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Jan 15, 2007 04:27 PM

Preparing Authentic Cous Cous

Someone who posted on the Boston board asked about how to prepare cous cous so it does not stick. Not talking about the instant stuff either.

Cous cous must be steamed, not boiled. If you want to do the spendy thing, there are particular cous cous steamers (called a cous cousier) which I imagine do a very nice job. The have very tiny holes so the cous cous does not slip through.

In the past I have done a do it yourself version that worked just fine. Rinse cous cous several times in cold water. Line a regular steamer with a porous cotton cloth. Actually t-shirt material is perfect. I just took 1 layer of an old t-shirt and made sure it was scrupulously cleaned and rinsed of any soap.

Throw the cous cous in the cloth, and steam.

Important also to fluff the cous cous with a fork every ten minutes or so. Don't exactly remember, but think cooking time depends on size of the cous cous, ranging from 20 min or so, to an hour for the big stuff.

It really does turn out superlative, flavorful, delicate cous cous when you steam it. the instant stuff in the box is FAR inferior.

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  1. traditional middle-eastern couscous is dried after it's made, so is not the same as israeli couscous, which is toasted.

    you use this method for all types? i also prefer cooking/soaking couscous in either stock or a mixture of citrus juice and water because it's so bland.

    last time i made the israeli, i simmered it in a strong lemon juice/water combo, then laid it flat on a sheet pan and baked it "dry". it worked well and tasted super, but was more time-consuming than i'd prefer.

    1. Very few people in the US seem to even know that's the correct way. You're fighting a battle that was lost 30 years ago when those expensive little boxes started appearing on "gourmet store" shelves. ;)

      But it doesn't have to be instant - you can cook regular couscous in water, it's just nowhere near as good as certainly not in the least authentic (at least by Moroccan standards, maybe somewhere else in the Maghreb they boil it?)

      1. if i want it quickly, i just add stock or juice to that "instant" stuff, and let it soak. i never heat it at all. the texture remains much nicer. i do the same thing with fine-grain bulgur.

        1. Can someone clear up my confusion. Is cous-cous a dish or is it
          an ingredient? My initial exposure to cous cous was as a meal,
          chicken w/ vegs and what I now know as cous cous. Is the dish named after the ingredieno or vice versa???

          2 Replies
          1. re: Hue

            Cous cous is an ingredient, the pasta-like round tidbits.


            It is also the name for the classic Moroccan (and generally middle eastern) dish of a savory stew served over cous cous the ingredient.

            No matter how you cook it, the stuff in the box does not have the complex, subtle, slightly nutty flavor of the real thing.

            And as far as I am concerned, cous cous is all about the ethereal fluffy texture that can only be obtained by steaming and fork fluffing.

            I do not have experience with Israeli cous cous.