I’m a big fan of Indian food. I grew up on it so it’s in my blood. Homestyle Indian, mind you. Not what you get in restaurants. Tandoori chicken was always going on. It’s the Indian equivalent of a backyard barbecue.
That’s why I don’t understand why it’s never very good in restaurants. My parents had a backyard grill. Restaurants have a tandoor oven. They should win. Makes no sense.
Maybe it’s because my parents cooked over charcoal. Maybe it’s a happy filter I put on my childhood. I don’t know. But I do know I can make better tandoori chicken at home and so can you.
Charcoal grills help a lot. It will work with gas but it won’t have that charcoal magic to push it over the top. I know. I’m annoying on this subject. But I just love the taste of anything cooked over charcoal. And this tandoori chicken is no exception.
There’s a lot of ingredients in the marinade. Don’t let that put you off. If you are getting into cooking Indian you will need all of them anyway. And you can leave one or two out if you can’t get them easily. It will still work. Still delicious.
Don’t use acidic ingredients for long marinates. Yoghurt and lemon are great for short marinations. If you use them for more than an hour or two you get mushy chicken. You have no hope if you put chicken in lemon for 24 hours. This is where I think the restaurants are falling down.
I was actually in India when I figured this out. I was at a tandoori kebab restaurant and loved what I was eating. So I started asking questions. They told me they didn’t use yoghurt in the marinade. That’s when the light came on for me. No yoghurt. No mushy chicken.
Grilling technique matters here. Cook over indirect heat until your chicken is almost done. Move it over to direct heat to get a bit of char right at the end.
Start your thighs 5-10 minutes before the white meat and drumsticks. You don’t want to overcook the more delicate pieces before the thighs are done.
That’s pretty much it. Marinate. Grill. Enjoy.
- 1 3-4 lb chicken
- tandoori marinade - recipe link below
- Cut the chicken into 10 pieces. Quarter the chicken. Cut the drumstick from the thigh. Cut the wings off the breasts. Halve the breasts. Remove the skin from the breasts, drumsticks and thighs. Leave the skin on the wings.
- Combine tandoori marinade with chicken. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.
- Light your grill. Build a two zone fire if using charcoal. Turn one burner to high and another to low if using gas.
- Remove chicken from marinade.
- Grill the chicken over indirect heat until almost done - around 20-25 minutes. This depends on how hot your grill is so use your instant read thermometer and cook to about 155F.
- Brush with a bit of oil or ghee.
- Move the chicken over direct (high) heat and grill an additional 2-4 minutes, turning every minute. You want a bit of char but you don't want it to burn or dry out.
The recipe for tandoori marinade can be found here.