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Couscous question

Is there any trick to preparing couscous? I made it according to the package directions, that is, mixed with boiling water and let sit until the liquid is absorbed. It turned out very lumpy when I tried to serve it, and the lumps didn't break down even after it was covered with a saucy tagine.

Any suggestions? Should I be adding butter or oil to keep it from sticking together? Or is there another trick out there?


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  1. yes I add olive oil at first, maybe some butter at the end.

    1. As with any pasta, you can oil or butter it, but I usually find it's fine if I simply stir it for a few moments after the liquid goes in. Don't know if your couscous was flavored at all- I usually make mine with broth of some kind to give it a taste boost. After that, it's mighty good even with just butter. Haven't had trouble with clumping myself, though it could be related to moisture in the couscous or perhaps even in the air. You might try stirring it again after a couple minutes and see if that helps. Either way, you'll want to fluff it with a fork when it's done for the best texture.

      1. I first saute some onions, garlic, and mushrooms in some butter or olive oil, then toast the couscous before slowly adding in beef or chicken stock. i basically treat the couscous almost like a risotto.

        1. Make sure that you fluff it gingerly with a fork before turning it out of the pot. If you stir it with a spoon or simply scoop it out of the pot you will end up with lumps. I kick myself for that every time I try to save 10 seconds by not fluffing it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rockycat

            Yup, gentle fork fluffing will take care of the lumps, no spooning, and I always add a tsp or so of olive oil or butter to the boiling whatever liquid you choose; the fat choice depends on what I'm serving the couscous with. I'm surprised the OP's package directions didn't mention that step.

          2. Roll the lumps gently in your hands, it's fun and effective.

            1 Reply
            1. re: harryharry

              "Roll the lumps gently in your hands, it's fun and effective."

              Well, as long as it's not screamingly hot. 8-)

              You can certainly eat formed balls of couscous with your hands, I believe that's how it's done in the Middle East.

            2. Try using a less water. The ratio for most instant couscous is 1 part couscous to 1 1/4 part water. Season the water with salt, pepper and butter. Once the boiling liquid is poured over the couscous, give it a good stir to mix everything. Cover and let the couscous absorb the liquid. Then gently fluff with a fork. The proportion of liquid to couscous and the fluffing are the two most important things in making light fluffy couscous. Most of the time, I start with even less water, then sprinkle a little more hot water later.

              4 Replies
              1. re: PBSF

                i use hot water, not boiling. it keeps the grain more al dente.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Couscous should be fluffy with each grain puffed. Al dente is an interesting term to describe that. I been served dry and hard couscous at more restaurants than I can count.

                  1. re: PBSF

                    i found the boxed stuff just got too mushy with boiling water. al dente isn't quite the right term, but it retains its integrity this way.

                2. re: PBSF

                  I do 1:1 water/broth to cous cous

                3. Thanks for all the input. I'll try adding a little olive oil next time, and fluff with a fork. I was trying to serve it with a spoon. The instructions only called for water and couscous, broth sounds like an excellent idea as well. I do live in a humid climate, so I'll cut back on the liquid a smidge.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: lawhound05

                    i usually do part broth and/or citrus juice. the grain itself is so bland. depends on what it's an accompaniment with though.

                    1. re: lawhound05

                      I always use chicken broth rather than water and, depending on what I'm serving with, I'll add garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, or any other herb/spice that compliments the meal. I also like to stir in golden raisins or dried cranberries when I add the liquid and top with toasted pignolis and chopped Italian parsley if I'm serving grilled chicken.

                    2. Never be as fluffy boiled as it will steamed. I have been making my own couscous by hand recently and I highly recommend it HUGE difference. Here is a good link: http://cuceesprouts.com/2010/10/homem...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rezpeni

                        Rezpeni, I followed the link and the homemade couscous sounds great. I noticed, though, that the recipe calls for flour and semolina to be mixed together but no quantity of flour is specified in the ingredients. When you make it, do you use about equal amounts of each?