A lot of recipes for biryani involve sealing the edges of the pot with dough. I generally used a kitchen towel and weigh down the lid with something heavy and don't bother with the dough. I was wondering if there is any benefit to using the dough over the towel.

I use the towel method for some other rice dishes as well as I find the towel helps to absorb some of the moisture as opposed to it condensing on the lid of the pot and dripping back in.

  • @Shrilekha - that would be an answer!
    – Stephie
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 7:02

2 Answers 2


I have used both methods. I don't really know why but the one cooked with dough tasted bit better than kitchen towel method for me.

I believe it was because the container was sealed very well and no room for air to escape. The meat is cooked to perfection too.

You are right the towel absorbs moisture which may even dry out the rice and meat so moisture is important for slow cooking.

  • If all that we want to do is to seal the vessel completely, then couldn't we use a pressure cooker instead? It's going to ensure that the moisture doesn't escape. You could put it on a very low heat or keep it on top of a stove to ensure that it's cooked slowly.
    – Mugen
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 15:03
  • Pressure cooker is 'too much'. The dough seal works because it's not much of a pressure retainer, just a water retainer for poorly-made pans. A modern pan with a good heavy lid will work just as well, no dough required.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jun 1, 2023 at 18:45

A dough seal is a good way to stop (most)steam from escaping the dish, but kitchen towel is a poor substitution. It is pretty porous and will stop very little steam when its wet. Heavy thing on the lid will not work good too because the lid and pot does not match 100% in the edges, leaving channels where steams escape.

Another way is to put the lid on and crumple aluminium foil around the pot-lid edge, this works much better than kitchen towel.

Keeping steam in the pot ensures the rice and meat are succulent inside.

  • 1
    Wouldn't it be more efficient to use a pressure cooker instead? That would ensure that the moisture doesn't escape. You could put it on a very low heat or keep it on top of a pan on top of a stove to ensure that it's cooked slowly? This whole deal with a kitchen towel or wheat dough beats me.
    – Mugen
    Commented Feb 21, 2019 at 15:04
  • 2
    Pressure cooker will seal, but makes another significant change---it eventually rises the temperature inside to ~120 degree C, instead of max 100 in the regular pot. That will significatly change the timing texture of rice and meat.
    – Ron
    Commented Feb 22, 2019 at 16:45
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    What if we were to put the whole thing inside a pressure cooker, wait for the pressure to build up and hen switch it off. That would avoid the pressure problem, prevent the wastage of the dough seal as well. And nothing seals steam better than a pressure cooker. Thoughts?
    – Mugen
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 13:11
  • 1
    @Mugen: That's what I decided to try today. There are recipes where biryani is cooked in a pressure cooker. Nothing wrong with it. I assume people used the dough because they used large pots.
    – Nav
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 14:45
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    @Nav Yeah. After all these years I've come to the realization that putting the "dum" in a pressure cooker still works exactly like it does for the wheat dough. More importantly, that in both cases the effect is an absolute waste and a complete hogwash. It's the stupidest thing I've come across in cooking. It seems to make absolutely no difference whether you do that idiotic sealing and "heating in the steam" thing. The flavors will stay where they are. They won't suddenly diffuse into each other just because there's a gentle steam around. Unless one is tricking one's mind.
    – Mugen
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 4:27

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