Tamale, a Central and South American staple food, originated during the Aztec or Mayan civilization. Historically, women made tamale for the army prior to a battle: tamales were a nutritious way to keep the soldiers well fed. Their ease of storing, freezing and reheating added to their popularity.
This is an ancient dish that has retained its popularity over the years. Now, tamale making is only reserved for special occasions, festivals and holidays. It is a labor -intensive, and time-consuming operation and tamale making is art that is passed down from one generation of women to the next. Nobody just makes tamales at will and forgets all about it: t is perfected through the years. It is an art that unites: tamaladas or parties where groups of women get together to make hundreds (at least!) of tamales: they split the work and get the job done. The more the hands, the merrier the party gets!Tamales, meaning “wrapped food”, are even more popular because of their versatility. You can put just any filling of your choice within the tamale: beef, pork, vegetables, shrimp, seafood and sweet variants can also be made with chocolate, coconut, or fruit filling. Tamale is made of corn dough (masa) and is steamed after being wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaves. The leaves infuse fragrance and flavor into the tamales and make it a holiday favorite. If you want to enjoy the rich authentic Mexican cuisine, it is never too late to invest in a tamale steamer and enjoy the very best tamales.
The Hamilton Beach Digital is our best pick because it is packed with multiple features and great quality. It is ideal for daily use and is a stylish addition to the kitchen collection.
The Oster Sangerfield is our budget pick because it offers a sturdy, well-constructed efficient steamer at a very low price tag.
Table of Contents
- Quick Comparison: Top 8 Best Tamale Steamer
- 1. Hamilton Beach Digital Food Steamer
- 2. Oster 108132.03 Sangerfield Steamer Set
- 3. Granite Ware Tamale Pot with Steamer Insert
- 4. IMUSA USA MEXICANA-420 Steamer
- 5. IMUSA USA MEXICANA-24 Aluminum Tamale and Steamer
- 6. GasOne Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Steamer
- 7. Smart Cook 32 Qt Tamale Steamer
- 8. Smart Cook 24 Qt Tamale Steamer Vaporera Stock Pot
- THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING A TAMALE STEAMER
Quick Comparison: Top 8 Best Tamale Steamer
1. Hamilton Beach Digital Food Steamer
The Hamilton Beach Digital Steamer is a multi-tasker at an unbelievably amazing price tag. It has hoards of function and features added to it for convenience. It is a two-tier storage and its compact shape makes it fit easily in the kitchen cabinets. Not just that, if you steam two separate foods, one requiring longer steam times than another, do so easily by steaming one first and then setting the other a lit bit later. Cooking rice is also very easy in this steamer.
Fill the base with water and one or both of the transparent bowls with the food that you wish to steam. Set the timer on the touchpad. And an automatic beep will alert you when the food is steamed completely. Moreover, for larger foods (tamales for example), you can just remove the center divider and place them upright or stacked. The food can also be steamed in “warm mode” if required.
The digital screen has various function marked on it. There is one for low water level: the button automatically turns red and you don’t even have to take off the food bowls to refill. A separate water tray will help you refill the water and visual markings on the steamer let you see when you have added sufficient water.The capacity of the steamer, however, is very low and you can only fit very small portions of food in one batch. Also, some parts of the digital steamer only need to be hand washed and only a couple of parts is safe for use in the dishwasher.
2. Oster 108132.03 Sangerfield Steamer Set
This steamer pot from Oster is basically a two-unit product: the bottom part is the pot where you put in boiling water the top part is the strainer for putting in vegetables, tamales, etc. Removing the strainer, one can easily use the bottom pot imply as a stockpot. The bottom pot provides ample space for boiling water and you wouldn’t need to refill frequently.
The pot is well constructed. It has a solid build quality and thick stainless steel body that doesn’t dent. It is very easy to clean. Hand wash is recommended for the product: dishwasher may strain it. Also, if you use the pot to cook rice or other food, caution must be employed. There is no nonstick lining: food may stick and scorch and these stains are very difficult to remove.The lid is made of tempered glass which allows you to view food during steaming and has a steam vent too. The handles get very hot during use and pot holders are required. However, the loop like handles gives ample space for holding the steamer. The place where one top sits on the other lets out a lot of steam, but it doesn’t significantly increase steaming time.
3. Granite Ware Tamale Pot with Steamer Insert
This lightweight durable steamer from Granite Ware is huge. It is spacious and large, ideal for fitting in a lot of tamales. Not just that, without the steamer insert, it functions well when steaming or cooking crabs, seafood, a lot of vegetables, turkey and even spaghetti. It has a domed shaped lid and the handles provide sufficient room for holding.
The steamer has a sleek design and an attractive black appearance, making it a valuable addition to your kitchenware collection. People who have used Granite Ware for a long time trust in the name and satisfied with the excellent value for money of the product.
The porcelain coating is very easy to clean. It doesn’t stain at all and doesn’t develop hot spots. It is inert and doesn’t corrode when acidic food is steamed or cooked. However, the porcelain coating is very dainty: it will chip and break very easily if not handled with caution and care. Also, beware of receiving a dented or chipped product. Return it immediately if you receive a broken or chipped product.
The coating on the interior of this steamer work best for simmers and low to medium heat. A lot of customer complain of the interiors melting when used for some time in high heat. The product shouldn’t be used on glass stovetops.
The steamer is equipped with a steamer rack with large and small holes. The steamer rack sits snugly inside the steamer. But the water level below the rack may be inadequate for a lot of users: people have complained of the rack being almost submerged in water. Use a lower level of water if needed but then you would have to face the hassle of refilling it very frequently.
4. IMUSA USA MEXICANA-420 Steamer
This lightweight steamer from IMUSA comes at a very low price tag. Despite that, it is a very functional steamer. Ideally suited for making tamales, it has deep straight sides and is extremely roomy and spacious inside. You can fit in at least 40 tamales, if not more, in a single batch of steaming. It is a versatile equipment: not just tamales, you can also use it for steaming crabs, lobsters, lots of vegetables, corn on the cob, etc.
The heat distribution is rapid. The hand are sturdy and remain cool during cooking, eliminating the need for using potholders. The lid is made out of shatterproof tempered glass, so you can easily monitor the progress of cooking or steaming. The lid has steam vents to prevent pressure build up. This lightweight steamer is very portable and works with most stovetops.
The construction of this steamer, however, is poor. A considerably lower grade material has been used, making it wear away with only a few months of use. Aluminum steamers are more prone to dents and impacts than stainless steel ones: this pot is an example of that. A lot of buyers also tend to receive dented products or products missing a lid, or with broken handles: make sure to ask for a replacement.Aluminum is corroded by reactive elements in food and this steamer tends to discolor, pit or stain black, if not used with caution or used to cook rather than steam foods. The steamer is equipped with a steamer rack or insert that fits it perfectly well. The boiling water below the steamer rack is placed at a convenient level but some users complain of difficulty in refilling it.
5. IMUSA USA MEXICANA-24 Aluminum Tamale and Steamer
This lightweight steamer from IMUSA is made entirely out of aluminum. It has a sleek, attractive looking silver body with a flat metal lid, straight sides, and metallic handles. Despite being lightweight, it is very spacious and ideal for steaming tamales, crabs, lobsters, turkey, etc. The steamer is equipped with a removable steamer rack with a series of holes. The steamer rack sits snugly, providing ample space for the boiling water below it.
This steamer is excellent for people who do not want to invest a fortune into a high-end product and are looking for an inexpensive functional steamer. A lot of users have found more than one use for this steamer: some even use it as a smoker, for their grilling needs and this steamer works excellent for outdoor uses. It has superior heat distribution and the food heats up quickly.
However, the disadvantage of aluminum as a material for a steamer is that it is very reactive to acidic food items like tomatoes and vinegar. Caution must be employed to prevent staining, pitting, or discoloration of the steamer. A lot of users complain of the light not fitting as securely as tamale steamer requires.
A lot of steam escapes from the edges of the lid. A lot of users have also complained of warping and dents. Cleaning this steamer is relatively easy. It is best to not overheat the steamer as it may result in burns, or hotspots developing which would not only be very difficult to clean afterward and but may also result in food getting scorched.
6. GasOne Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Steamer
This tall, narrow and large stockpot is an extremely heavy duty and can withstand long hours of steaming and cooking. It is made entirely out of stainless steel and this makes it resistant to impact, sturdy and resistant to corrosion from acidic elements in food. The steamer has a thickness of about a millimeter throughout the body, thicker than most cheaply made steamers in the market. The quality construction and superior material quality make it very durable.
The handles are welded to a thin plate, which, in turn, is riveted to the steamer. The handle is very secure. The lid is flat and fits tightly on top. The steamer has a classic silver color, which doesn’t stain or rust if used properly. Since stainless steel doesn’t lose heat very quickly, it is suitable for outdoor uses.
This industrial looking steamer is excellent for canning and brewing and making stews and sauces if used without the steamer insert. The handles are metallic, sturdy and have sufficient room for comfortable holding.However, the bottom of the steamer is somewhat convex, not flat, and thus it will not sit on glass stovetops but it perfect for gas burners. A few buyers also complain of receiving dented products and ensure you return the product and ask for a replacement if it so happens.
7. Smart Cook 32 Qt Tamale Steamer
It is very large and spacious. With a capacity of 8 gallons, it can surely fit at least 7 dozens of tamales without overcrowding. Not just tamales, this steamer is great for even steaming pasta, vegetable, shrimps, lobsters, etc. However, due to the size, you may have some difficulty fitting it into your kitchen cabinets.
This huge steamer from Vaporera is made entirely out of aluminum. The construction is sturdy. The steamer is equipped with a steamer rack or insert with multiple small and large perforations. Below the steamer rack, a lot of water can be accommodated which means you don’t have to worry about taking the lid off frequently and refilling it with water.
The steamer has a flat aluminum lid that sits tightly on top, preventing moisture and steam escaping. The handles are securely riveted and stay sufficiently cool during the steaming process. However, since the top of the vessel is a bit tapered outward, a lot of buyers complain of not having enough room for the hand for holding the steamer.It is an excellent value for money, considering it is a lightweight, adequately thick, large pot at a very affordable price. Vaporera has an identical steamer at a smaller size but same price tag: choose whichever you according to the number of tamales you will be making.
8. Smart Cook 24 Qt Tamale Steamer Vaporera Stock Pot
This 24 Quart tamale steamer is all that you need to meet your desire to devour delicious homemade tamales. This is very large, which means it is ideal for hosting a tamalada party, inviting over friends and making a very large batch of tamales. It is very spacious and roomy on the inside, ensuring that at least three or four dozens of tamales can be inserted when positioned upright. If you prefer to lay the tamales horizontally, you can fit it in about twice as many dozens.
This tall, deep steamer with straight sides is extremely lightweight and very easy to clean up after use. The construction is solid and the entire body is made out of aluminum. Aluminum is a very conductive material that is great at heat distribution.
Furthermore, this steamer is equipped with a steamer rack which has a series of small and large holes. It works great as a strainer for vegetables and pasta as well. The lid is flat and sit securely on top of the steamer and prevents heat from escaping. The riveted handles are made of metal and have a lot of room for secure holding. The handles stay cool and therefore eliminates the need for pot holders. This is a great steamer, and being an excellent value for money makes it a kitchen essential. It is also very affordable and cheap considering its large size.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING A TAMALE STEAMER
So what exactly differentiates a tamale steamer from a regular stockpot? Not every stockpot is a tamale steamer: it must have additional equipment and the size must be adequate to fit in batches of tamales.
Making tamales are already time-consuming and require a lot of labor and perspiration. It would be an utter waste to make just a few tamales. The tamale steamer you buy must accommodate at least one dozen to a few dozens, if not more, in one batch of steaming. They are available in a variety of sizes, ranging all the way from about 8 or 10-quart to as large as about 40 quarts. For small family or for a single meal, steamer (especially the electrical ones) can come is sizes as small as 3 or 5-quarts. Commercial use, restaurant, and shops would obviously require tamale steamers about three or four times larger.
It would also be wiser to invest in a vessel that is tall. The height is vital for a tamale steamer because the corn husk or leaf-wrapped tamales can be quite tall when they are tied at one or both ends and there must be sufficient room inside the steamer. Also, the tamales are placed upright in the steamer.
You can opt for a traditional steamer, compatible with most stovetops, made out of aluminum or steel. Or you can even buy an electrical steamer, with the major advantage that you can set the time duration for steaming and the steamer will automatically beep and alert you when done. This reduces the hassle of checking frequently. Electrical steamers have more feature like better water level control, warming, etc.
Tamale steamers are usually made of stainless steel or aluminum. Aluminum heats up very quickly and distributes heat throughout the pot rapidly. However, aluminum also loses heat very quickly hence may not be suited for use in the open, where it is exposed to the wind. Stainless is durable, impact resistant and corrosion resistant and thus a popular choice for making steamers.
A tamale steamer must be equipped with a steamer rack; this may come simply in the form of a rack or insert with holes or perforations to let in the steam which will cook the tamales. A steamer can easily convert into a stockpot when the steamer rack or insert is removed.
Some steamers also come with a perforated steel basket to hold the tamales and allow steam to cook them. One advantage of baskets is that they have an additional lid for ease of taking out the basket. The rack or basket should be fitted at least an inch or more from the base of the steamer.
The level of placement of steamer height is of great importance. A greater height (about 3 inches or more) is convenient as it will ensure the boiling water doesn’t touch the tamales and you don’t need to refill it all the time. Refilling means you have to open the lid frequently and the steam will escape. Refilling in some steamers is also troublesome as you need to remove the insert and the entire batch of food.
This is a very important part of the tamale steamer. The lid is usually flat or dome-shaped with a top handle for lifting. The lid maybe metallic (stainless steel) or made up of tempered shatterproof glass. Tempered glass allows you to view the progress of the cooking.
The lid must fit the steamer snugly or else the steam may escape and the tamale would take much longer to cook. Also, the flavors would escape if the lid is not tight enough. Some lids may even have steam vents to occasionally let out some heat and steam to prevent pressure build up.
A tamale steamer has handles on either side of the pot. Usually, the handles are riveted or welded securely. This is for easy lifting and carrying of the steamer. The steamer may get very heavy when it full of dozens of tamales so one must ensure the handles are tight and secure.
Since the handles are usually made of out metal. They get very hot during cooking and you may have to use pot holders. Some handles are specially designed for heat resistivity so that they stay cool during cooking
Most tamale steamers are inexpensive: you can get a large sized steamer for less than fifty dollars. The electrical steamers are more expensive than the traditional ones and are about half the size in terms of capacity.
Reading our in-depth review above will probably make you want to invest in a tamale steamer of your own to meet your cravings for authentic Mexican cuisine. We have conducted a thorough research on the best tamale steamers on the market, considering factors like material of construction, ease of handling and storage, capacity and amount of tamales it can steam in one batch, affordability, etc.
Each of the steamers listed is unique and have the best features to offer. Our in-depth research would hopefully narrow down your search process and help you pick the perfect tamale steamer that fulfills your needs.