Couscous is traditionally steamed and fluffed to separate the granules. Boiling and stirring can reduce quick-cooking couscous to a sticky, starchy mush. Like pasta, couscous does not have much of a flavor itself. Thus couscous dishes are made with flavored stocks, herbs, and spices, with vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, and/or meat added or used as a topping.
Most packaged couscous is considered the instant variety and will cook very quickly off the stove by absorbing a boiling liquid. However, authentic couscous (roughly-ground hard durum wheat) will require significantly more time and a good steaming vessel called a couscoussiére.
Couscous Cooking Tips
- Be sure to identify which type of couscous you have purchased (instant or traditional) to properly plan cooking time.
- Couscous may also be cooked like rice. Heat butter, add couscous and stir to coat, add stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to the lowest setting, cover, and cook (no peeking!) until liquid is absorbed. Fluff to separate.
- If you lack a steamer, a heat-proof colander inside a stockpot will work fine. Line the colander with cheesecloth if the holes are too big.
- When using the long traditional method of steaming couscous, covering the pot is not recommended as the condensation can drip onto the grains and make the couscous mushy.
- As well as a carbohydrate-laden side dish, couscous may also be eaten as a porridge, in salads, or in desserts.
- To double or triple the volume of instant couscous, avoid the hot water method given on the box and take the time to slowly steam it.
- Cooked couscous should be eaten within a couple of days. It may be frozen up to three months.
- 1 cup dry couscous = 2 1/2 cups cooked.
- As a side dish, plan on 1/2 to 3/4 cup cooked couscous per person.