Nothing really compares to cooking in a real tandoor oven, but the most cooks just don’t have them. There are a few ways to get close. Baking in a 550 degree oven can work, so can grilling over the hottest of hot grills. Both ways are detailed here for making this famous intricately spiced, juicy, and tender Indian chicken.
Regardless of size, shape, or region of origin, all tandoor ovens operate on essentially the same principle. The ovens are made of clay with some sort of insulating material like concrete or mud on the outside. They are cylindrical and often curve inward toward the top like a beehive or jug to concentrate the heat. A fire is built in the bottom, which heats both the walls of the oven and the air inside to upwards of 900° F!
Flatbreads like naan and roti get slapped against the sides of the oven. They stick to the super-heated surface, cook very quickly, and are peeled off when they’re done. Meats are usually cooked on long skewers that are inserted directly into the oven or cooked over the mouth.
Tandoori ovens will maintain a consistent high temperature for hours with very little additional fuel, a huge big plus in parts of the world where fuel is scarce. MHT’s recipe does not call for a tandoori oven as it’s not typically something people have lying around.
Tandoori Chicken – Baked Tandoori Chicken
- Ziplock freezer bags
- Mini-food processor or blender
- Baking pan lined with foil, wire rack
- Instant read thermometer
- 6 Whole chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)
- 6 cloves Garlic, crushed
- 3 inch Piece ginger, coarsely chopped
- Kosher salt
- 3 tbsp Vegetable oil, divided
- 1 tbsp White vinegar
- 1 tbsp Red pepper powder
- 1 tsp Paprika
- 1½ tsp Each: ground cardamom, garlic powder, cinnamon, clove, ginger.
- 1 crumbled Bay leaves
- 1 cup Plain yogurt
- 6 Green Thai chiles, stemmed and finely chopped
- 4 tbsp Ghee, melted
- 1 RECIPE Roast onions
- Remove skin from chicken. A paper towel to grip skin helps. Cut 2-inch long, ½-inch deep slits all over chicken.Puree garlic, ginger, and ¼ cup water in a processor or blender. Scoop into a small bowl and add 2 tsp salt, 1½ tbsp oil, vinegar, 1 tsp chili powder, and 1 tsp each of the ground spices and 1 crumbled bay leaf. Put chicken in 1 or 2 plastic freezer bags and cover chicken with spice mixture. Massage spice mix into chicken, seal bag, and refrigerate overnight.Make yogurt marinade in a covered bowl by combining the yogurt, remaining ground spices, bay leaf, and ½ tsp salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight.In the morning, pour yogurt marinade over the chicken pieces. Reseal the bag and massage marinade into the chicken for 2-3 minutes. Refrigerate for the rest of the day. Remove 1 hour before cooking.
I. Baking Chicken
- Heat oven to the highest temperature possible. Line a large baking pan with foil and top with a wire baking rack. Shake marinade off chicken and arrange pieces on the baking rack. Bake until chicken is lightly charred and cooked through, about 35 minutes. Turning pan once. Remove pan from oven and brush chicken with ghee. Serve hot with roasted onions.
II. Grilling Chicken
- Heat grill to the hottest temperature possible. Rub grates generously with oil. Remove excess marinade with paper towels. Place chicken on grill, meatier side up. Brush tops with ghee and grill 10 minutes. Turn pieces over and paint tops with ghee. Continue to flip and baste every 10 minutes until done, 165°F (74°C) on an instant instant thermometer. Place chicken on a serving platter and brush with ghee. Serve hot with roasted onions.