Imagine having your own personal volcano in your backyard. One that cooks you smokey, tender chicken, crispy naan bread, and succulent kebabs. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?
If you’re a fan of Indian cuisine, then you’re probably already familiar with the art of tandoori cooking. But what exactly is a tandoor? A tandoor oven is basically a very large clay pit that holds a small fire fueled by slow-burning wood charcoal. The heat inside the tandoor oven is regulated by adjusting the amount of oxygen that enters or exits the pit.
Food cooked in a tandoor oven has a crispy exterior and a tender and juicy interior that’s bursting with flavor. It’s specifically designed to prepare South Asian dishes with a unique cooking style that produces flavors and textures that are delicious and more intense.
Where does the tandoor oven come from?
But what about the origins of the tandoor oven?
The tandoor oven has a long history dating back to ancient times in the Indian subcontinent. At a time when people used to cook over open fires, it was challenging to keep food warm for extended periods in the harsh winter.
To overcome this, the locals built a cylindrical clay oven, which was dug deep into the ground with a fire lit underneath. A clever way to keep food warm for longer, the tandoor oven quickly became a staple in Indian cuisine, with many regional variations and adaptations.
It gained even more popularity in the Mughal era. The Mughals, known for their lavish feasts, often featured tandoori dishes on their menus. Overtime, these tandoori dishes became more sophisticated with new spices and marinades making them a favorite among food lovers around the world.
What can you cook inside a tandoor oven?
Clay ovens are excellent for cooking a variety of meats and breads. Naan, in particular, cooks really 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 to get the same crispy exterior, and a light, fluffy center.
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, chicken tikka, paneer tikka, naan bread, and even veggies.
1. Tandoori chicken
Tandoori chicken is a popular Indian dish where chicken is marinated in yogurt, herbs and spices and cooked to perfection in a tandoor. The marinade tenderizes and flavors the chicken so it has a tasty succulent center as it cooks in its own juices. Tandoori chicken is delicious and filling and the smokey flavor that comes from the tandoor adds so much more depth to your meat.
2. Chicken tikka
To cook chicken tikka in a tandoor oven, start by marinating the chicken in a mixture of yogurt, spices, ginger-garlic paste, and lemon juice. Skewer the marinated chicken chunks and place them inside a preheated tandoor oven until they’re done. A delicious recipe perfect for all chicken lovers!
3. Paneer tikka
Marinate thick cubes of cottage cheese or paneer in a blend of spices, yogurt, and ginger-garlic paste. Cook them in a tandoor oven to give them that charred, smokey effect and serve with crispy naan bread and a sweet-and-sour chutney!
4. Naan bread
Make the dough so it has a gummy consistency without actually sticking to your hands. Divide the dough into small balls and roll them out into thin, oval shapes. Place the naan bread onto the preheated walls of the tandoor oven and let it cook until it puffs up and becomes golden brown.