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The tandoor is used for cooking in Southern, Central and Western Asia. It is a deep centrical oven and is made of clay with some sort of insulating material like concrete or mud on the outside and often curve inward toward the top like a beehive or jug to concentrate the heat. A top opening is left clear to allow access and ventilation. A fire is built on the bottom, which heats both the walls of the oven and the air inside to upwards of 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Before cooking, the fire is allowed to die down to coals so that the temperature remains consistent while food is cooked. The temperature inside of a tandoor can be as high as 450 degrees when cooking. That’s a hot oven!
OK…no tandoor here. But the charcoal BBQ grill is a close second. Even better if you are lucky enough to own a Big Green Egg. I’m not, so my Weber had to work, for now. It did a fine job. If you don’t have a charcoal grill, use your gas grill. Either way, set it up for indirect heat.
Tandoori Chicken is a wonderful combination of rich spices, marinated in whole milk yogurt with some acidic lemon juice. Here is one place where you want to use REAL full fat, full milk plain yogurt. I didn’t realize how hard it was to find full-fat whole milk yogurt anymore. There was only one brand being offered in the store along with a wide array of low-fat, non-fat, Greek, flavored and every other imaginable yogurt. I remember when that was total opposite!
So you are going to start off with some bone-in chicken. I like to remove the skin as I find I not only don’t need the extra fat and calories but removing it allows the marinade to soak in better and flavor the meat. You need to make deep slashes in the meat, almost but not quite to the bone. Slash the meat about at 1 – 2-inch intervals.
Tandoori Chicken is often bright red in color. This is done by either using annatto or red food dye. I didn’t have any annatto and prefer not to put dye into my food, so it’s just the yellowish color of the spices, and then nice and brown when cooked. It looks and tastes just fine and dandy to me.
In a small sauté pan, heat the oil, add the garam masala, paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne, cook for about 2 - 3 minutes or until fragrant. Allow to cool completely.Once cooled add to the yogurt along with the lemon juice, garlic, ginger, and salt. Mix well.
Cut 2 to 3 deep slashes (just to the bone) in the chicken pieces. Place in a deep dish or zip top bag. Pour the marinade over and using clean hands coat the pieces well, making sure you work it into the slits. Cover (or close the bag) and marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours at least (best about 5 or 6) but not longer masala 8 (the acid in the marinade will soften the meat, and you don't want it too soft).
Prepare your grill for indirect heat. Oil your gratesRemove the chicken pieces from the marinade shaking off any excess, you want the chicken well coated, but not overly gloppy. Place the chicken on the grill where there is no fire. Cover and cook, turning once or twice, for 25 - 30 minutes, depending on the size of your pieces, the chicken is cooked once the juices run clear. Move the chicken over the coal, or fire, and cook for a few more minutes until nicely charred.
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