A one-pot feast that can turn even the most ordinary days into festive occasions, Biryani is a resplendent dish that you must make at home. But if you are worried about the results or afraid of getting things wrong, here are all the common mistakes you need to know about. Read on, rectify and get your Biryani cooking right.
Biryani. The one word that can light up the world of a foodie, whether they are vegetarian or non-vegetarian, Indian or from any other South Asian nation. From Lucknow’s Awadhi heritage biryani to the Malabar’s spice-laden one, from the apricot flavours in Sindhi Biryani to the potato-laden ones in Kolkata, there is no dearth of Biryani varieties one can fall in love within India alone. World Biryani Day is celebrated every year on October 11 to highlight the flavours of all these Biryanis and indulge in a resplendent Biryani feast.
One of the best ways to celebrate World Biryani Day is to not just eat a Biryani at your favourite restaurant, but to actually make the dish at home to treat yourself, your family and friends. Nothing spells royalty on the dinner table as much as Biryani does, so making this dish at home is especially a must for homecooks and foodies. But Biryanis often have the reputation of being complicated, time-consuming dishes to make, which is why a lot of foodies never try making one at home.
However, the fact is that making Biryani at home can be the easiest thing in the world, if you have the right guidance and avoid making some common mistakes. This World Biryani Day, if you are indeed making Biryani at home, here are some common mistakes to avoid.
Video Credit: YouTube/Kunal Kapur
Not Thinking Through
Biryani cooking is all about stages of making the meat-based Yakhni or gravy, parboiling the rice, sorting out the garnishes like dry fruits, saffron milk, herbs and ghee, layering everything up in the right proportion and cooking the dish on dum after that. To cook the perfect Biryani at home, you have to think these stages through and get each stage right. So, visualize and plan before you begin.
Traditionally, Biryani is made with aged, long-grain and fragrant rice like Basmati. If you pick a smaller grain of rice to make regional Biryanis, like Kaima rice for Kozhikode Biryani for example, then you should still ensure that you get aged rice. Using new rice will inevitably result in broken rice, making the Biryani feel more like a meaty khichdi.
Soaking Doesn’t Matter
It is not enough to just use long-grain, aged and fragrant rice for your Biryani. You have to wash the rice carefully to get rid of excess starch and then soak the grains for half an hour—or at least 15 minutes. What this does is to elongate the rice grains further and make the Biryani look even more resplendent.
One of the biggest mistakes beginners cooking Biryani make is to take the rice cooking too far instead of just parboiling it until it is cooked 80%. Biryani cooking is all about stages, and if you get the cooking of the rice wrong, you will end up with a mushy rice khichdi instead of a dish where the rice grains are fluffy and the meat perfect. So, cook the rice in excess water and keep a close check on the done-ness. Drain and cool the rice immediately after it is parboiled or it will continue to cook in its own heat.
Not Focusing On Aroma
A Biryani isn’t just about combining rice, meat and a store-bought Biryani masala. It is a medley of aromas from the rice, the meat, the whole spices, the ground spices, herbs, saffron, ghee and other aromats like Kewra water, rosewater, attar, etc. So, don’t just rely on the spices to get the aromas of the Biryani right. Instead, focus on layers or aromas combining together to make your Biryani simply irresistible.
The gravy, yakhni or jhol made with meat is the very basis of a good Biryani, so it has to be simply perfect for best results. Remember, you are not making a simple chicken or mutton curry here, but a gravy which will get fully cooked along with the rice. So, get your yakhni proportion right and don’t make it too runny. That will just end up leaving the rice undercooked and your Biryani too wet.
Wrong Cook On The Protein
Chicken, mutton, lamb, fish, eggs—no matter which protein you are using to make the Biryani, you have to make sure it isn’t overcooked or undercooked. This is the reason why many people choose a protein base that they are already familiar with cooking. Chicken takes less time to cook compared to mutton, and fish takes even lesser time—so check the piece sizes and timings to get the cook on these proteins right.
Believe it or not, the right use of onions can make or break your Biryani. While most people tend to use onions only to make the yakhni or meaty gravy, it is important that you reserve some onions for deep-frying or the making of birista. These fried onions are caramelised and when they are cooked on dum with the layers of meat and rice, they soften and release a smokey aroma while also adding plenty of texture. So, slice up enough onions for the gravy as well as frying.
Cooking On High Heat
Cooking Biryani right is all about patience, and cooking on high heat has no place in this process. Whether it is your parboiled rice, the meaty yakhni or the cooking on dum—especially the dum cooking after layering up—slow cooking on low heat is the name of this game. Remember that you simply cannot rush a biryani if you want to make it right, so get some time on your hands and never increase the heat beyond medium.
Tampering With The Seal
The final stage of Biryani cooking has to do with layering up the meat, rice, herbs, fried onions, etc and sealing the Biryani pot before putting it on dum. A common mistake beginners make is to tamper with the seal or lid of the biryani pot to check if everything is okay. This not only makes the flavours escape but also leads to an imbalance in internal heat. So, never tamper with the seal once you have put the Biryani on dum.