The Story of Tandoor Clay Oven Cooking

Posted by fallback user
31 January, 2013
Category Watch it

Tandoor cooking began with the nomadic tribes in the Steppes of Central Asia and was brought to India by its Mughal rulers. Archaeologists have found tandoor remains dating from 2600 B.C. — about the same time as the building of the pyramids! Originally devised for baking bread, the high searing heat plus the moisture-retaining properties of the tandoor oven make it equally effective for cooking meat and fish. Today it has become one of the most popular cooking methods in India.

We consider ourselves pretty lucky to have learned the techniques of tandoor oven cooking from Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar of the famed Indian restaurant Benares in London. He was the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star and welcomed us into his kitchen to discover his traditions and learn more about this unique method of cooking. 

In spite of its ancient origins and utter simplicity, the tandoor produces startlingly sophisticated results and imparts delicious smoky flavours to ingredients with brilliantly succulent end results.

The tandoor cooking uses four distinct techniques. Direct heat rises from the charcoal, a process akin to grilling. The hot clay walls of the oven bake bread in a way similar to griddling or skillet-roasting. Radiant heat in the belly of the tandoor produces results similar to convection baking. And smoke, which occurs as the marinade and meat juices drip onto the hot coals, adds fragrance and flavour. But it’s more than just that – marinating is the key to developing exceptional flavour. Ingredients cooked in a tandoor are marinated, usually twice, in special aromatic yogurt marinades to flavour and tenderise. Some of these marinades have more than 30 ingredients in them! The marinated meat or fish are then threaded onto specially designed skewers, lowered into the tandoor oven and cooked at temperatures as high as 350°C. The meats cooked in a tandoor are generally moister and more tender than those cooked by any other method. In addition, they have a special earthy aroma absorbed from the clay lining of the oven. The end results are dishes packed with complex flavours you just can’t duplicate at home. 

We’ve installed authentic tandoor ovens at six of our restaurants, so you can sample this amazing method of cooking at The Restaurant Bar & Grill in Manchester, Harrogate, Leeds, Liverpool, Tunbridge Wells or Bank Westminster.