel and circulate well.
- Set the timer for five minutes, and allow the heating process to happen. If your Tamales are frozen, you may need to thaw them first before you use the air fryer.
Once five minutes have elapsed, take out the Tamales. Be careful when removing as the Tamales may be piping hot. If not hot enough, consider adding the fryer timer a minute at a time until the Tamales are reheated well enough.
What Is The Best Way To Reheat Frozen Tamales?
The best way to reheat frozen Tamales may be to use a microwave. This is because microwaves may be able to reheat frozen Tamales in the fastest time. However, other reheating methods may still work and may produce more consistent results.
One of the issues you need to deal with when reheating frozen Tamales is the ice. You cannot simply use common reheating methods since the ice may need more time to melt and then be reabsorbed into the Tamales.
If you use reheating methods such as a stove, steamer, or oven, add another 10 minutes to your reheating time. This is because you need more time to melt the ice. This means if you use any of these three methods, you may need around 20-30 minutes to reheat your frozen Tamales.
When microwaving, you may be able to reheat frozen Tamales much faster. However, the steps may be slightly more complicated, compared to reheating cold or refrigerated Tamales.
You need to first defrost your Tamales. Start by placing the Tamales into a bowl, and run the microwave at about 50% power for 2-3 minutes. Once over, check your Tamales and see if they are still frozen. If yes, add 1 minute at a time to the microwave timer, and recheck until you are satisfied.
Then you can reheat your Tamales now. Moisten the husks with water, and then reheat with high power for 2 minutes. Check the results. If not hot enough, add a minute at a time until you achieve the results you need.
To be safe, use a meat thermometer and ensure that the insides of your Tamales are at least 165°F (about 74°C). This ensures your Tamales are safe to eat, as the temperature is recommended by USFDA (US Food and Drug Administration)