Get the Tandoori Taste in your Own Backyard

The Tandoori style of cooking originated in Pakistan and Punjab, but is used all across the Middle East and central Asia - it is a distant cousin of the BBQ pit and familiar to millions (if not billions).

Traditionally it is a cylindrical clay lined oven 5 feet deep and of 2 feet diameter, at the top there is a neck hole of 1 foot diameter. The whole thing is sunk into the ground.

A charcoal or wood fire is lit in the bottom, and food is placed through the neck on long skewers to be cooked at high temperature (over 400C/750F).

tandoori on your BBQ?

Above: shami kebab(?), chicken pieces, possibly lamb in the foil. check out the naan bread stuck on the side of the oven.

Build Your Own Tandoor Oven

In short read this kindle book on how to build a tandoor oven from a 55 gallon oil drum.

I have seen this done before. I knew a guy back in the nineties who did this exact thing, he even put casters on it to move it around when it was needed and spray painted flames up the side.

A home built version works just as well as anything you can buy and for a fraction of the price.

The kindle book gets a few great reviews, a describes the process this author went through very well.

Go all the way and buy a Tandoor oven

And why not?

If building a traditional oven sounds like a hassle, which it does to me, smaller portable versions can be bought for home use. These will give practically identical results and open up a whole new way of cooking.

Several companies company exports these ovens to the West. They consist of an 18" high stainless steel case on wheels, which contains a clay pot. The opening at the top is 10", so a reasonable amount can be made at once for a meal or party.

Prices are of the same order as smokers or gas grills. Here is a manufacturers site with more info on various tandoor ovens suitable for home use.

How to cook Tandoori food in your backyard

What sets it apart is the heat and speed with which food is cooked.

This is due to the evenly distributed high temperature, but also because it is placed on metal skewers which also conduct heat to the inside as well.

Bigger items, like a leg of lamb or a whole chicken will require the indirect grilling method, using a grill with a lid.

Better still are the Kamado style barbecues, such as the Big Green Egg, which can be made to reach very high temperatures like real tandoor ovens (of which they are a distant relative).

In such an oven - see below - an entire chicken can be cooked in 30 minutes, a leg of lamb in an hour or so. Remember it doesn't need to be barbecued long and slow, because you don't need it to "pull" apart like pulled pork or chicken.

What to cook

Start by getting yourself a good recipe or two.

Food is generally prepared by marinating it for hours or even days to tenderize and flavor it prior to cooking.

Tandoori food that can be cooked on a barbecue includes:

  • kebabs - try shami kebab
  • Vegetables
  • Homemade paneer cheese kebabs (very easy to make)
  • Lamb - chops, whole leg or other cuts
  • Whole chicken in thickly covered in tikka marinade
  • and my favorite chicken tikka made from legs, wings or breast meat.

Serve food with salad, plain yogurt and rolled up in a naan bread or roti (which can also be cooked in the oven).

Suggested menu

Here's a couple of ideas:

Any kind of kebabs, shami or pieces of chicken tikka say can be served in a naan bread with crunchy shredded cabbage and chilli sauce or raita.

Make raita by mixing plain yoghurt and lots of chopped mint, and possibly diced cucumber.

If you try a whole chicken or leg of lamb, slice or chop the meat and serve it with a side dish of rice flavored with lemon.


Tandoori style cooking as seen in countless restaurants, has been a favorite in the UK and elsewhere for years.

Trying it for myself at home was a revelation to me - the color and flavor is just so striking, but it requires no more (maybe less) effort than the majority of the traditional American BBQ cuisine.

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