History of tandoor dates back to Harappa and Mohan Jo Daro settlements of Indus valley civilization. The popularity of tandoor received a boost with the advent of Moghuls who were meat-eaters, unlike Hindus who were mostly vegetarians. The traditional tandoor is made up of clay shaped like an elongated pot with a small vent in the bottom. The top is open with a removable lid. The vent is used to remove ash and as a route for oxygen whereas top opening is used to put charcoal and put the food inside on skewers to cook.
The design of the tandoor is such that the food is cooked by the direct as well as indirect heat. For instance, bread is cooked indirectly from the heat of the charcoal and directly from the heat of the walls of the tandoor. Similarly, seekh kebab is cooked from outside as well as from inside due to hot skewers through conduction.
The most important aspect of the tandoor is the temperature which can be as high as 500 c. It is easy to obtain high temperature but then it needs a lot of skill and experience in varying the temperature according to the type of food being cooked in tandoor.
To increase the temperature the bottom vent is left open to allow air into the tandoor which helps to burn charcoal and hence more heat and temperature.
Similarly, if both the bottom vent and top opening are closed, due to low oxygen supply the charcoal stops burning to result in lower temperatures. Another aspect of tandoori cooking is marination. As the cooking time is very less in tandoori cooking, marination not only acts as a tenderizer but also adds to the taste of the food. The marination also aids in smoking of the food as when the marination drips on the charcoal it smokes resulting in that distinct flavor that no other oven in the world can provide. The best results are obtained by marinating the food overnight.
Tandoori food is not cooked in one go, initially, the food is cooked in hot temperature to seal the meat and the marination then basted with ghee and allowed to rest for few mins and then cooked fully. The variety of food which can be cooked in tandoor can be amazing ranging from meat, vegetable, bread, and seafood. With the advent of gas tandoors, where there is no need to burn the charcoal it’s been less messy and more user friendly although the flavors from the charcoal tandoor cannot be duplicated. No doubt this pot of clay is filled with wonders which makes the tandoori food one of the most popular food of the planet earth.