Tandoori Chicken is probably one the most loved Pakistani BBQ items. I remember those late summer nights back in Pakistan when my dinner was only a good juicy tandoori chicken from Ambala foods. I would wait in the car outside the storefront with my sisters and watch the guy in his sweaty kurta effortlessly flip the birds on the grill often with tongs, but sometimes with his bare hands. The hot to-go container exudes that strong, charred smell mingled with the most aromatic blend of Pakistani spices that instantly makes your mouth water. It hits your nostrils so hard you almost start crying. OK, maybe not. But you know where I’m headed, don’t you?
Now I’m 8000 miles away trying to replicate those flavors and smells of those nights back home when dinner was a family affair and meals were always taken at the table. Now I chow down everything right at the counter. But let me tell you I come so darn close to the restaurant-quality tandoori chicken that my brother (and yes, yet again I’m treating my brother’s word like it’s the holy word) said that I outdid myself with the roast! And because I make it in the oven, I’m not wasting time getting a grill going (I’d love to only if I had one). I give this Tandoori Chicken that smoky punch that we know a good tandoori chicken must have by placing a lit charcoal in the center of large pan, surrounding it with the oven-baked chicken, and finally “anointing” that coal with some vegetable oil. This is where the magic happens. As soon as the trickle of oil hits the burning coal, the smoke that materializes will seep into the chicken. So, pop the lid on and let the smoke penetrate and flavor the chicken. This Tandoori chicken with my Seekh Kebab is a duo that cannot be beat!
Tandoori Chicken Recipe
- 6 Chicken Leg Quarters
Tandoori Chicken Marinade
- 3 tsp red chilli powder
- 4 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 3/4 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp chickpea/gram flour
- 2 tbsp ginger and garlic paste
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 4 tbsp lemon juice approx. juice of half a lemon
For the Smoke
- 1 charcoal
- 1-2 tbsp oil
- Wash and pat dry the chicken really well. With a knife make cuts on the surface of the chicken at an angle.
- Mix together all the marinade ingredients. Rub the marinade onto the chicken working it into the slits.
- Cover with foil and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight is best).
- When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
- Line a baking tray with foil and grease it with a little oil. Place your chicken face up on the foil and bake at 425 F for 15 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 400 and let the chicken bake for another 30 minutes flipping once during the baking time. (At this point you will not need to brush it with oil because unlike the open grill on which the chicken does not steam, the oven creates a lot of steam so the chicken will cook in its own juices. We're basically waiting for the juices to fully evaporate.)
- To create the charred texture, place the grill on the top rack and turn on the broiler. Let the chicken broil for 10-15 minutes (flipping once). If you don't have the broiler option, just put the grill on the top rack and turn up the temperature to the highest setting on your oven. At this point you should notice the chicken start to crisp up so brush it will a little oil if needed. (Although it's a little dangerous, but I try to hold up the chicken to the flame of the oven to get the black spots on the chicken but don't do this please!)
- Total baking time is around 60 minutes.
- Final step is to smoke the chicken. For this, light up a charcoal on the stove. Nestle the lit coal in a foil blanket.
- Next place the foil in the center of a large pan. Carefully place the chicken leg quarters around the coal.
- Next, pour a little oil (about a 2-3 tbsp) right on top of the burning coal.
- The smoke would release instantly. Pop the lid on and let the chicken smoke for 5-10 minutes. You are not turning on the stove at all, just smoking the chicken.
- Serve with my Coriander and Mint Raita and serve hot!