I have tried to make Biryani several (3, lol) times using this recipe but never got it right. The meat gets too dry, and the masala and rice often get burned. How can I avoid this?
Most people get burned biryani because of the rice. It must be soaked and the par cooked before going into the pot. Also the quality of the rice is important. IMO that would always be Basmati rice. I always soak my rice for an hour for any dish.
The cooking vessel has to be heavy and sealed. This ensures that the cooking happens in an almost pressure cooker state inside the pot. Some people seal their pot lid with a flour dough. Cast iron pots are the best.
I cook biryani regularly using RAW meat. . Meat and/or rice drying out means there was too little water or that most of it escaped as steam. . Overcooked rice (and under cooked meat) is a result of too low a heat.
Here are some tips that I find useful . To tenderise the meat, marinate at least for a day in advance. Not only does that tenderise the meat but a lot of spices are infused into the meat enhancing the taste.
.The cooking vessel should have a really thick bottom. My ones have around 5mm for the smaller diameter ones and 6-8 for the large ones (15 inches internal diameter). I think a heavy cast iron pan will do the trick.
. The meat should be one to one and a half layer thick in the vessel, So depending on the quantity you have to change the vessel size.
. Biryani is cooked in "Dum" that is in steam, so the heat should be just enough to raise the steam and not more. The trick to get the heat perfect is - Use a heavy "Tawa" under the pot. - Use kneaded dough to seal the lid. Keep a small opening in the seal. - Start the biryani at high heat. - When steam starts escaping lower the heat and wait for the steam to stop escaping - it will take a few minutes. Then increase the heat till the steam starts again. At hat stage lower the heat a bit and seal the hole with dough.
. The rice should be cooked to around 60-70%. It should be firm but not hard.
The cooking time for different meats as available in India are approximately . Chicken = 1 to 1.5 hours . Lamb = 1.5 - 2 hours . Goat = 2 - 2.5 hours
The lower limit is if the batches are large and the meat is tender. The upper limit for batches of upto 1.5 kg meat. The cooking time also depends on the heat source, vessel thickness and the amount of water in the mix. Too little water will dry the meat and rice. Too much will make rice mushy.
The meat gets too dry, and the masala and rice often get burned. How can I avoid this?
If you have failed many times, then my first suggestion would be to use a nonstick vessel to cook Biryani. Good quality nonstick vessels are quite forgiving in case you forget to check whether the meal is done in time.
Second, since you seem to be a beginner, my advise would be to cook your food ONLY on the lowest flame of the gas. This will ensure the food gets cooked properly before it starts burning.
If the meat seems too dry then as Jay says:
burning and overcooking chicken is related but not the same. Overcooking in this case will be cooking the meat to a internal temperature above the recommended tender temperature. While burning means to char the chicken. You can burn the chicken and still have uncooked chicken on the inside. Likewise as in the OP's case, you can overcook chicken but not necessarily burn it.
harsh as it may seem, but if the food is getting burnt repeatedly then IMO you are not paying enough attention.
By now, have you tried to cook the Biryani according to the exact time given by the recipe? If yes, then reduce that time by 10 minutes and cook on a very low flame. After the 'new' timeout lift the lid and check whether it is done. Yes, you will have to lift the lid at least twice for the first time to get an actual idea of much time really is required. Use a real clock/timers.
Thirdly, use a heat resistant glass lid or even better flame proof glass vessel instead of the metal one for cooking the Biryani while it is on gas. That will allow you to peek in and check the condition of the food without repeatedly without picking up the lid.
There are few things you could do
Throughly grease(with Ghee or Butter) the vessel you are using for Dum. Use a thick bottomed vessel if you can. This prevents burning.
While cooking your chicken, make sure that you leave enough gravy and don't dry it out completely. That gravy could make your Biriyani moist. (Take care that you don't leave too much to make it soggy)
You could have a layer of rice at bottom instead of the chicken (as your recipe says). So bottom chicken layer doesn't dry out.
Par Boil your rice, cause it is also cooks in Dum with the chicken.
Pour some milk after layering the Biriyani and let it seep through. (Add Saffron to the Milk for color/smell).
And last but not least, make sure that lid is tightly sealed with dough or foil so the steam doesn't escape and use a low flame.
I partly agree with user22887, rice should be soaked to a specific time, and should be parboiled. ALSO traditionally biriyani is NOT cooked at direct heat.
Ever heard of Charcoal cooked biriyani? Its called "Dum" cooking (Dum Biriyani). After the charcoal gets hot the biriyani vessel is placed over and also they throw in hot coal over the lid. The process takes time as its slow cooked with heat with Copper vessels. See this video
At home, to prevent direct heat, the vessel should have a heavy bottom or should be placed over a pan, like this.
Best would be to use the thick bottom vessel if you don't have something like that use a Tawa below the vessel to make it's base thick also cook the biryani at a very low flame for more time than usual meat won't be dry and no burning
I would recommend to always marinate the meat with spices and yoghurt for at least 6 - 8 hrs or overnight in in the fridge. This makes the meat tender and juicy plus to avoid burning never put your biryani directly on the flame. What you can do is put a tawa on the stove then sealed biryani pot on it which will surely help. Usually biryani takes 45 – 50 mins max so ensure you’re not keeping them on too long.
Place a Tawa below the vessel, and cook it for 45 minutes in low flame. All problem will be solved. TESTED!!!!