Tandoori chicken

Tandoori chicken

Ben's BBQ Bible
Billy Law

Tandoori chicken has got to be one of the most instantly recognisable Indian dishes. The famously smoky marinated chicken is traditionally cooked in a terracotta tandoor oven over a charcoal fire.

The history of tandoor ovens reaches back over several thousands of years to Punjab in Pakistan. They are amazing ovens and can reach extreme temperatures. The high heat seals in the flavour and moisture, and imparts a lovely smokiness. Often the meat has a red appearance with touches of black, caused by the intense heat. The red is generally due to the use of red chillies in the marinade, although nowadays annatto, a red food colour, is added.

Tandoori chicken is traditionally served with sliced onion and lemon wedges, and also goes well with Spiced red bean salad.


Quantity Ingredient
1.5kg chicken, skinned and washed
1 lemon, juiced
1cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Red marinade

Quantity Ingredient
500g greek-style yoghurt
5 garlic cloves, crushed
3cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
3 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons lime juice
100g red chilli paste
1 teaspoon salt


  1. Make deep cuts into the breast and thighs of the chicken, keeping the bird whole. Alternatively, you could cut through the backbone and flatten the bird with your hands.
  2. Rub the chicken with the lemon juice, ginger, garlic and salt. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  3. Combine the red marinade ingredients in a bowl. Coat the chicken with the marinade, then cover and refrigerate for a further 2 hours.
  4. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.
  5. Prepare your barbecue for indirect cooking over a high heat. Place the chicken away from the coals with a tray underneath the meat. Add ½ cup of pre-soaked woodchips to the coals and when they start to smoke, place the lid on the barbecue.
  6. If using a gas barbecue, light the outer gas burners. Heat some pre-soaked woodchips in a smoke box prior to adding the chicken with the gas on high; when the woodchips start to smoke, turn the heat down, place the chicken on the grill racks between the gas burners and cook on a high heat.
  7. Cook the chicken for 45–50 minutes. Maintain the heat at medium–high after the initial hot start, with the addition of a few extra coals to either side if you’re using charcoal.
  8. To serve, simply joint the chicken into four pieces.
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