Know The Deghchi: India’s Oldest Traditional Cooking Vessel
Image Credit: Village Degh

In the history of Indian culinary traditions, the deghchi holds a significant place as being one of the tangible proofs of our rich culinary heritage. Dating back centuries and deeply rooted in Persian origins, the deghchi or deg, holds a connection to the Mughal era. Between the 16th to 19th century Mughal rule in India, the deghchi was extensively used in royal kitchens and military camps for its large size and ability to cook food in large quantities, making it particularly useful for preparing meals for soldiers and large crowds.

Since the Mughals have always been known for their rich cuisine and culinary legacies, introducing the deghchi was one of the various key cooking techniques that played a pivotal role in the evolution of the culinary landscape. Especially used in preparing slow-cooked dishes like biryanis, stews and rich curries with tough cuts of meat, the use of deghchis over time, expanded beyond royal kitchens and became an integral part of Indian households – especially during festivals, special occasions and community gatherings.

Despite modern kitchenware and cooking methods having experienced an evolution, this traditional cooking utensil continues to be revered in many parts of India, thereby preserving its historical significance and traditional culinary value. Perhaps due to its association with communal cooking and its ability to retain flavour, hence producing aromatic dishes, the deghchi’s characteristic design allows for even heat distribution. It’s wide base and tapering neck with a broad rim, allows for food to retain moisture and cook in its own juices, helping concentrate the flavour of a dish.

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Well-suited for slow-cooking recipes, the thick material like copper or stainless steel, with which it is typically constructed, allows for heat to be distributed evenly across the cooking surface. What this does, is ensure that the food cooks uniformly without hot spots or burning, allowing flavours to meld and the ingredients to tenderize slowly. What is also most fascinating about this utensil is that they are generally spacious, accommodating large quantities of food, which can be covered using a lid that is often heavy and well-fitted, helping trap moisture within.

Making this an excellent choice for slow-cooking methods like simmering, braising, stewing or preparing dishes that require extended cooking times, the deghchi is famously used in the preparation of biryani, across many regions as well as famously in the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, which houses the world’s biggest deg that produces around 4800 kilos of food on a daily basis. In addition to this, the deghchi is also used to prepare kormas, stews, tenderize tough cuts of lamb as well as to simmer dishes, whose recipes require them to be cooked overnight, across the span of a few hours.