Awhile back I got some tamales from Tina Tamale, and after she showed me the behind-the-scenes of how tamales are made, she asked that I write about how easy it is to cook a tamale. Tina was recently featured on Chef Ryan Scott's 'FoodRush' on the LivingWell Network, so I was reminded I still needed to do this.
1. put some water in a covered pot, with a steamer or the like
2. put the tamales in
3. cover, heat the water to steaming, and wait about 90 minutes cooking from frozen (about 60 minutes for reheating or cooking from refrigerated)
4. now you have tamales! *1
That's it. If you don't have a steamer, you can use a colander, an upside-down pie pan—just something to hold the tamales out of the water. As Tina said, "you're making tamales, not tamale soup." Check that the water doesn't boil dry while cooking, but with a reasonably fitting lid that's unlikely to happen.
*1. Some years ago, a friend found a Swedish-American cookbook at his mom's house, replete with groovy 70s-era cartoon drawings of what were presumably Swedish Americans, many running about au naturale. The best recipe in the cookbook was for lutfisk. It consisted in its entirety of "1. Put the lutfisk in a pan. 2. Heat it up. 3. Now you have lutfisk!" Good tamales are equally easy to cook, and a hell of a lot tastier.