What is a good way to steam tamales without a "tamale steamer?"
I am looking for ways to to cook large quantities of Tamales but I don't have a Tamale Steamer. Anyone do this before with other standard kitchen gear? I would rather not cook them in batches as the recipes call for 2-3 hours worth of steaming...
3 hours of steaming seems too long. My Wife's recipe (which I am not allowed to share) only calls for approx 90 minutes. We've also found that tamales freeze well, if you freeze them before steaming. ie cook whatever filling you are using, assemble the filling, maza, and husks; make sure they are cool and freeze them. When ready to eat, they go straight from the freezer to the steamer, for slightly more than the 90 minutes.
Alton Brown recommends steaming them right in a normal tall pot with a steamer insert (your typical expanding/contracting one many people have on hand), directly in their husks. Basically, you put a couple inches of water in, and then a steamer insert, and the tamales (in the husks) go on top of the steamer.
You can find his recipe/method here.
You can also watch the episode on YouTube, go to about 4:45 in to see the tamales in the pot.
If you don't have a steamer insert of any kind, I would imagine you could fashion something out of aluminum foil without much problem. The most important thing is that you keep the tamales out of the water. In a pinch, an upside-down colander would work if you have a pot that's large enough to hold it.
Another (very low-tech) option is this hack, that basically uses a disposable aluminum pan to create the steamer/upside-down colander part of the rig. This seems like a pretty easy, straightforward solution.
Edit: as Michael points out in the comments, this seems like it could be a huge mess. I would recommend getting a disposable pie pan that's just smaller than your pot, poking holes in that, and putting it upside down in the pot like a steamer insert - seems a lot safer and more efficient than a large rectangle on top of the pot!
Any of those will work, although the last one looks like it leaks a lot of steam. Basically you just want a big pot with a tight fitting lid, and some way to elevate the tamales a bit above a couple inches of water. I use a huge pasta pot that has a built in colander, works great.
One more tip: if you end up with a situation that has too much room for the tamales so they are falling over, just stick a big drinking glass or something else in there to hold them upright, but not too tightly packed.