Paneer can harden or turn rubbery during the cooking process. Prolonged exposure to heat tends to take away its texture, but there are some hacks that can keep paneer soft and wobbly even after cooking
Paneer makes for a great protein staple but despite being versatile the soft and crumbly dairy product usually turns hard during the process of cooking. This happens especially if you're frying the paneer which extracts moisture from the paneer, making it harder. Slow cooking or cooking on excessive heat can also turn paneer rubbery.
Adjustments in cooking time and incorporating moisture-retaining ingredients can help the paneer hold onto its texture. Fresh paneer is more likely to stay soft and moist compared to paneer which has been stored for a long time, even if it was frozen. Buying your own paneer at home is also a good option in which case you can monitor the curdling prices, select the right milk and note the changes. Tenderising it with simple marinades with yoghurt, spices, and a touch of oil is also a good idea, So, if you're cooking paneer for a family dinner or a potluck this weekend, make sure you make a note of the things below before you get started.
Do Not Overcook
In most cases, paneer should be added to the dish towards the end of the cooking process, allowing it to heat through without subjecting it to prolonged heat. This ensures that the paneer remains delicate in form. It also helps it absorb the flavours of the dish without being overcooked. This is particularly important in dishes with extended cooking times, such as curries or stews.
Use Low Heat
It's always advisable to cook paneer on low heat even when frying it. High heat can cause the proteins in the paneer to contract, resulting in a tougher texture. Opt for low to medium heat to gently cook the paneer, allowing it to retain its creamy consistency. This also prevents the paneer from becoming overly firm.
Add Cream or Milk
To stop the hardening process before it begins, consider incorporating a bit of cream or milk into the dish. This not only enhances the flavour but also adds moisture, preventing the paneer from drying out. A splash of cream or a few tablespoons of milk can make a significant difference
Avoid Direct Heat
When reheating dishes containing paneer, avoid using direct high heat, especially in the microwave. High temperatures can cause the paneer to become rubbery. Instead, opt for gentle reheating methods, such as using lower power settings on the microwave or warming the dish on the stovetop at a low temperature.
Cover While Cooking
Covering the pan while cooking paneer dishes is a simple yet effective way to retain moisture. The lid helps trap steam, ensuring that the paneer remains tender and does not dry out during the cooking process. This is especially beneficial when cooking in a dry heat environment or when preparing dishes with extended cooking times.