If you don’t have a steamer basket, you can steam tamales using any configuration of cooking equipment or utensils that enables you to place the tamales in a pot with boiling water while keeping them raised above the water level. The length of time that you need to steam tamales depends on their size, but most tamales cook in half to three quarters of an hour.
Pasta Colander Method
Place a pasta colander in a pan large enough to hold it. Pour enough water in the pan to just cover the base of the steamer.
Arrange the tamales in the steamer and cover the pan.
Bring the water to a boil, and then lower the heat and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the tamales begin to separate from the husks while still retaining their shape.
Wire Mesh Strainer Method
Place a wire mesh strainer in a pot large enough to hold it. Hook the edge of the strainer onto the side of the pot, and place about an inch of water in the bottom of the pot.
Arrange the tamales in the strainer and cover the pan.
Bring the water to a boil, and then lower the heat and cook for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the tamales are firm enough to separate from their husks.
Arrange a handful of chopsticks to form a mesh that will hold the tamales up off the bottom of your wok. Put water in the bottom of the wok up to within an inch of the chopsticks.
Arrange the tamales on top of the chopsticks and cover the wok.
Bring the water to a boil, and then lower the heat. Cook for at least 30 minutes, or until the tamales are firm enough to begin separating from their husks. Make sure to re-season your wok when you are through.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Pour about half an inch of water into the bottom of a casserole pan.
Crumple a sheet of aluminum foil, and then flatten it out a bit to create a stand you can use to raise the tamales up off the bottom of the pan.
Arrange the tamales on top of the foil, and then cover the pan with an additional sheet of foil.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the tamales are firm enough to begin separating from their husks.
References and ResourcesChowhound: Help With Tamales
Making Tamales: A Picture Tutorial
A Year of Slow Cooking: How to Make Tamales in the Crockpot