Tandoori Chicken in a Charcoal BBQ

30 Nov

Earlier this fall I made some delicious tandoori-style chicken for an Indian-themed dinner party. This may be the best-tasting chicken I’ve cooked in a long time.

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I figured, I have a kamado-style ceramic-walled charcoal grill / smoker that can easily get up to 700 degrees F (which I’ve used to make pizza in the past)– there must be some way to use this as an approximation of a tandoor. I did some reading, and as often seems to be the case, there was an article by Kenji on Serious Eats on this very idea.

The keys seemed to be thigh meat (delicious, doesn’t dry out as easily if the temperature gets a bit high), heavy use of a thick yogurt-based marinade (continues to shield the surface and provide moisture), and fast cooking in a hot-on-all-sides grill/oven, above open fire that can give it some char.

For twelve people (as part of a feast with many other dishes), I made about 5 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

The marinade:

Grind these spices together:

  • A few spices toasted in a skillet for 1-2 minutes:
    • 4 T cumin
    • 4 T smoked paprika
    • 2 T “extra bold Indian coriander seed”
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 T achiote powder

Add:

  • 16 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 T ginger (microplaned)
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups yogurt
  • 1/2 cup(!) salt

The marination:

I slashed the surfaces of the chicken thighs deeply with a knife (to make it easier for marinade to penetrate), and marinating them in the fridge for about four hours:

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The tandoor:

I started a fire in the grill/smoker about an hour before cooking, to give it time to burn down the coals and heat up the entire chamber, I had the grill temperature stable around 600-650 degrees by the time I was ready to cook. The chicken did end up sticking a bit– I could have better-oiled the grill.

I pulled the chicken out of the fridge 15 minutes before cooking to let it warm up a bit, then put the skewers (still dripping with the thick yogurt sauce) on the grill and lowered the top so they’d cook from all sides…

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At this high temperature, they only took about 12 minutes to cook (I flipped them after 7 minutes, then checked the appearance and internal temperature a few times after that– looking for about 165 degrees for these thighs). Beautiful!

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With such a short cooking time, some of the tangy spiced yogurt was still moist on the outside of the chicken– different from what I’m used to in restaurants, but delicious– and the chicken thighs hadn’t dried out at all.

We served this with a pile of lemon wedges and fresh cilantro, alongside freshly-made garlic naan, saag paneer by H with homemade paneer, deep-friend pakoras, and multiple types of daal and homemade chutneys– a great evening eating outdoors with friends…

One Response to “Tandoori Chicken in a Charcoal BBQ”

  1. Kristen Grace November 30, 2019 at 2:39 pm #

    Just imagining this with some naan is enough to make me drool…

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