Walk into any authentic Indian Restaurant, and you are bound to find a tandoor. These ovens are used for cooking all sorts of things, from grilled meats to delicious and fluffy naan bread. Want the good news? You can get a similar effect at home. How? With a mini tandoor oven for home, of course. Today, I will go through 6 great options that will allow you to get authentic Indian restaurant-style food at home. This includes a homemade tandoor or ones that you can purchase.
Quick Answer | Can you Make Tandoor at Home?
Tandoor ovens are some of the most basic ovens around. There isn't much fancy technology when you consider that they have been used for around 4000 years! Provided you've got something that kicks out a fair bit of heat and has a surface suitable to make tandoori food, you should actually find it pretty easy.
My guide has plenty of options. You can go all traditional and make a mini tandoor in your garden. Alternatively, I've got some suggestions so that you can have one in your kitchen, just like a real Indian restaurant. A mini tandoor oven for home? Yes, indeed!
Read on to find out more…
What is a Tandoor?
In the most basic sense, a tandoor (also called a tannour) is a cylindrical clay container used for cooking food. It is sort of a cross between an oven and a barbecue. Unlike your fan oven at home, the clay pot is heated from coals or wood located inside the tandoor.
Tandoor ovens are used all over the world.
You'll find them in: -
- The Middle East
- Britain (loads of Indian restaurants have a real tandoor).
In hindi the word 'tandoor' literally translates as 'oven'. Pretty simple right? Interestingly the root name tandoor is very similar in the Persian language and even in Hebrew! That little clay oven sure gets around!
While a tandoor is traditionally made of clay, you'll also find them made of cast iron, bricks, stainless steel and lots of other materials!
The beauty of a tandoor is that you can get them really hot. Considering that clay is fired at around 1000°C, that's going to be plenty hot enough to cook whatever you need quickly.
What Can I Cook in a Tandoor Oven?
There are loads of tasty Indian dishes you can cook in a tandoor. You might want to try making: -
- Naan bread
- Tandoori chicken
- Tandoori lamb chops
- Tangdi kebabs
- And many more Indian dishes…
Can Oven Be Used as a Tandoor?
You could try and use your oven as a tandoor. The only downside is that most modern ovens get nowhere near as hot as a traditional tandoor.
And there's another downside…
Part of the reason tandoori food is so delicious is because it simultaneously roasts, grills and smokes the food. As food cooks, it leaks its juices into the tandoor. These instantly vaporize on the clay, giving a sort of smoky barbecue taste. Traditional ovens don't get hot enough to cause this effect (and besides, it tends to get really messy if you've got drips in your oven).
Damn! Any good news?
Well yes. I've got a great solution if you want to use your home oven to produce tandoori style bread.
Allow me to introduce you to… The pizza stone.
Pizza stones are really affordable and easy to use. The best bit is that they produce a similar effect to tandoors. Just slap your naan dough straight onto the stone and watch it puff up! You also get a really crispy bottom, just like in an Indian restaurant!
How Can I Make a Small Tandoor at Home?
Don't be too downhearted that you can't use your oven. There are ways around it!
Make a mini tandoor oven for home use!
Provided you've got a garden and a local garden centre, you might just be in for a treat.
Here's a guide to making your own mini tandoor oven for home or garden use… It takes a couple of hours.
How to Make a Tandoor Oven for Home Use
You will need the following: -
- 1 x 90L large metal bin with a lid
- Sand or gravel
- 12 x firebricks
- 1 x 40cm terracotta flowerpot
- 20 litres vermiculite
- A saw or grinder
- Gloves and eye protection
- Place a line of three firebricks side by side. Repeat this with another line underneath, so you have a rectangular plinth made of 2 x 3 firebricks. This is going to form the base of your tandoor.
- Place the bin on top of your rectangle of bricks and draw around the base. Using the grinder, cut each brick until you have a circular shape that will easily fit in the bottom of your tandoor.
- Fill your bin with about 3-4 inches of sand. On top of the sand, assemble your cut bricks, so you have a fairly flat surface. It doesn't need to be perfect, but a fairly snug fit is ideal. This will be where your coal or wood will sit. Using the grinder, cut a large square hole level with the top of the flat layer of bricks. This will allow air into the tandoors and allow you to scrape out ashes.
- On top of your brick base, stand the remaining six firebricks evenly around the inner circumference of the bin. Leave a section with a wide gap by the whole that you have just cut in the bin.
- Take your terracotta pot and turn it upside down. Draw a line around the pot around an inch from the base. Using a saw or angle grinder saw around this line. This is going to form the lid of your tandoor.
- Place the pot upside down on top of your vertical firebricks.
- Around the outside of your pot, tip in your vermiculite until it is almost to the top rim of the flowerpot.
- Place coals on the brick base and ignite. Add the lid and let your tandoor come up to temperature.
There is a handy video here detailing the exact technique that I describe. Give it a watch, it is only 6 minutes long!
Safety Guidance When Using a Mini Tandoor Oven at Home
Tandoor ovens do need to be treated with respect. They are seriously hot. Here's some great guidance to ensure that your Indian dinner doesn't turn into a trip to the emergency room…
Don't use liquid-based fluids to light your tandoor!
Listen. This is vitally important if you've followed my advice and gone for a terracotta or stone-based tandoor.
A few reasons. Terracotta is porous. This means it soaks up liquid. It will soak up lighter fuel so that you won't be able to see it. The vapour will still be present, though. If you introduce a naked flame, you could be seriously injured.
Fire lighting blocks are the best solution to get your coals going.
Keep children and pets away!
Kids and tandoors don't mix. They can get seriously hot. This includes the exterior. If you've got a tandoor roaring away, ensure that children are kept away. The same goes for your four-legged friends.
Clean your mini tandoor after use!
Tandoors work a bit like a grill. As a result, fat and juice will drip down during the cooking process. Fat also happens to be easily combustible. If you don't clean your tandoor, it can pool at the bottom. When combined with hot coals, this isn't a great combo.
After use, and when cooled, give it a scrub with some soapy water and a wire brush.
A metal dish placed on the bottom of the tandoor is a great way to make it easier.
Don't put too much food in your home tandoor at once!
In light of the above, you don't want too much dripping down at once. Try and limit the number of skewers you place in the tandoor at any one time.
Never leave a lit tandoor unattended!
This is the same for all hot kitchen equipment. Make a personal rule for yourself.
While the tandoor is lit, you must watch it. A blaze is much more likely because of the high temperatures and the inability to switch it off once it is roaring.
Keep a bucket of sand nearby.
Pour water on something that is 500°C, and you will create a cloud of superheated steam. Sand will still smother any flames, but it won't cause a violent reaction if you find that you've got a fire on your hands.
How Do You Use a Clay Tandoor for the First Time?
You could just fire it up and hope for the best. But if you've gone to all that effort, you are going to want to get the most out of your tandoor oven. At home, it is easy to apply seasoning to the interior of your tandoor before first use.
Terracotta is porous, meaning it soaks up water. I like to prolong the life of mine by giving it a quick rub with the following solution.
- 1 litre of water
- 3 tablespoons of oil
- 2 tablespoons of salt.
The water helps to remove any debris. It also stops the tandoor from heating too quickly and cracking with first-time use. The oil soaks into the pot, making it slightly non-stick, and the salt helps further cure the clay.
Does the above sound like a bit too much of a hassle to you? Or have you not got an area where you can build your own home mini tandoor?
I've got you covered.
There are plenty of great mini tandoors that you can buy. Here are some of the best tandoor style ovens I've found that give great results.
The Best Mini Tandoor Oven for Home Use | 2021 Guide and Ideas
Old-fashioned Barbecue Tandoor
Why bother faffing around building a tandoor when you can buy one that will do exactly the same job? Ok, this might be a little smaller than if you built a homemade tandoor, but there is still plenty to love.
First of all, it is terracotta lined. This is pretty much an ideal mini tandoor oven for home use. It will give a flavour exactly like that of your favourite restaurant.
I also love the compact size. This could easily be stored in a shed or garage when not in use. Just like a traditional tandoor, it is coal or wood fuelled. And it is really simple to use. Just light your fuel, let it come up to temperature and stick your food in!
- That is is clay lined… It's really authentic
- It is easy to clean and store
- It's simple to use
I don't like
- It doesn't have the biggest cooking chamber.
- The hole for sticking your coal in is tiny. It's a real bugger to light!
Look, guys, I'm not about to beat around the bush.
Sometimes you just have to go authentic. This is pretty much an authentic home tandoor oven, shrunk down to make it slightly more practical.
Get one of these, and you'll be cooking up naans and tasty tikka in no time. It is made from stone, so it is pretty authentic. It is also really classy looking and will complement any garden.
It also comes with a range of utensils, so you can scrape your coals, poke your flames, and generally act like a proper Indian cook!
It is pretty heavy and is by no means portable, so make sure you pick a good spot before you light it.
- How classy it looks
- It gives great cooking results
- It is about as authentic as it gets
I don't like
- That it isn't portable
- It isn't the most budget-friendly option out there.
For a budget tabletop tandoor, this one looks ok… It isn't the greatest thing I've ever seen, but it's novel.
I'm going, to be honest…
This is far more suited to cooking naans and other bread than grilling meats. It would be great for a dinner party if you wanted to let the guests cook their own bread.
It works like this… Light the gel fuel under the main body of the tandoor, allow it to heat the plates, drop your bread on.
It's super simple.
- The tabletop design
- The novelty value
- It's fairly cheap
I don't like
- It isn't for serious curry cooks
- You'll get better results for a similar price by assembling your own mini tandoor for home use. (see my above guide)
Remember how I said above that home ovens weren't the best at recreating tandoori food? If you are bothered about drips and spitting, wouldn't it be better to have a dedicated oven that you don't mind getting a bit dirty?
This is an ideal solution for a mini tandoor oven.
This is another one where you will want to stick to things like roti and tandoori bread.
It is electrically powered, so you won't need to mess about with coals and burning. The good news with this one is that it has a heated top plate, so you can keep your naans warm while you cook up the rest.
The front also features a heat resistant glass, so you can watch whatever you are cooking inside.
- That I don't have to dirty my oven making Indian food
- It's simple to operate
- Heat control is pretty easy
I don't like
- It is more like an electric oven than a mini tandoor
Ok, electric ovens and tabletop tandoors probably aren't going to cut it if you want proper Indian style dishes. This little egg grill is pretty similar to what you'll find in Indian restaurants.
First off, the shape. It is cylindrical, with a deep, coal-fired cooking chamber… Just like a tandoor. It is much more of an oven than a grill.
And here's what I adore about this mini tandoor. At home, it can be hard to get those high temperatures required for effective cooking. You'll be able to heat this bad boy up to 400°C. When you put the lid down, it seals in all those smoky flavours and moisture, giving you a really authentic result.
It is also ceramic lined. Although this isn't like a traditional clay tandoor, it should provide you with a similar effect. You could even try slapping a tasty naan on the sidewall!
At 13" in diameter, it is about the same size as the homemade tandoor I suggested above.
I also really like that it has a temperature gauge on the lid. You won't find that on a traditional tandoor oven!
- The results… It cooks just like a tandoor
- It looks amazing
- It is really well made
I don't like
- Constructing the bloody thing took nearly as long as when I made my own tandoor… that's the only downside, really.
Mini Tandoor Buying Guide
Ok, so you've seen a few options there. But which to go for? Here's some simple guidance to help when buying a mini tandoor for home use.
Tandoori food is delicious.
Do you know why?
It's all about the drips and the smoke. You aren't going to get this with anything powered by electricity or gas.
Pick a mini tandoor that uses either coal or wood as a heat source. This smokes your food while it cooks.
Most homes and gardens won't accommodate a full-size tandoor. Remember, Indian restaurants might be cooking hundreds of dishes every night. So you aren't going to need the same capacity.
You want to pick something that allows you to cook a decent amount of food but isn't going to take up too much space. Aim for something with a cooking chamber of around 30 – 50cm, and you won't go far wrong.
Tandoors aren't really supposed to be portable, so don't worry too much about the weight.
Construction and Materials
You'll want to look for a few things if you are trying to make authentic Indian food with a mini tandoor oven. Any of the following materials are going to give you a better tasting result: -
Cast iron could also be a good choice, but for the most traditional tandoor, pick something that uses the above materials in its construction.
Ease of Use
If you are like me, if something is hard to use, you tend not to use it. So you want something simple. Remember, tandoor ovens are one of the oldest cooking devices in existence, and you aren't trying to reinvent the wheel.
Try and look for the following features when choosing: -
- Easy to light
- Easy to control the temperature
- A removable lid
- Easy to clean features
- Temperature control (optional)
- Fairly portable
For me, this is the most important criterion when choosing a mini tandoor oven. For cooking at home, you don't want to be cutting corners. It is hard enough to get an authentic tasting result as it is. Suppose something looks similar to a tandoor, with many of the same features. In that case, chances are it will produce a similar result when it comes to taste. Try and choose a model that shares common features with traditional tandoor ovens.
Min Tandoor Oven | FAQ
Still, got questions? Don't worry, I know you love Indian food just as much as I do. Here are the things I get all the time when discussing mini tandoor ovens…
How Hot is a Tandoor Oven?
I once asked the Indian chef in the restaurant I worked in, he showed me a thermometer. The temperature in most tandoors is somewhere in the region of 450°C. That's pretty hot! This cooks food really quickly. Because of the short cooking time, the food doesn't have time to dry out, meaning that you get really juicy chicken tikka and lamb chops!
How Do You Cook Using a Tandoor?
Cooking in a tandoor is actually really simple. The hard part is giving it time to get up to temperature. Here's a quick rundown: -
- Light the fuel you are using, and leave the lid of the tandoor off. Also, leave any air vents open
- Once the coals or wood is burning with a decent blaze, close the lid and leave the coal to smoulder away. The aim is to let the temperature steadily rise.
- Add a few more coals and let the tandoor come up to heat (this takes about 30 - 40 minutes). You are looking for a temperature of at least 400°C.
- While you are waiting, prepare your food.
- When ready to cook, remove the lid, place your food inside the tandoor and place the lid back on.
- Check your food in 5-minute intervals. Because a tandoor is so hot, food cooks really fast, so keep an eye on it.
How Do Tandoor Ovens Work?
Tandoor ovens are one of the most basic forms of cooking. The fuel, such as coal or wood, actually serves a few functions. It: -
- Cooks and heats the food from directly below.
- Heats the walls of the tandoor by conduction and convection
- Imparts a smoky flavour to the food placed inside the tandoor.
Sounds really tasty, right?
Is Tandoori Healthy?
Tandoor cooking is one of the healthiest ways to cook Indian food. In essence, it works exactly like a grill. The food is normally mounted on skewers. As it cooks, this allows the fat to drip out of the food, reducing the calories.
I offer excellent guidance on the healthiest Indian dishes right here if you are on a health kick.
What Type of Oven is Traditionally Used for a Tandoori?
The most traditional way to cook tandoori food is in a tandoori oven. In fact, tandoori food takes its name directly from the oven itself. Often people think tandoori is a marinade or sauce. This is actually a fallacy. Most sauces and marinades you'll see are designed to simulate the authentic flavour of a tandoor oven.
With my above guide and a little patience, you won't need to rely on substitutes.
To get an authentic result when cooking tandoori food, you will need to follow authentic methods. My above guide to mini tandoori ovens for home should tell you everything you need to know. Whether you assemble your own or opt to buy one, stick to the guidance above, and I promise you'll get great results. What's your favourite tandoori dish? Let me know in the comments.