Tandoori chicken is essentially India’s barbecue chicken. It is marinated in yogurt and spices and cooked in a cylindrical clay oven called a tandoor. Tandoori chicken has long been an add-on extra for me when ordering Indian food for delivery. I love it hot or cold for lunch the next day. The place I usually get it from always include lemon slices.
Since I don’t have a tandoor in my home, the next best thing is the grill… of course! The blend of aromatic warming spices, with some heat added from cayenne, really stand up to and are even enhanced by grilling. I love the squeeze of lemon to brighten and highlight the spices. By grilling the lemons, the sugars condense and the flavor becomes deeper and more concentrated.
Cook’s Note: ghee is clarified butter. You can clarify it yourself or buy in the refrigerated section of Indian specialty markets or Trader Joe’s… or just use butter. 🙂
Tandoori Chicken with Grilled Lemons
makes four to six servings
4 to 5 pounds cut-up chicken
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Juice from 2 lemons
Melted ghee or butter, for basting
2 lemons, cut into sixths for serving
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, creamed or pressed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Direct / indirect grilling
With a sharp knife, make a couple slashes into the flesh parts of the chicken pieces. Place chicken in a large baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Pour in lemon juice and massage the chicken pieces being sure to get lemon juice and salt into the slashes. Leave to marinate, flipping a couple times, while you make the marinade.
In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients until until smooth and combined. Pour the lemon juice off the chicken and spoon in the marinade. Massage the marinade into the chicken making sure it is coated in the slashes and crevices as well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours to as long as overnight.
Remove chicken from refrigerator 45 minutes to and hour before cooking. Set up grill for indirect grilling over medium heat (This means no direct heat source under bird). Brush and oil grate when ready to start cooking.
Place the chicken skin-side up on the indirect side of the grill, close the cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Raise the lid and rearrange the chicken for even cooking. Baste with melted ghee, close the cover and cook for another 15 minutes. Flip the chicken, baste and cook for another 10 minutes. During the last couple minutes of cooking, move the chicken over to the direct heat side of the grill and baste with a little butter and flip a couple times to crisp up and get a little char on the skin. Be very careful of flare-ups and prepare to move the chicken around or back to the indirect side. The chicken will be done when the internal temperature reaches 165˚F and is no longer pink at the bone.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!