Here’s a delicious and aromatic chicken biryani recipe for you. Soft, flavourful and succulent pieces of chicken married to aromatic rice cooked in whole spices, it just does not get better than this. I have spent uncountable number of hours in the kitchen to get these techniques for chicken biryani right. And I can say with confidence that after attempting this chicken biryani recipe, you will not be intimidated by making biryani ever again.
Like most of us, I had always found making biryani very intimidating. I started my trials in my home kitchen and the few attempts of the beginning were not very impressive. There are many crucial elements that go into making a perfect biryani, and ignoring any of them can lead to a bad chicken biryani. I have tried to painstakingly list them all out so that you do not miss out on anything. Prepare in advance, keep everything ready, and you can nail this chicken biryani in one go!
Steps To Making This Chicken Biryani
There are mainly four parts in this chicken biryani making process. Let’s go through each of them one by one.
Step 1 – Making the birista or fried onions
The birista or fried onions play a crucial role in any biryani recipe. The fried onions and its oil adds a unique earthy flavour to the biryani and also some delicious crunch in every bite. There are stores that sell fried onions, but I prefer to make them on my own. I also use the left over oil in the biryani layering, and it creates a world of a difference.
Making birista is a long process that requires patience and good handling of the temperature you fry your onions in. The good part is you can make a big batch and store it for weeks in an air tight jar. Fried onions lend their own taste and colour to recipes, especially to rich ones like biryani and kormas.
To make the fried onions, chop the onions finely and separate them from each other. Make sure you pat the onions completely dry with a paper towel. There should be no moisture in them. Once the onions are chopped and dried, heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan (to prevent burning). The oil needs to get really hot before you add the onions. Add the onions and fry for a minute. Add some salt (the secret) after a minute. The salt helps with the caramelisation.
Once the onions start to brown, turn the flame to medium and keep an eye on the onions till you get the desired texture. One look away and the onions can burn. Once they have shrunk and turn crispy, take them out and spread them out on a paper towel. Let the onions cool completely before using them. Do not throw away the oil as it is packed with flavour. The entire process can take you anywhere between 45 minutes to one hour.
Keep aside one cup of the birista for the chicken gravy and keep the rest for layering the biryani.
Step 2 – Marinating the chicken
Unlike our egg biryani preparation that requires no prior marination, chicken biryani is incomplete without this step. Marinating the chicken with the right ingredients and quantities is absolutely critical to get the best biryani out of your kitchen.
Clean and pat dry the chicken pieces before you add any marination to it. Marinate the chicken covered for atleast 30 minutes to one hour before you start the cooking process. In the mean time, you can do your preparation for the rest of the processes.
Step 3 – Making the saffron milk
Saffron milk is what lends a beautiful colour to the rice strands in this recipe. Food colour can also be used but they might have synthetic flavours in them. Using saffron milk is a natural and delicious way to add colour as well as flavour to the chicken biryani.
To make the saffron milk, add a few saffron strands to about 1/4 cup of warm milk and give it a stir. Over time, it will acquire a beautiful orange hue that we can use in the layering phase.
Step 4 – Soaking the rice
The sign of a good biryani is perfectly cooked and separate grains of rice. The rice needs to be soft, aromatic, fluffy and a single entity not sticking to anything else.
To achieve this, you have to follow certain steps without fail.
- Thoroughly wash your rice. Once you get your raw rice, wash it thoroughly under running water at least 5-6 times till the water that drains out is crystal clear. This step is very important as it helps to ensure that all the excess starch is removed so that you get rice that is fluffy and also not too heavy. Pro tip – Do not waste the starchy water. It is full of nutrients. Use it to water your plants.
- Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes. Once your rice is washed, soak the rice in clean water for 30 minutes to one hour. Till step will ensure that the rice fluff up to its maximum potential.
- Buy biryani rice, not long-grained basmati rice. To make restaurant-style biryani, make sure you purchase rice which is known as biryani rice. This rice is actually perfect for making biryani and is really thin, light, and long-grained. Buying basmati rice might not give you the same results as this rice would. There are many brands in the market that offer “biryani rice” in particular. Choose one of those.
- Make room for a lot of water. Your rice will cook perfectly when it gets a lot of water to swim in. So make sure you fill up your pot with lots of water so that the rice gets submerged in it. In this recipe, I have used 500 grams of rice and 3 liters of water.
- Cook the rice before layering it only till it’s 70 percent done. This step can honestly make or break your biryani. When we cook the rice before layering it, make sure it’s cooked just enough that it still has a bit of a bite to it.
- Strain the semi-cooked rice well. When you take the rice out of the water to save it for the layering, make sure you strain every bit of that excess water in which it was cooking. Leaving the rice in water will make it lumpy and stick to one another and that’s no good!
- Be gentle when using the spoon. At all points of handling the rice, be it raw or semi-cooked, be gentle so that you don’t break the grains.
- Use a cast iron pot or a good quality stainless steel pot/handi to cook the biryani. The last thing you would want is burnt rice at the bottom.
Step 5 – Cooking the chicken
Once your rice is 80 percent ready and set aside to cool, the next step is to make the chicken gravy. This is when we take the marinated chicken out of the refrigerator and cook it in spices and hot oil, till we get a luscious and thick mix. The fried onions or birista go into this mix and that will add the unique flavour that we usually experience in biryani. This mix should not be too dry or too watery, but just have enough moisture so that it can assimilate with the rice and the rest of the ingredients when we cook it later. Make sure you cook the chicken thoroughly so that it is soft and there is absolutely no rawness left.
Step 6 – Layering the biryani
Now comes the best and my most favourite part of making this chicken biryani – the layering. It is a highly reqarding technique that gives that ultimate respect to your chicken biryani by making it all come together. The layering involves many ingredients so make sure you do not miss out on any of the following ingredients as each one of them plays a very crucial role in making the biryani what it is.
- Fresh coriander leaves
- Fresh mint leaves
- Kewra water
- Saffron infused milk
- Starchy rice water
Step 7 – Slow cooking the biryani on “dum”
The last and final step of this chicken biryani is slow cooking it to perfection. While traditional biryanis are dum cooked in handis, we will use our own hacks to make it at home. You can either make a dough with whole wheat and spread it around your pot to make sure the air does not escape, or you can put something heavy on top of your lid like I did. It is important to keep a strong base like an iron tawa at the bottom to prevent your chicken biryani from burning. Keep the flame at low and let time do its own magic.
Let’s take a look at the recipe:
Preparation time – 2 hours (with fried onions)
Cook time – 2 hours
Serves – 5 people
For the fried onions/birista:
- 4 large onions
- 1/2 cup oil
For the rice:
- 500 g biryani rice
- 3 litre water
- 1 tbsp birista oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp shah jeera
- 1 star anise
- 3 cardamom
- 3 cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 black cardamom
For the chicken marination:
- 1 kg chicken
- 1 cup yogurt
- 2 tbsp biryani powder
- 2 tbsp ginger paste
- 2 tbsp garlic paste
- 6 green chillies, ground to a paste
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- Salt to taste (I used 1.5 tbsp)
Cooking the chicken:
- Remaining birista oil
- 1 cup birista
- 1 tsp garam masala
For layering the biryani:
- Saffron milk
- Kewra water
- Starchy rice water
- Chopped coriander leaves
- Chopped mint leaves
- Birista oil
- Chop the onions finely and separate them from each other. Make sure you pat the onions completely dry with a paper towel. There should be no moisture in them.
- Once the onions are chopped and dried, heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan (to prevent burning). The oil needs to get really hot before you add the onions. A
- dd the onions and fry for a minute. Add some salt (the secret) after a minute. The salt helps with the caramelisation.
- Once the onions start to brown, turn the flame to medium and keep an eye on the onions till you get the desired texture. One look away and the onions can burn.
- Once they have shrunk and turn crispy, take them out and spread them out on a paper towel. Let the onions cool completely before using them.
- Do not throw away the oil as it is packed with flavour. The entire process can take you anywhere between 45 minutes to one hour.
- Clean the chicken pieces and pat them dry with a paper towel. Marinate with all the ingredients mentioned above. Cover and rest for atleast 30 minutes to one hour in the refrigerator.
- Heat water in a wide pot. Add shah jeera, salt, birista oil, mace, star anise, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. Stir well till it boils. Check the salt, add more if required. The water should be as salty as soup.
- Add the soaked rice to the boiling pot of water. Cook it till it’s 70 percent done. Save a cup of the rice water for later use. Strain well and set aside.
- Add a few saffron strands to about 1/4 cup of warm milk and give it a stir. Over time, it will acquire a beautiful orange hue that we can use in the layering phase.
- Heat oil in a kadhai. Add the marinated chicken to the oil and cook till you get a thick gravy.
- Add the birista or fried onions to this mix and cook. Add water if necessary. The chicken should be fully cooked in this process.
- To later the biryani, get a heavy bottomed pan. Layer the bottom with ghee and add a layer of rice on top. Add a second layer of chicken generously with another layer of rice on top.
- Drizzle ghee, saffron-infused milk, kewra water, and starchy rice water (2 tbsp each) over the rice. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves, mint leaves, and top it off with birista.
- Repeat the process three more times. Once done, cover the pot with a lid. Make sure there is no room for air to escape.
- Heat an iron tawa on the gas. Once hot, lower the flame and put the biryani pot on top. Seal the air with either wheat dough or put a heavy object on top. Let this slow cook for on low flame for one hour.
- Gently take the lid off and mix all the layers of the chicken biryani. Make sure you take all of it together.
- Serve hot with raita, salan, and salad on the side. Enjoy!
I hope you try this chicken biryani recipe super soon. If you have any doubts, comments, or feedback, please reach out to me in comments or my social media handles.
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