Hello and welcome to my Cooking FAQ page!

First of all, THANK YOU for your questions. They help me better explain and improve upon recipes. If you ever have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to reach out on the recipe comments section or izzah@teaforturmeric.com!

Here you’ll find all about cook times, meat substitutes, and questions on common ingredients. Whether you’re new to the kitchen or a seasoned chef, I hope this page helps clarify any confusion and reinforce your knowledge.

How do you know when meat is cooked?

You’ll know when it’s tender and easy to break with a wooden spoon. Here’s a handy chart with general stovetop cook times for curries:

MeatStovetop Cook Time (low heat/simmer)
Chicken (Bone-in, cut-up)25 minutes
Chicken (Boneless)10-15 minutes
Lamb or Goat (~2″ pieces)1.5-2 hours, longer for leg/shoulder
Beef (Stew meat) (~2″ pieces)3-4 hours
Beef (Shank meat) (~2″ pieces)6 hours

P.S. If you never want to worry about whether you’re meat is done, invest in a meat thermometer.

Can I use goat/lamb/beef instead of chicken?

Yes, any recipe can be replaced with different meat, though I’m not sure how the flavors will play with the meat of choice. The only changes required are a longer cook time (see cook time chart above), and consequently more water.

How to double a recipe:

Stovetop

As a general rule, you’ll double all the ingredients (use the handy 2x feature), but there will be some changes depending on the recipe. Generally:

  • Increase sauté times by 2-3 minutes. It takes longer to brown onions, tomatoes, reduce the curry, etc.
  • For pulao or rice dishes, use larger pans or Dutch ovens (8-10.5 qt vs the usual 5 qt).
  • If you’re adding water to cook meat, instead of doubling the water, use slightly less. For example, if the recipe originally called for 1/2 cup water, increase to 3/4 cup rather than 1 cup water. When doubling meat dishes, you have less evaporation, plus the meat releases more moisture. This is why you don’t need to double the water.

Instant Pot

Again, double the ingredients, but also:

  • Increase sauté times 2-3 minutes.
  • Double water quantity.
  • Keep pressure cook time the same.

For more Instant Pot cooking tips, please check out my guide on How to Use the IP for Desi Cooking.

How much salt is enough?

I believe adequately salting is key to flavor, which is why I share the amount of salt I use in every recipe.

As a general rule, start with 1 tsp of kosher salt per 1 lb of meat. For dals, you’ll need a little more than 1 tsp of kosher salt assuming it’s not a ‘bhunni’ dal. For vegetarian mains, start with 1 tsp kosher salt per lb of veggies.

Kosher salt: My preferred salt (I use Morton’s brand). It’s less strong yet has great flavor, and it’s less intense, which makes it harder to oversalt food. If you don’t use it, you can use whatever salt you have on hand. Just remember that if you’re using sea salt or table salt, you’ll need less than Kosher salt.

Sea salt: Many of my recipes call for sea salt (again, Morton’s brand). I generally use sea salt when I need the salt to dissolve immediately in the food. Examples include salads, raita, desserts, etc. It also works really well in Indo-Chinese recipes.

Can I substitute garlic/ginger paste for garlic and ginger?

Yes! When I measure out my garlic & ginger, it’s usually around 1 tbsp each for a main dish.

What type of tomatoes?

I typically use either vine/globe tomatoes or Roma/plum. Tomatoes on the vine have more water content than Roma, which means it takes longer to sauté out the moisture. Whatever the variety, for curries I would always suggest going for ripe, tasty ones.

What type of green chili pepper?

The type of green chilis that are native to South Asia, often called Indian chili or finger chili (Jwala), are not widely available in the U.S. (I can only find them at Indo-Pak grocery stores.) These are long, narrow, and less spicy than Serranos or Thai Chili Peppers, which I call for in my recipes because of their availability.

Serrano and Thai (also called Bird’s Eye) Chili, though not an exact replica, are close to the flavor and aroma of native South Asian green chili peppers.

Jalapeño peppers, though great for adding tolerable heat and crunch to curries, don’t carry the aroma that’s critical to curries.

I find Serranos to be less spicy than Thai chili peppers – the general rule is the larger the green chili, the less spicy it is. Still, their heat varies from time to time. You’ll have to be the best judge of how much you need depending on how spicy your particular batch is. I always look for deep green color, indicating good flavor.

More tips:

  • You’ll usually need 1/2-1 medium Serrano or 1-2 Bird’s eye/Thai green chili peppers for each curry. Adjust red chili powder according to how spicy your green chili is.
  • To reduce the heat from green chilies, deseed them before adding.
  • Green chili peppers also get spicier the more you chop them, so a finely chopped green chili will produce more pronounced heat than one that’s sliced lengthwise.

Can I substitute boneless chicken for bone-in?

Yes! You may replace most recipes with boneless chicken breast, thighs, or tenders. There are 3 main differences when making any curry with boneless instead of bone-in chicken:

  1. To prevent it from drying out, sauté it for less time after adding it to the onions (~2-3-ish minutes).
  2. Boneless Chicken releases more water, so you’ll need to add less water before covering to cook. For example, for classic Chicken Curry, if you’re adding 2 cups for bone-in chicken, try adding 1 1/2 cups for boneless.
  3. Cook/simmer for a shorter time. Depending on the the size of the boneless chicken cubes (I suggest 1-2″ pieces), 13-15 minutes of cook time should be enough.

Can I substitute bone-in chicken thighs for cut-up, whole chicken in a curry?

Yes. As long as it’s skinless (skin-on would probably get soggy). If that’s not readily available to you, you can remove the skin at home as shown in this helpful YouTube video.

Before I started food blogging, I had no idea how differently chicken is sold in supermarkets vs. halal meat markets (where I get my meat from).

  • At a typical American grocery store, you usually find either boneless, skinless chicken thighs or bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. You can, of course, find whole chicken, bone-in chicken breast, leg quarters, drumsticks, wings, etc. But skinless, cut up, bone-in chicken is not the norm.
  • On the other hand, at Pakistani/Indian halal meat markets, the most readily available cut of chicken is a cut up, skinless, whole chicken. That’s what we use to make most homestyle chicken dishes such as Authentic Chicken Curry and Instant Pot Chicken Curry with Potatoes. The second most popular cut is boneless chicken for curries like Butter Chicken or Chicken Jalfrezi. Of course, you’ll find many other cuts. But whatever the cut, it will likely be skinless.

That’s it for now. If you have any further questions, feel free to let me know and I’ll be happy to answer them! Thank you. 🙂