While studying culinary arts at the CIA, one of the courses concentrated on international cuisines. We would spend a day or two exploring different cuisines for two weeks. One day was spent making kimchi while the next was spent making fresh pasta. On one of the days, we gathered outside and watched the chef make naan in a tandoor clay oven. I remember how easy he made it look, slapping the dough on the side of the oven, watching the naan puff up on a matter of seconds. It was then that I truly started to appreciate Indian food.
That same oven is used to make one of my favorite dishes, tandoori chicken. Unfortunately, I don’t own such special equipment and have thus, turned to using my grill. Either way, the chicken comes out juicy, well spiced and delicious. Pair it with saffron rice and spicy cauliflower with tomatoes for one outstanding meal!
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp sweet paprika
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp coriander
- 1 tsp garam marsala
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp ginger, minced
- 4 whole chicken legs (drumstick and thigh or 8 drumsticks)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non stick saute pan over medium heat. Add spices from paprika - cayenne and toast for 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Mix together with yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and ginger.
- Cut deep slits in chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Pour marinade on chicken, turning to coat. Cover and marinade for at least 3 hours or overnight.
- Preheat grill to high heat. Remove chicken from marinade, shaking off excess. Lay on grill and cover. Cook for 2 minutes or until grill marks form. Flip chicken over and cook another 2 minutes. If chicken is stuck to grill, leave for another minute before turning over.
- Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook chicken for another 30 minutes or until juices run clear. Remove chicken from grill and let rest 5 minutes. Serve.
- Alternatively, if using a broiler, heat to high. Cook chicken until slightly charred. Finish cooking in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until juices run clear.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Tandoori chicken, unlike Indian curries and sauces, comes together quickly. Simply marinate the chicken overnight and cook the following day. Tandoori chicken typically uses skinless dark meat to produce juicy meat. I used drumsticks but you can also use thighs.
Tandoori chicken is typically a fiery red color from the paprika and chili spices used in the marinade. I decided to go easier on the chili and heavier on the turmeric for a milder version. I love spicy food but after trying this version at an Indian restaurant, I changed my ways.
When marinating the chicken, cut slits in the meat to allow the marinade to penetrate all the way. I kept the skin on my chicken but if you want to go the healthier more traditional way, remove before marinating.
Tandoor ovens have high heat, so to replicate the same heat source, a grill or broiler is the best option. Whenever chicken or red meat are cooked bone-in, the meat takes much longer to cook. To make sure the chicken doesn’t get burned, cook them in the cooler side of the grill. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until juices run clear. It is important to leave the chicken be rather than constantly flip it during the 30 minutes. This allows the heat to stay trapped inside the grill and helps produce the juiciest meat.
I enjoyed this dish with a side of saffron rice and braised cauliflower with tomatoes and spinach. The grilled tandoori chicken was well seasoned, moist and had just the right amount of spice. If you want to go an extra step, serve with raita or a mango chutney. De-licious!
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.