The Best Chicken Biryani (Step by step video recipe)
Watch Recipe Video ABOVE for step by step directions. This homemade chicken biryani recipe is easier than you think. I have broken down the entire recipe into a step by step process so that you can make this at your own pace. This biryani recipe is closest to Hyderabadi Biryani where chicken and rice are layered to make the most fragrant, and well spiced biryani.
To make the brown onions, pat the onions dry and if time permits, leave them out on a kitchen towel for 15-20 minutes to dry them out slightly. Heat oil in a pan and add the onions. On a medium flame, shallow fry the onions for 15 minutes till they are a deep golden brown, without burning them. Drain them out on a paper towel, and set aside. These can be made ahead and stored in an air tight container overnight. Burnt onions will add a bitter flavor to the biryani. You can also use store bought fried onions/ shallots which are easily available in leading supermarkets, Indian and Asian stores.
Mix together all the ingredients under chicken marinade and marinate for at least two hours or overnight for best results.
When you are ready to make the biryani, soak saffron strands in hot milk and rub them slightly with the back of a spoon. Set this aside.
Bring water to a roaring boil and add salt, whole spices and basmati rice. Cook for exactly 5 minutes and drain completely, leaving the whole spices in the rice. This will cook the rice to about 70% doneness which can be checked by pressing a grain of rice between two fingers - the rice should still be raw in the middle.
Layering and Cooking Chicken Biryani: Heat a heavy bottomed pot like a dutch oven, and add the chicken to it. Cook for 4 minutes and then turn the chicken pieces once. Cover and cook for another 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Scatter half the onions all over the chicken, and then sprinkle all the coriander and mint leaves. Next layer the rice all over the mint and coriander, and in the end drizzle saffron milk and ghee all over the rice. Cover and cook on a low flame for 20 minutes - this will help steam the rice, cook it to doneness and cook the chicken. (Note 4)
Once the biryani is cooked, let it rest for 5-10 minutes, and finish by scattering the remaining onions on top. Serve hot digging the spoon deep to get all the layers.
While a lot of restaurants use an entire chicken cut into medium sized pieces to make biryani, this is done to cut costs. Pieces like chicken breasts dry out during the long cooking process, and that's why I recommend using only chicken thighs and drumsticks while cooking biryani at home. You can ask your butcher to cut each chicken leg into two parts to divide it into thighs and drumsticks. Leaving the bone in keeps the chicken juicy.
Brown Onions can be slightly time consuming and tricky to make, and you can substitute them here with store bought fried onions. Just make sure that the onions are not batter fried. If you are in India, you can buy them online here, and if you live outside India, you can buy them here. They are also available at leading supermarkets, Asian and Indian stores.
While buying basmati rice, make sure you buy rice that's labelled basmati and not just long grain rice. Basmati Rice is fragrant and has slightly thinner grains than long grain rice. Real basmati rice is what gives biryani its distinct flavor and taste.
In the last step of layering and cooking the biryani, all the ingredients are par cooked. Cooking the biryani on a low flame for 20 minutes, steams and cooks everything to doneness. If you don't have a heavy bottomed pot, and are using a regular pot, you can place it on a tava (or flat griddle) and then place it on the stove on a medium flame to avoid burning the chicken. The tava or griddle creates a degree of separation between the flame and the pot and provides the perfect heat source.