North Africans, or more precisely, the couscous eating Maghrebis of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, often compete to make the world's largest couscous. The current Guiness World record is held by Algeria. 2,600 kilos or 5,732 lbs of semolina couscous was cooked in a custom made couscoussier which was 14 ft wide and 26 ft deep.
I think we should have a world's largest couscous in the United States. Couscous is a widely available starch found in any number of national chains, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, Mediterranean specialty shops and health food stores,
The most couscous that my crew in Los Angeles and I have steamed at once was 1000 portions worth. That's about 200 lbs of dried semolina couscous. We used six large Asian fish steamers. They are available at Chinese or Southeast Asian grocery shops and at Action Sales.
Steaming enough couscous to feed a small army is not easy. First of all, if you are steaming a very large batch in a very large steamer, the weight of the couscous grains can cause gumming and burning at the edges. Second, it takes a very long time for the steam to reach the center. In the meantime, the couscous around the edges can become overcooked and pasty.
We came up with a method that produces light fluffy couscous in large bulk. We wetted the couscous with cold water three times. Each time we let the couscous absorb all the water completely and rubbed the grains to separate them before adding another batch of water. Total soak time was approximately one hour.
It's important to add the water in batches. If all the water is added at once, the couscous will become water-logged. After the third batch of water, the couscous should almost look like it has already been steamed once. The "grains" (really a type of pasta) should look and feel lightly "cooked".
This long soak cuts down considerably on steaming time for extra-large batches. During the first steaming the couscous will start to compress from it's own weight. It will start to look and feel densly packed inside the steamer. It's important to stir about 20 minutes into the first steaming to release the pressure to ensure even cooking.
After the first steaming of 40 minutes, we placed the couscous in large hotel pans and sprinkled with ice cold water. The second steaming took about 20 minutes and the third steaming took about 15 minutes.
Four people, six large steamers and three hours later, we had 1000 portions of couscous.
Let's do the math. If we wanted to steam 6000 lbs of couscous to break the current world record without any custom made equipment, we would need 120 people and 180 steamers. That sounds very doable, doesn't it?
Now to come up with a way to make enough tagine for 6000 lb of couscous...