Tandoor Ovens: What You Need to Know
Tandoor ovens elevate any outdoor cooking experience, both for your household and whenever you have guests round.
From the mouthwatering aroma that accompanies the unique cooking process to the actual final flavour of your dishes, a tandoor oven will make you wonder what you were even doing with barbecues and grills before!
However, even though they’ve been around for almost 5,000 years, there are still many misconceptions surrounding tandoors, especially in Western countries (and no, tandoor isn’t the name of a recipe).
Let’s clarify them for you so that you can get the very best flavours and experience out of your new tandoor oven.
What is a tandoor oven?
Also known as tannour, a tandoor oven is a cylindrical cooking furnace made of clay or metal.
It’s traditionally used in Western, Central, Southern Asia and South Caucasian countries, but tandoors are now starting to pop up in Europe and more areas, too.
How does a tandoor oven work?
A tandoor oven uses firewood or charcoal as fuel, and it relies on convection, radiant heating, and smoking to cook the food.
This means that it’ll reach high temperatures and result in a distinctive smoky smell and flavour, but also that it’ll cook your food much faster than most methods.
What is the difference between tandoors and barbecues?
There are many differences between tandoors and barbecues, both as cooking methods and actual appliances.
A tandoor oven cooks food through a mixture of methods (convection, high heat, and smoke), whereas barbecuing involves lower indirect heat and smoke.
Another difference between a tandoor and a barbecue is that the latter is mainly used for meats, whereas you can cook a much wider variety of food in tandoor ovens, from bread to vegetables and meat too, of course. Plus, they also maintain your desired temperature for hours without requiring additional fuel, which makes them an eco-friendlier option and much more practical for garden parties and events.
What are tandoors made from?
Tandoors can be made from either clay or metal like stainless steel. Clay and ceramic tandoor ovens are obviously more traditional as that’s the material that’s been used for millennia, whereas metal is a cheaper and more contemporary alternative.
Which tandoor is best: metal or clay?
Between metal and clay, the latter is definitely the best option for tandoor ovens.
This is because clay does a much better job of retaining heat, and these ovens ensure superior flavours and scents. After all, if something has been used for almost 5,000 years, that’s a pretty good indicator of its effectiveness!
Needless to say, they’re also more aesthetically pleasing: as well as a functional choice, handcrafted clay ovens are a decorative statement for any garden since each of them has its own character and motifs.
We use chamotte clay and crushed stones to improve heat retention even further. This material is more resistant to pressure, heat, and chemical attack, which results in a more reliable and durable oven that will last you for a lifetime.
Metal options, however, are still an upgrade from traditional barbecues, but we typically recommend them if your main concern is budget or indoor use, rather than superior quality.
How to cook in a tandoor oven: 4 steps
Another benefit of these bad boys is that cooking in a tandoor oven is ridiculously easy.
The most important part is simply the preparation: for the best results, the trick is to maintain a fire for around 50 minutes before you actually begin cooking. You basically want it to die down to coals in order to keep the temperature consistent while cooking food.
Here are the key steps to cook in a tandoor oven:
Remove the lid, add some kindling, and light the fire
Add fuel without killing your existing fire, and keep it going until it’s around ¾ burnt in
Add roughly the same amount of fuel and wait until the same happens
Add a final and bigger load, then wait until all your fuel turns into embers. Overall, these steps should take just under an hour
What to do when lighting a tandoor oven for the first time
It’s important to light your tandoor oven correctly the very first time, as it’ll need priming before you start using it to cook food: that way, it’ll expand in a slow and controlled manner without creating any large cracks.
Keep in mind that hairline cracks under 1mm are completely normal, and they’ll become almost invisible once your tandoor oven has cooled down.
To prime it, create a smaller fire using lighters rather than fire briquettes and maintain it for at least an hour, leaving the lid off and the side vent open. If you can, however, we recommend doing this for around four. Either way, don’t cook anything in it when you light your tandoor oven for the first time.
5 top tandoor recipes to impress your guests
There’s a large variety of recipes that you can cook in your new tandoor oven, but here are some timeless staples to get you started.
Naan bread tandoor recipe - You’ll never go back to cooking naan bread with any other method once you’ve experienced the way it tastes in a tandoor oven! This simple but flavourful recipe is also a handy starting point for many more dishes as you can serve them with naan bread as a side.
Tandoori lamb seekh kebab - Served on skewers, this kebab recipe can be both a hearty meal for your family or a great sharing idea for your garden parties.
Tandoori chicken murgh - Directly from Northern India, this chicken recipe is a real crowd-pleaser. Cooking it in a tandoor oven will also result in a smokier flavour and scent that will add to the overall experience.
Tandoori roast beef - This recipe takes Sunday roasts to a whole new level, adding an exotic twist to your beef dishes.
Tandoori Paneer Tikka Kebabs - As we said before, tandoor ovens aren’t only for meat. If you were hoping for a vegetarian alternative, you’re definitely going to love this veg-filled recipe.
FAQs on tandoor ovens
Just in case you have a few more questions, we thought we’d cover those we receive the most.
Can I use charcoal as fuel?
Yes, you can certainly use charcoal as fuel for your tandoor oven. However, relying on charcoal alone would make the preparation a bit longer. That’s why we recommend adding it to the last load of fuel alone: that way, it’ll even help you prolong its higher temperature.
Can naan bread be cooked in a tandoor?
Absolutely! Not only can naan bread be cooked in a tandoor, but it’s one of the most popular food items for these ovens. If you’ve missed it, here’s our naan bread recipe.
How does bread stick to tandoors?
When cooking bread in a tandoor oven, you must stick the dough to its inner walls, which is completely different from most cooking methods.
Here’s what it’ll look like:
What can be cooked in a tandoor?
The question should be… what can not be cooked in a tandoor! You can use your tandoor oven to cook meat (chicken, beef, lamb…), fish, vegetables (especially onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, or peppers), Indian paneer, and different types of bread, just to name a few.
What cooking temperatures and times are required with a tandoor oven?
The cooking temperatures required with a tandoor oven are higher than with barbecues. While it really depends on what you’re cooking, 350°C is a great starting point for meat.
As for timing, don’t forget that you’ll need to pre-heat your tandoor for around 50 minutes before you actually start cooking. Once that’s out of the way, the cooking time will be much shorter than with most methods thanks to the higher temperature: an average of 5-20 minutes in most cases.
For example, chicken kebabs and other types of white meat will take around 10-15 minutes at 350°C, while red meat will only need 250°C if chopped. An entire leg of lamb, on the other hand, should take you just under an hour at 400°C.
How hot do tandoors get?
Tandoors get much hotter than barbecues: they can reach 480°C, but you might not need such a high temperature for your specific recipe, so be sure to check the recommended ones depending on what you’re planning on cooking.
How do you clean a tandoor oven?
To clean your tandoor oven once you’ve finished cooking, let it cool off by closing its lid and side vent (don’t use water, or you’ll damage its insides!) and then sweep off the ashes through the vent.
Other than that, we recommend deep cleaning it after around five uses, but without any commercial cleaning products as they could ruin the inner clay lining.
Instead, just prepare a solution of lukewarm water and salt (around one tablespoon per litre) and apply it with a cloth or sponge, squeezing all excess water beforehand as you don’t want to make your tandoor oven too wet.
Discover the delights of cooking in a tandoor
Tandoors turn outdoor dining into an experience the whole family can enjoy. With a tandoor, you can take your love of bbq food to the next level. With highly appetising smells and unmatched flavours, cooking on a tandoor results in a taste sensation.
Browse our range
Lovingly crafted from chamotte clay, our tandoor ovens are a premium and durable choice that will delight your family for many years.
They’re available in a wide variety of styles and sizes, making it a breeze to match your household’s needs, budget, and even your outdoor decor.
View our handcrafted tandoor ovens
A bit about us
Our team have a deep-rooted passion for cooking outdoors and have been pursuing the finest garden dining experiences for many years. We adamantly believe that time spent with friends and family enjoying fine weather outside is perfected by the inclusive dining experience that tandoor ovens deliver. It's this belief that drives us to source and continually expand our unparalleled range of luxury ovens. We hope that you too can enjoy many hours huddled around your tandoor oven, savouring the mouth-watering aromas with the people you care about.