What is a Tandoor?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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Generally associated with Indian cuisine, a tandoor is a type of clay oven used in many Middle Eastern and South Asian countries for baking or other types of cooking. It is a cylindrical oven that has been in use for centuries; a tandoor is usually either wood fired or coal fired, and it is often left lit for several hours, or even days, to maintain the very high temperatures the tandoor can reach. The tandoor is usually used to cook meats such as chicken, but it is also used to cook certain breads such as lavash and naan.The word tandoori means "pertaining to the tandoor oven," so many dishes are labeled tandoori.

Perhaps the most popular dish made in the tandoor, tandoori chicken is made by coating chicken pieces in yogurt and spices, then placing the pieces on skewers. The skewers are in turn placed inside the tandoor oven to be cooked at very high temperatures. While this dish can be prepared in a regular oven, tandoori chicken is best cooked in a tandoor to maintain the high temperature. The chicken pieces often have a red appearance from the cayenne pepper and other spices in the coating. The dish is served with onions and lemon. Other meats, such as lamb, beef, and fish can also be cooked in a tandoori oven.


Breads such as naan and lavash are made by kneading dough, letting it rise, then shaping it into balls or flat sections that are slapped against the sides of the oven. Such breads can be accented with spices such as onion or garlic, as well as raisins. Breads cook quickly in this type of oven because of the high temperatures, so large batches of the bread can be made quickly and easily.

This cylindrical oven reaches such high temperatures by utilizing several heat sources: an open fire at the bottom of the cylinder exposes food to flames, and as the heat from the flames rise, it radiates around the open-air oven to further cook the food. The clay sides of the oven also heat up, providing even heat sources that cook the foods thoroughly and relatively quickly. The top of the tandoori oven is open, and the sides of the opening are often curved. The oven itself can be quite small or very large, but in restaurants, the oven usually stands about chest-high to shoulder-high.


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Post 2

I once thought it would be interesting to have a tandoor oven installed in my "dream kitchen", but it looks like it would be a challenge to maintain. I wouldn't cook enough tandoori dishes to make it worthwhle. It would be like owning a commercial pizza oven, since they both require a lot of work to stay as hot as they do. I think I'll just stick to an occasional visit to an Indian restaurant and let the professionals handle it.

Post 1

I love just about any food that comes out of a tandoor oven. The first meal I ever ordered at an Indian restaurant was tandoori chicken. I thought it would be extremely spicy because of the red color, but it was actually pretty mild. The waiter took some time to explain how a tandoor clay oven worked. He said foods cook much faster because of the high heat, but they don't become dried out because the cook knows when to remove them.

The naan bread served as a side dish was also baked in a tandoor, and it was delicious. I couldn't believe they just slapped the dough against the side of a super hot oven like that.

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