Chicken lovers, Indian food sceptics gather round, each and everyone one of you.
This is not your ordinary plain, dry chicken. It’s also not an overly spicy and burn your tastebuds clean off type of chicken. What it is, is chicken that is packed full of delicious flavour with a subtle chilli hum, bright red colour and gnarly charred edges from the barbecue. It’s absolutely fantastic, and to be quite honest, ridiculously easy AND healthy.
What is Tandoori Sauce made of?
This is one of the most common questions on google, and we’re going to stop you right there. It’s not a sauce, but a marinade. Too very different things.
This marinade seems to vary from person to person, I guess each individual or family has their own way of doing it. But from what I’ve researched there are a few common ingredients between the lot; fresh garlic, fresh ginger, Kashmiri Chilli powder and of course yoghurt. The yoghurt used is usually “Hung Yoghurt”, which simply means yoghurt hung overnight (in the fridge) in muslin cloth to allow the liquids to drain, which makes the remaining “curd” quite thick. The rest of the ingredients seem to vary.
Kashmiri chilli powder is different from your bog standard midl chilli powder. It’s very subtle and has a fruity flavour to it. You can substitute in mild chilli powder for sure, but perhaps use a touch less – it really does depend on your spice tolerance though. However, it will not quite achieve the same taste. This recipe is created to not be too spicy. Kashmiri chilli powder can easily be bought online from many good, specialist food stores.
Our tandoori marinade mix contains the following ingredients:
- Greek Yoghurt (Not hung, but feel free to use hung)
- Fresh Garlic
- Fresh Ginger
- Tandoori Spice Mix
- Lemon Juice
- Kashmiri Chili Powder
What Makes Tandoori Chicken Red?
Historically the Kashmiri Chilli powder would turn the chicken slightly red. It’s a very vibrant chilli powder, with a bright red colour. If you haven’t seen it before I highly recommend you google it, or better yet order some. It’s only a couple quid a big jar. Trust me, you’ll use it.
However, and I’m going to disappoint some people here. The typical red colour of the chicken from the Indian restaurants is down mainly to red food colouring. Yes, I’m sorry, that’s really all it is. I am guessing, that the UK palate was not geared up for the amount of spice (Kashmiri Chilli) used in traditional Tandoori in India, and then compensated the lack of chilli powder by adding red food colouring to make it look more authentic. Even though it totally looks fake nowadays.
How can I cook tandoori chicken?
Another very common question. The traditional method of cooking Tandoori Chicken is in a Tandoor.
What is a Tandoor? A Tandoor is an Indian clay oven. It’s cylindrical in shape and often sunk into the earth. It’s filled with charcoal and allowed to burn for several hours to heat it. The meat is then skewered and stood vertically in the oven and due to the sheer heat of it, it cooks very fast. For more information on the Tandoor visit: thekitchn.
Not many people have access to a Tandoor. Although I’m very jealous of those who do! But, what most people in the UK do have access to is a Barbecue. A charcoal barbecue can get some gnarly charring on the chicken and add that smokey flavour to it. It’s not going to be exactly like cooking in the Tandoor, but it seriously good regardless.
When cooking on the barbecue, the most important part is to allow the coals to turn white before putting anything on the grill. The white coals are the hottest, and we need to be patient to ensure they can reach peak temperatures. If you can place your hand 1 inch above the hot coals for more than a second, they’re not hot enough. Also, the smoke given off when the coals are black is bitter “dirty” smoke, which should not get anywhere near your chicken.
Secondly, keep a close eye on them when they get on the grill. Find out where the hot spots are, moved the chicken in and out of the hot and cooler spots when pieces are cooking faster/slower than others. This is a very different way to cooking on the hob, and requires constant attention.
In my opinion, charring is essential here. It adds such depth of flavour, crispy texture and it looks awesome. Like, the real deal. Just allow them to char nicely on one side as best you can before flipping over – time is key. Let them do their thing. They may stick to the grill at this point, so use a good set of Barbecue specific tongs to help wiggle them off the grill and keep as much chicken intact as possible.
Barbeque Tandoori Chicken Video Tutorial
Barbecue Tandoori Chicken Recipe
Barbecued Tandoori Chicken
- Barbecue + coals + kindling etc..
- Mixing Bowl
- Grater (microplane grater is best)
- Sharpe Knife / Meat chopping board
- 4-6 Large Boneless and Skinless Chicken Thighs
- 150 g Greek Yoghurt if you can find hung yoghurt, that is more authentic
- 10 g Fresh Grated Garlic
- 10 g Fresh Grated Ginger
- 15 g Tandoori Spice 3-4 teaspoons
- 7 g Kashmiri Chilli Powder 1-2 teaspoons (if using mild chilli powder, use half)
- 40 ml Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1 tsp Red Food Colouring optional - only for looks not flavour.
- 2-3 g Salt
- Combine the yoghurt, tandoori spice, chilli powder, garlic, ginger, lemon, salt and red colour (if using) into a mixing bowl.
- Whisk to combine well.
- Using a sharpe knife trim the chicken of any extra gristle, fat or bones.
- Trim off any pieces that are not properly attached. Top Tip - these will be used as tandoori "popcorn" pieces.
- Using the knife, slice vertical lines into the chicken to allow the marinade to seep through.Note - Do not cut into the chicken more than 1-2mm.
- Leave the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes. Note - If you can, leave overnight. Note 2 - If you're strapped for time, place them right onto the grill instead of marinating. The flavour will still be there.
Cooking on the BBQ
- Get the BBQ very hot - allow the coals to turn white before placing anything on the grill.
- Cook the chicken for roughly 10-15 minutes turning 3 times throughout to get an even char. Close the lid in between to create a bit more heat to cook with.Top Tip - Turn the chicken 3 times. After the first turn brush with leftover marinade and then turn again brush this side with the remaining marinade and turn again. Just make sure each side is nicely cooked and charred before serving.
- Once the chicken is charred and crispy on the outside but cooked on the inside (internal temp ideally above 70C) take them off the BBQ.
- Serve immediately.We like to serve on Roti's with spinach, kachumber salad, mango chutney and a minted corriander yoghurt dressing.
- Trim the chicken thighs. They will come with extra fat and gristle, especially fi bought from the supermarket.
- Over flavour / season the yoghurt so the chicken can absorb it.
- Ensure the BBQ is very hot and has mainly white coals - black coals are not ready to cook with and can be too hot and give off "dirty" smoke. This type of smoke is bitter.
- Turn the chicken at least once during cooking. We recommend turning three times. So that is, cook for about 3-4 minutes each side twice. Between the first and second turns, brush on some of the leftover marinade and cook that off to really increase the flavour.
- Serve with you favourite India sides - we recommend Rotis, mango chutney, coriander mint yoghurt, kachumber salad and spinach.