If you’ve grown up in an Indian or Pakistani household, you’re probably familiar with the flavor and flare of tandoori cooking but if not, let’s make it very simple for you. It’s a cooking vessel that is part oven and part BBQ pit, primarily used for flatbread but boy oh boy does it bbq some tender meaty goodness.. The combination of spices, metal skewers, and smokey heat gives the food a unique flavor profile – one that can’t be replicated by using a conventional grill or gas stove.
The meat that comes out of the intense heat of a tandoori oven has an explosively flavorful crust and uncommonly succulent center. Designed to specifically cook South Asian dishes, a clay tandoor creates tastes and textures that are far superior and much more intense.
How do tandoor ovens work?
Tandoor ovens are designed in a particular way to trap heat on the inside. Because of the way they’re built, with only one opening at the top through which heat can escape, they can reach very high temperatures with a single load of charcoal. The meats and vegetables are skewered and placed vertically through an opening at the top. As they cook, the juices seep down onto the hot charcoal to release a delicious, smokey flavor into the meat.
The biggest challenge with tandoori cooking is the intense blast of heat that comes your way when it’s opened. Remember to take precautions; cover your face and eyes, and keep flammable things at a safe distance. It’s also a good idea to wear oven mitts if your hands are particularly sensitive to heat.
What are the benefits of cooking in a tandoori oven?
The key to a tandoor oven’s functionality is its ability to lock in heat. One of the biggest advantages of using a tandoor oven is that once it reaches a particular temperature, it can maintain that temperature for a really long time without the need for additional fuel. This not only leads to a quicker prep time, but also gives the dishes a unique flavor profile.
Tandoor ovens typically last long and require low maintenance. They do not require much cleaning; you only have to clean the burner twice a year and use a brass brush to regularly scrub the plates. It’s also perfect for healthy cooking, since the food prepared in a traditional tandoor doesn’t need a lot of oil. You can treat yourself to a wide range of delicious dishes, while keeping your calorie intake in check.
What can you cook in a tandoori oven?
Clay ovens are perfect for cooking different types of meats and breads. Naan, in particular, is an excellent dish that cooks well in a tandoor oven. The dough sticks to the walls of the tandoor and bubbles up and chars to perfection for a truly authentic flavor. You can even use them to cook stuffed naans and parathas without any issues.
Even though you can cook just about anything in a tandoori oven, there are a few dishes that can be considered the mainstays of tandoori cooking. These include:
- Tandoori chicken
- Tandoori lamb
- Chicken tikka
- Lamb kebabs
A variety of vegetables such as onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and potatoes can also be cooked in a traditional clay oven. When making tasty BBQ chicken or lamb skewers, you can thread the meat and vegetables together before placing them in the tandoor to cook.
To sum up, all edible food products can be cooked in a tandoor. For meat and poultry, the tandoor lends an exclusive taste that gives it a truly authentic flavor, but you can also cook a variety of vegetables for a delicious, lightly charred flavor.