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A karahi is a cooking dish used primarily in India and the surrounding regions. The shape of the dish is deep and wide with a rounded base and curved sides. The handle can vary, but a traditional design has handles on each side of the pan that flare outward and rise above the rim. The pans can range in size from small, almost single-serving designs to large, broad dishes that can be used to make food for a group. In addition to being used for cooking food, a karahi also can be used to serve the food at a table, especially when used with elaborate karahi stands that are designed to hold the dish in an elegant base.
A traditional karahi is a round cooking pan with deep, slanted sides that end in a rounded base. Some versions have a flat bottom so it can be used on a flat-topped range and remain stable. The shape of the karahi is designed to evenly distribute heat across the entire cooking surface, with a slightly hotter area in the bottom center of the pan. The pans originally were used over pit fires that were contained in ovens with a wide, circular opening at the top, and the pot would fit snugly into that opening. On a flat rangetop, the pan can be rested on a metal stand so it remains stable and receives as much heat from the burners as possible.
Nearly any type of cooking can be performed in a karahi. Foods can be fried quickly over high heat or they can be slowly braised. Soups can be boiled in the pan, and oil can be pooled in the rounded bottom to allow for deep frying while using a smaller amount of oil than would be used in a more traditional saucepan. The pan is most effective when used to slowly stew different foods over a long time, because the heat is distributed throughout the food, and the wide top exposes more of the liquid to the air, allowing it to reduce quickly.
There are several materials that can go into making a karahi. One of the most popular, and oldest, materials used is cast iron, providing the pan with a high level of heat retention and an evenly heated surface that can take on nonstick properties when well seasoned. Aluminum is a less expensive option, but it is reactive and can taint the taste of food when used. More commonly, a karahi can be made from non-stick anodized aluminum with a copper core, giving both heat retention and heat distribution while also being very durable.