In love with smoky tandoori chicken and missing it badly off late? Then you have come to the right place where you and I will create the best ever tandoori chicken and that too within the comfort of our home!
Tandoori chicken is a timeless classic of Indian cuisine and is loved by all chicken lovers thanks to its mind-blowing smoky flavors! I can undoubtedly declare that tandoori chicken is the most ordered dish in any Indian restaurant across India as we Indians just can’t get enough of it! Tandoori chicken must have been around since ages and have only become better with each passing day!
If you are as much in love with tandoori chicken as us, then you must already have one favorite restaurant whose special chicken tandoori has taken your heart away and you are already in their frequent guest list! But with the current locked down situation kicking in & getting prolonged, we can hardly eat out, right? And that’s exactly where this fail-proof recipe of tandoori chicken comes in handy!
Ideally, tandoori chicken or any tandoori dish is made in a large clay oven at a very high heat using charcoal or wood. Charcoal or wood adds the smokiness to chicken making it so irresistible. You can recreate the similar smokiness at home by using a small piece of charcoal. After your chicken marination is complete, simply heat up the charcoal over an open flame until it smokes.
Then put it into a small bowl and carefully place the bowl with charcoal at the center of your bowl of marinated chicken. Drizzle ghee over the hot charcoal which will produce heavy & thick smoke almost instantly. Cover the bowl of chicken with a large plate or bowl making sure that the smoke doesn’t escape. Leave it for 10 minutes at countertop to let the chicken get infused with charry smokiness.
Tandoori chicken is distinctly different from any other chicken kabab thanks to its vibrant red color. Also, the spices play a major role in getting the smokiness right. Chicken is marinated using a thick yogurt based marinate which is loaded with immense flavor from all quintessential Indian spices. Make sure to use hung curd in your marinade, else too much water in curd will dilute the spice blend and lead to loss of flavors.
To make hung curd, take a clean thin cloth, preferably muslin or cheesecloth and transfer the curd to the cloth. Then gather all 4 ends of the cloth at the center and tie a knot. Now hang this cloth pack at a convenient place e.g. on the tap over kitchen sink and let the excess water drip off. Leave it for 4 to 5 hours and you will end up with the thickest & creamiest curd ever!
You may start being skeptical about making tandoori chicken at home as it may seem too much effort. But trust me, once you have your hung curd sorted, your battle is half won! Yes, making this hung curd calls for some bit of planning; after all any good thing requires some amount of effort, isn’t it? And this is not only good but the best tandoori chicken that you will reward yourself with!
The thick & creamy hung curd has double action – it tenderizes the chicken during the marination time, plus due its thickness, it binds all the spices together enabling them to adhere to the chicken pieces. Ensuring that the spices remain stuck to the chicken is very important as that will infuse the meat during grilling process and help penetrate the flavors deep inside!
Now let’s focus at the chicken. Let’s figure out which pieces of chicken are best suited for tandoor. In any restaurant, tandoori chicken is sold by full portion or half. Full portion serves the full bird whereas half portion serves half the bird. One issue I have personally felt with store-bought tandoori chicken is that their breast pieces turn out extremely dry and sometimes very tasteless.
This happens due to high heat of their commercial oven which sucks out all the moisture from the lean & fatless chicken breasts leaving them awfully dry and unappetizing! You can easily overcome this issue when you make your own homemade customized tandoori chicken! It’s pretty simple – don’t use chicken breast for tandoori chicken! Use the dark meat instead i.e. chicken drumsticks & thighs.
Drumsticks & thighs are best suited for tandoori cooking thanks to their high fat content which is why they never turn dry & hard. Plus, unlike chicken breasts, flavor penetrates easily into these portions of chicken through all the nooks & crannies. Traditionally tandoori chicken is made using skinless chicken pieces and I have used the same here. But if you like some crispy skin, you can use skin-on chicken too; just make some incisions over the meaty part of the chicken drumsticks.
You will also notice that I have used red food color in my recipe and that’s only to replicate the restaurant style tandoori chicken as without that vibrant red color, you won’t get that feel! But yes, the use of color is entirely optional; feel free to leave it out; your tandoori chicken will still turn out to be exceptionally delish! Enjoy!
- Chicken drumsticks – 4, bone-in & skinless
- Chicken thighs – 4, bone-in & skinless
- Kashmiri red chilli powder – 2 tbsp
- Lemon – 1
- Oil – 2 tbsp
- Ginger paste – 1 tbsp
- Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
- Hung curd/Greek yogurt – ½ cup
- Kashmiri red chilli powder – 2 tbsp
- Kasoori methi (Dry fenugreen leaves) – 1 tbsp
- Garam masala – 2 tsp
- Roasted cumin powder – 2 tsp
- Coriander powder – 2 tbsp
- Vegetable oil – 4 tbsp
- Red food color (optional) – 4 to 6 drops (but totally depends on the texture and quality of the color you are using, hence use with caution)
- Salt to taste
- Chat masala – ½ tsp
- Oil or melted butter for basting
- To make hung yogurt, tie the plain yogurt in a muslin cloth and hang it over a bowl or kitchen sink for 2 to 3 hours so that all the water drips out and you are only left with the thick yogurt.
- Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces thoroughly so that no moisture is left. Make multiple incisions on them so that the marinade can go deep inside.
- There are two marinates for this recipe. Prepare the first marinade by mixing together 2 tablespoons of Kashmiri red chilli powder, juice of 1 lemon, ginger-garlic paste and 2 tablepoons of oil.
- Massage this marinate into the chicken pieces making sure to go deep inside the incisions you had made. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Prepare the second marinate in the meantime with the ingredients listed under Tandoori marinade. In a bowl, combine the hung yogurt, chilli powder, roasted cumin powder, coriander powder, garam masala, kasoori methi, oil and salt to taste and whisk thoroughly so that all the spices blend well. Finally add the red food color and give a vigorous mix since it takes time to mix food color thoroughly.
- Take the chicken legs out of the first marinate after 30 minutes. Now rub the second marinade on them again making sure that it goes inside the incisions. Coat all the pieces with a thick layer of marinade. Cover with a cling film and keep inside the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight (8 to 12 hours).
- Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and place a grill rack on top of the baking tray. Place the marinated chicken on this grill rack.
- Now place this grill rack with the chicken at the middle level of the oven and place the lined baking tray below to catch all the drips. Bake the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes. Then take the grill rack out, turn the chicken over and broil for another 35 to 40 minutes or until the chicken is all cooked through. Keep checking after every 15 minutes since it may take less time if you are using lesser quantity.
- Baste them with oil or melted butter after every 10 minutes. You can’t skip the basting as it would prevent the chicken from turning dry. [You can even grill the chicken on an outdoor grill on high heat for almost same duration.]
- After about 80 minutes, check if the chicken is done – there should not be any traces of pink and the juices should run clear and a toothpick could be inserted very smoothly without any resistance from meat. If you have a food thermometer, check if the temperature registers at least 165 F when inserted into the thickest part of the leg. If yes, your tandoori chicken is done!
- Move the grill rack with chicken at the top-most level of your oven and turn on the broil mode which is nothing but directing the heat from top as it gives the authentic charred effect to the chicken and adds some smokiness to it. Broil the chicken for 2 minutes each side always keeping an eye on them as it may burn pretty quickly.
- Take them out and let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Then sprinkle some chat masala on top and serve your yummy tandoori chicken with lemon wedges and coriander-mint chutney. Enjoy!