Tandoor For An Indian Summer

I know for a fact Jules has mentioned many time on both the blog and on Twitter about my sometimes eccentric projects. From the cheese press to the hanging meat safe ever since I came up with the idea of making a tandoor oven I knew I had to make it. I’m an Engineer, what do you expect! With a little help from Instructables and my dad, the DIY king, the project soon took shape. When Jules received a copy of Miss Masala it gave me the incentive to make and try out this mad idea of mine with everything that has been cooked so far in the tandoor comes from recipes in this great cookbook.

I built a hot smoker for a few years. A cold smoker had been in the planning but stumbled when it came to sourcing a suitable barrel. Then one day at work I spotted an old metal barrel that was begging to be used in a project. I realized not only could I make this barrel into a Tandoor Oven but adapt it so it could also be used for cold smoking. Along with picking up a bargain pair of terracotta pots on eBay, a huge bag of vemiculite I managed to find hanging around at work, clearing Wilkos of all their fire cement and a cymbal (yes a cymbal from my dad’s drumming days) I was getting closer to building the tandoor. Due to the nature of my job I have access to machines and parts that help me make some of the parts, but I think it could be done without this luxury. I also made the extra long skewers using hexagonal steel bar left over from a work project and the twists help stop the meat from falling off. No thermometer yet on the oven but I can confirm it is hot. Super hot. Hot enough to singe your arm hairs hot. I Managed to brand my arm when the lid tilted and am now on the lookout for food safe elbow-length heat-proof gloves.  How they manage to use these ovens in restaurants without causing injury I don’t know!

The first main tryout of the oven worked better than I could have ever planned. Inevitably one of the 4 naan breads ended up at the bottom of the pit (you may spot it on the chicken kebab picture) as I couldn’t catch it quick enough when it came away from the wall. A bit of a way to go look wise but taste of the naans were closest we’ve got so far. They had that lovely chewiness that only happens when cooking in a tandoor. Next time we would try rolling the dough a bit thinner. The tandoor chicken pieces were also particularly good and cooked in under 5 min due to the heat. I have read about cooking pizzas in the oven in that you lower them in one at a time on a metal plate.

Read both these articles (article 1article 2) before partaking in the project to make sure you understand the safety implications.

Garden Tandoor Oven

1 large metal drum (must not be galvanised)
2 terracotta pots that fit inside a metal drum when one pot is inverted on top of the other.
pots of fire cement (Wilkos works out by far the cheapest)

1) The first job is to drill a 4″ hole for the air vent at the bottom of the barrel. The vent needs to be high enough to allow a layer of sand at the bottom of the barrel for the plant pot to sit on but no too high that the fire can’t breath properly. Once the hole has been drilled a piece of 4″ pipe is welded into place. I added a vent flap to the pipe to allow more control of the fire.

2) Once this is done the barrel is ready for a lick of paint. As the barrel won’t get too hot I just used ordinary black gloss paint.

3) Whilst the paint is drying its time to get busy with some boys toys. The bottom of the first plant pot is swiftly cut off with an angle grinder (terracotta cut surprising easily). The next toy to play with is a drill with a big 4″ holesaw in it. This is to cut the hole in the bottom of the other pot for the air vent pipe to fit in.

4) The next thing to do is to fill the bottom of the barrel with enough sand to make sure the bottom plant pot will sit at the right height and level (its best to put the barrel where its going to end up as it will get pretty heavy once everything is in it). The first plant pot is put into place and the gap between the pot and the barrel is packed with vermiculite. The next pot is then put upside down on top of the other pot. More vermiculite is packed into the cavity (its surprising how much you can pack in a small space!).

5) Now for the messy bit! All the joints need to be sealed with fire cement and the top of the barrel needs to be sealed to stop the vermiculite escaping. The final piece is the cymbal that acts as a lid and was a perfect fit for my plant pot.

6) The tandoor is almost ready to fire. The inside needs to be coated with oil to make sure the naan breads don’t stick too much.

7) Now the fun begins. Use some charcoal and start a fire in the bottom as you would a BBQ and wait until the flames have died down and the coals have a healthy red glow. Don’t use wood as from our experience it gets v smoky and the flames can get shockingly high. Your now ready to start cooking!

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