Building a tandoor oven

I do love Indian food, and in particular tandoori chicken, I set to work building a tandoor oven from terracotta flowerpots to cook it at home.

Tandoori chicken is essentially “chicken cooked in a tandoor oven”. A tandoor oven is (usually) a clay built, cylindrical oven, fired with charcoal, and these are used extensively throughout India and Pakistan Punjab region for cooking all sorts of breads and meats. They can reach extremely high temperatures – resulting in superbly tender food.

My plan was to use a large outer pot, with 2 inner pots on top of each other to create what is effectively a chimney above the hot coals. I bought several suitable pots and an angle grinder.

On with the build pics…

First I drilled holes in the bottom of the inner pot, for airflow
I chopped the top off what becomes the upper pot with an angle grinder
Chopped the inside out of another pot’s base to use as a riser
These anti-frost feet are useful for raising the large outer pot up for increased airflow
I bought this large terracotta pot for £25
Here’s the inner riser in the main pot
And the one I drilled all the holes in goes on top of that. The coals will sit in here.
Coming together now. The upper pot is rested on top – it overlaps the lower pot, for added stability.
I used vermiculite from a horticultural supplier as insulation to fill the outer void.
Here it is, complete with the lid on, and Howard for scale.
Side view
Put some lumpwood charcoal in and set light to it.
After about 45 minutes it looked ready to cook with
Yes I would say that’s hot enough!
I bought some proper tandoor skewers to cook the chicken with. They’re great as it’s so hot. I also made some naan bread and slapped those on the side, as is traditional. I was grinning like a cheshire cat at this stage!
This crack appeared during the first use, and was much wider before it cooled.
The only issue – this crack appeared during the first use, and was much wider before it cooled. Bit of a shame cosmetically but it seems fine. I’ve used it since without issue.

Overall this has been a great success and I urge you to build your own tandoor. It’s really not difficult or expensive to do – it cost me roughly £70 in materials, plus the skewers, which is a lot cheaper than the commercially available models which run into hundreds. If you build one, buy a cheap kettle BBQ cover to go over the top to keep the rain out, and to stop the wind blowing all your vermiculite away.

I have to say that homemade tandoori chicken is superb, and the naan breads too, all crispy and bubbling, but I do need more “bread slapping” practice to get them to stick without burning my hand!



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