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Simmering yogurt mystery-- can you or can't you do it?

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I've read never to simmer yogurt as it will seperate. I'd already confirmed this independently with a couple of Indian recipe disasters. However, I constantly see recipes that have you bring yogurt to a simmer. There's one for chicken curry in the new Food and Wine that instructs you to do this. What's the deal here? Are the recipes wrong, does it apply to only certain types of yogurt, can you only simmer it for a short time, or what?

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  1. full fat yogurt wont separate as quickly as anything lower in fat.

    1 Reply
    1. re: oh

      A general principle of milk products overall: the less fat, the easier it is to curdle. Hence why so much traditional cooking relies on the creamier end of the dairy spectrum.

    2. I tried the chicken curry recipe in this month's Food and Wine that called for simmering yogurt in the sauce. I used low fat yogurt and had no problems at all. Though, the recipe doesn't call for that much yogurt, so I don't know if that has anything to do with it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Jujubee

        How did that recipe turn out, by the way?

        1. re: Spade

          Overall, it was a very "clean" tasting curry. It didn't seem extremely complex, but it was still nicely flavored and light feeling. I thought it could have used more spice, but my husband really liked it. I think I'll keep trying out different recipes though.

          One point though... 12 pounds of chicken seemed like A LOT, so I reduced it. You're suppose to be able to brown the chicken in two big skillets, and I can only fit about 3-4 lbs per skillet, so that's the amount I went with (so about 6-8 lbs total). You can also halve the recipe very easily, as you're basically making two batches of curry at once.

      2. The casein protiens in the yogurt will curdle in the presence of acids and/or high heat - unintentional cheesemaking. Higher fat yogurts do have a slightly higher tolerance - but watch the acids! When in doubt, use creme fraiche.

        1. According to Claudia Roden, traditional recipes used goat milk yogurt which evidently doesn't curdle. She recommends stabilizing cow's milk yogurt by beating in 1 T cornstarch thinned with a bit of water or milk per quart of yogurt and bringing it to the boil slowly, stirring in only one direction, and simmering uncovered for 10 minutes. I've done this and it worked.