How to boil tamales

In this brief guide we will answer the question, “How to boil tamales?” as well as other questions pertaining to the subject at hand like should you boil tamales and the tips for boiling. 

How to boil tamales

You can not directly boil tamales, because the contents inside will fall out. However, the most common method is with the help of steam. Steam that is obtained by boiling the water beneath the container that holds your tamales. 

There are various ways in which you can cook tamales. Since the question revolves primarily around the boiling technique, therefore we will highlight only those that involve direct or indirect boiling. 

  1. Using a steamer basket
  2. Steaming with aluminium foil 
  3. Cooking with pressure cooker 
  4. Using an instant pot

You can read the steps in detail about the individual methods here.

The basic technique in all the methods remains the same. When your water starts to boil, reduce the heat and bring it to a simmer. This will ensure proper steam making and even heat distribution to your tamales. Keep checking the water level and add more water as time passes by. Your tamales are done when you can easily peel back the husk.

Should you boil tamales?

Well, you should never completely submerge tamales in the boiling water, because that will just destroy the appearance of your dish. Having said that, indirect ways of boiling like steaming are the best when it comes to cooking tamales. 

Even when using these methods, you should be careful not to allow too much contact of your tamales with the water. 

Boiling Hacks (Tips for boiling)

If you cook regularly, knowing when and how to boil is an essential part of your cooking regime. Boiling is a quick way to clean and disinfect food items. Not to mention that it retains original flavour while also eliminating the harmful microorganisms that may be inhabiting your food product. 

Boiling is a moist-heat cooking method when the temperature of the liquid reaches 212F. The food product is completely submerged in water for even heat distribution. It is an explosive phase change between liquid state and a gas state.

It is one of the safest and most reliable methods for cooking till date, and a lot of health professionals recommend boiling water before using it. Here are some tips that will facilitate you in boiling any food product. 

Use a food thermometer. 

Well, this is the oldest trick in the book. When boiling any particular food product, you need to make sure that the temperature is neither too low nor too high. A quick and effective way to solve this problem is by using a food thermometer. A temperature of 212F is just right for you to boil any food product. But wait! Shouldn’t the temperature be different for different food products? Well, not really.

Since the technique in itself revolves around the use of water, and you are using that heat to boil your food product, it remains pretty much the same for all food items. Of course, there can be minor changes in the temperature range, but 212F is a benchmark. 

Use salt for quick boiling

The reason you should use salt is because salt actually lowers the boiling point of water, which in turns speeds up your boiling process. It does add some salty taste to your dish, and most of the dishes use salt inevitably. So it is not really a problem unless you don’t like salt or have hypertension

Use pots reasonably

Boiling involves cooking in water, therefore you need to know when to use which pot. This actually saves you a lot of time because if you are just boiling an egg in 1 litre of water, you are just using more water than needed. Moreover, it will require more time to reach the boil. 

When boiling, make sure that your pots can be covered – avoid using pans. Using deeper pots actually help to keep the food submerged properly and evenly distribute the heat. Afterall, it is the water that is cooking! 

Other facts about boiling

On top of it being the best way to cook food, boiling actually concentrates the flavour of your food. It also allows you to cook a large amount of food with ease. Although some nutrients leach out in the water that is used in boiling, boiling does not affect the nutritional status of the food product. Just use the water that you boiled in along with the dish and you will not lose any nutrients while cooking! 


In this brief guide we have addressed the question, “How to boil tamales?” as well as other questions pertaining to the subject at hand like should you boil tamales and the tips for boiling.