In the Western world, barbecue and grilling are strongly associated with summer, relaxation, and simple food. It holds a special place in people’s hearts and traditions, whether it’s a casual backyard barbecue or a competitive professional cook-off. Barbecue is everywhere, from sports events to summer weekends, and it’s enjoyed throughout the year.
For Asians, barbecue also includes food cooked in a tandoor oven – a traditional South Asian barbecue method. This style of cooking adds a unique smoky char and seals in the juices and flavors of the food. While some South Asians are content with grilling tandoori marinated food on their regular backyard grills, true food enthusiasts and grill masters insist on using an authentic tandoor for the best results. This raises the question: which one is right for you? Let’s find out!
The tempting tandoor
Imagine a traditional clay oven, typically found in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, with its fiery glow and intoxicating aromas. That’s the tandoor. This ancient cooking technique has been around for centuries and is known for its distinct flavors and methods.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Intense heat: The tandoor can reach scorching temperatures, usually between 400°C and 500°C. This high heat cooks food quickly, giving it a beautiful char and smoky flavor.
- Unique cooking style: In a tandoor, food is typically skewered or placed directly on the oven’s walls. The intense heat sears the outer layer while locking in the natural juices, resulting in tender, flavorful dishes.
- Signature dishes: Tandoori chicken, naan bread, and kebabs are some of the most popular dishes prepared in a tandoor. The searing heat creates a unique flavor profile that’s hard to replicate with other cooking methods.
- Cooking Experience: Cooking in a tandoor is an experience in itself. The vibrant flames, the mesmerizing glow, and the anticipation of flavors create an adventurous journey. It’s perfect for those who enjoy the ritual and artistry of cooking.
The classic conventional grill
On the other hand, conventional grills are readily available and offer a wide range of cooking options.
Here’s what you should consider:
- Variable heat: Unlike the tandoor’s consistent high heat, grills offer more control over temperature. You can adjust the heat by raising or lowering the grill grates or using different heat zones. This versatility allows for different cooking techniques, like searing or slow cooking.
- Smoky flavors: Similar to the traditional tandoor oven, grilling imparts a distinct smoky flavor to the food, owing to the combination of open flames, charcoal, or wood chips.
- Wide range of dishes: From grilling burgers and steaks to seafood and vegetables, the grill is a versatile piece of equipment that can accommodate many different dishes & cuisines. You can experiment with different marinades, condiments, and wood chips to add complexity and depth to your meals.
- Social cooking: Grilling is often a social activity that brings friends and family together. The sight of sizzling food, the sound of laughter, and the scrumptious smell of delicious flavors create an atmosphere of joy and happiness.
Choosing between a tandoor oven and a conventional grill ultimately depends on your preferences, cooking style, and what you want to cook. But if you’re passionate about the intense flavors of traditional Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, the tandoor is your ally. It offers a unique way of cooking that embraces history, tradition, and bold flavors.
So fire up your chosen cooking method and start the culinary adventure that suits your taste and style. Happy cooking!