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Instant Couscous - is it bitter, or is it me?

The 5-minute appeal of instant couscous is undeniable, but I have not been happy with the results. I have tried several brands, including Near East and Trader Joe's, and both regular and whole wheat. There always seems to be a metallic aftertaste. I normally use very little salt, and am making the couscous in Pyrex in which the water has boiled. Even if I make it in broth (so, more salt) I detect the aftertaste. I confess that I've never gone so far as to try spring water (my tap has a Pur filter) but since I don't have this problem with rice or other pasta, I doubt that it's the water.

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  1. Ive never experienced an aftertaste or bitterness in couscous.

    1. I buy the Near East garlic & olive oil flavored cous cous all the time and I've had a problem. I sometimes by the parmesan flavored one too.

      1. I use Near East all the time. Love it. Never an aftertaste. I use plain, and the garlic and one other. Usually always cook in low salt broth, my own if I can and add some dried mushrooms which are good, scallions, sometimes sundried, depends what I am having it with. And sometimes plain. Always good to me. Bought another brand in a large jar, sorry name escapes me. Same taste more expensive. Even did some from whole foods. Same result again. Way more money ... same result, no difference in taste. So back to Near East. Sorry can't help.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            No clear, I just looked at one in my pantry

            1. re: kchurchill5

              thanks for checking, kc5.

              greygarious, what type of pot are you cooking it in?

                1. re: greygarious

                  oy, sorry. i really have no business "Hounding" while sick...this cold is clearly affecting my brain function :)

                  assuming you're talking strictly about the plain, unflavored varieties, i'm at a complete loss. and now i'm going to wonder about this! i hope someone can be more helpful...

                2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  I usually just heat my broth always use broth in a measuring cup in the micro and add to a pyrex bowl with the couscous, cover with saran and forget it.

            2. I thought for a long time that I didn't like cous cous because I'd only ever tried the instant type, and found it bitter.

              14 Replies
              1. re: saraeanderson

                Aha - not just me! I was about to ask what brands you do like but since it's the speedy preparation of instant that prompted me to use it, I don't really care about longer-cooking options. If I'm going to have to cook it longer, I can just as readily use a small-shape pasta like orzo or acini di pepe (sp?).

                1. re: greygarious

                  I dont really understand what instant cous cous is. Normally you just boil water add cous cous, cover it and its ready in about five minutes.

                  To me it is inherently and instant food.

                  What is the difference with instant? im sure if its bitter it's because of some kind of flavor packet. Instead just put some butter, salt, olive oil, in when you add the cous cous. If its not too much trouble also add some herbs, spice, or dried fruit. For example someone mentioned garilc and olive oil flavour. You could just add these two things to the "non instant" version, and bingo you got it.

                  1. re: gastrognome

                    Just couscous what don't you get. I just call it couscous cuz it is instant. No difference. Just a quick cooking grain Usually I get the plan sometimes I get a garlic flavored one. No packet, but the plain is just as good and flavor yourself. It is just good.

                    I guess I just say instant cuz it is quick, same as all the other couscous out there. sorry if we were confusing.

                    1. re: kchurchill5

                      Couscous is not really a grain per se, but just a form of pasta.

                      1. re: Sinicle

                        I was generalizing, sorry. I should of been specific.

                    2. re: gastrognome

                      I was reminded to ask the question because couscous was featured on today's epidose of "Lidia's Italy". She showed the several varieties and explained them; instant is couscous that has already been cooked, then dried. Other couscous takes longer to cook, and there are various sizes of pellet. The Wikipedia article discusses some of the differences.

                      The bitter, metallic aftertaste that I perceive is in plain instant couscous made by adding boiling water and letting sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Doesn't matter if I do or don't add salt. Using broth does not cover the off-flavor for me.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        I use Near East and haven't noticed on off taste. Does it still taste that way if you cook it on the stove? I have never made it in the microwave before.

                        1. re: danhole

                          Water boiled in the microwave is different than water boiled in a pot on the stove? If anything, I'd expect the pot to affect taste, not a Pyrex glass measuring cup. Enough other posts on this thread agree about the aftertaste that I think some of us have taste buds and noses that are detecting something most people don't.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Not really saying that, just curious if it makes a difference. I thought that maybe the couscous picked up some sort of taste from the microwave. But I will admit I am not a supertaster! Now my daughter is and can pick up flavors that I never detect. Now that I know you can cook it in the microwave I will do that next time.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              I think you're right about the sensitivity. I don't find it bitter but do find it stale tasting and smelling.

                        2. re: gastrognome

                          What you are describing is instant couscous. Non-instant couscous doesn't rehydrate in 5 minutes, as greygarious notes.

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            I just made couscous for the first time last night, and thought there was a mistake in the recipe when I saw 3 to 5 minutes cooking time. This was a recipe from the newspaper: the box said there were instructions on the side panel but there weren't. There were a couple of recipes on the back that involved meat and called for cooking in a tangine for 2 hours. But I did my non meat recipe and it was delicious in 5 minutes.
                            My box (Belaria brand) doesn't say instant, just "Couscous". So now I'm confused. By the way it cost $2.19/lb at Fairway. Can't wait to try it as a cold salad this summer, so quick and easy.
                            Just realized, my neighbors where I used to live were from Morocco, and she made tangines for me whenever we came over. She told me how it was a special treat for them because she had to go shopping in Manhattan to get all the right ingredients. They're back in Morocco now, retired, so good for them. I'll guess I'll stick with this stuff for now. Maybe it was underdone, but what do I know?

                            1. re: coll

                              I think for the most part the couscous sold here in the US (and certainly all of the boxed products) is instant couscous, the cooked then dehydrated type, even when it doesn't say "instant." Instead of seeking out instant, you need to specially seek out the traditional kind if you want it.

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                I emailed my friend in Morocco this morning, don't know what time it is there but when I hear from her, I'll let you know if she has anything else to add. Since it's a new addition to my repetoire, I'm investigating!