From the vast continent of India comes many spicy, flavorful dishes that can satisfy those that love full flavors. Tandoori is a type of clay oven where spiced succulent meats are prepared. To make tandoori chicken and naan on your grill, buy a chicken breast and spice it with a mixture of turmeric, paprika, Cayenne pepper, and red chili powder. Spice lightly if you don’t want your eyes to water! Put your grill’s lid down and put it on high heat. Then put your chicken in.
The Tandoor oven originated in Pakistan and Punjab regions, but is used all across the Middle East and central Asia – it is a distant cousin of the BBQ pit and familiar to millions (if not billions). Traditionally it is a cylindrical clay lined oven 5 feet deep and of 2 feet diameter, at the top there is a neck hole of 1 foot diameter. The whole thing is sunk into the ground.
A charcoal or wood fire is lit in the bottom, and food is placed through the neck on long skewers to be cooked at high temperature (over 400C/750F).
Home Tandoor Ovens
If building a traditional oven sounds like a hassle, which it does to me, smaller portable versions can be bought for home use. These will give practically identical results and open up a whole new way of cooking.
At least one company exports these ovens to the West. They consist of an 18″ high stainless steel case on wheels, which contains a clay pot. The opening at the top is 10″, so a reasonable amount can be made at once for a meal or party.
Prices are of the same order as smokers or gas grills. Here is a manufacturers site with more info on various tandoor ovens suitable for home use.
What to Cook
What sets it apart is the heat and speed with which food is cooked. An entire chicken can be cooked in 30 minutes, a leg of lamb in an hour or so.
This is due to the evenly distributed high temperature, but also because it is placed on metal skewers which also conduct heat to the inside as well.
Food is generally prepared by marinating it for hours or even days to tenderize and flavor it prior to cooking.
Other than large cuts of lamb, food that can be cooked in a tandoor oven includes a whole variety of kebabs – meat, vegetable and paneer cheese kebabs and a favorite chicken tikka made from legs, wings or breast meat.
Serve food with salad, plain yogurt and rolled up in a naan bread or roti (which can also be cooked in the oven).