I had always assumed that tandoori chicken was something that you could only get from an Indian restaurant. I mean, who had an actual tandoor oven at home? Turns out that Cook’s Illustrated showed me that this is something that can actually be made at home. The trick, as they point out, is a multi-step process: a dry spice rub followed by a yogurt bath, and then a low-and-slow bake followed by a final broil for that tandoori-like char.
This takes a bit of time, so it’s probably best for weekends or night-before prep. You can rub the chicken with the spices beforehand and come home to finish it off the next night. Actual baking/broiling time takes less than an hour.
I prefer white meat chicken, so I made this entirely with chicken breasts. You can use whatever part of the bird works best for you.
- Approximately 3 pounds of bone-in chicken breasts, skin and extra fat removed
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 10 garlic cloves, minced or squeezed through a garlic press
- 2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger, about 3 inches
- 1 Tbsp garam masala spice blend
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (yes, whole milk)
- 4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tsp table salt
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
Take your bone-in, now-skinless chicken breasts and cut them in half, through the bone, to make two smaller half-breasts (see photos). Lightly score the non-bone side of the chicken breasts with tiny cuts, about 1 inch apart.
Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add garam masala, cumin and chili powder, stirring well as it cooks for another 30-60 seconds or until fragrant. Transfer half of the spice mixture to a medium bowl (Bowl 1), the other half to a large bowl (Bowl 2).
In Bowl 1, combine the spice mixture with yogurt and 2 Tbsp lime juice. Mix well, cover and set aside or refrigerate until ready.
In Bowl 2, combine the spice mixture with 2 Tbsp lime juice and salt. Mix well. Using your hands, massage the spice mixture into all chicken pieces until they are evenly coated. If cooking today, allow the chicken to rest for 30 minutes. If cooking tomorrow, cover the coated chicken and refrigerate overnight.
Adjust the oven rack to about 6 inches below the heating element, and preheat to 325 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil, and lightly coat a wire rack with oil or nonstick cooking spray.
Coat the chicken pieces with the yogurt mixture, shaking off the excess. Discard extra yogurt mixture.
Place the chicken bone-side up on the wire rack. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer registers between 125-130 degrees. Remove the chicken from the oven, and preheat the broiler to the hottest setting for 10 minutes.
Flip the chicken so that it’s bone-side down and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the chicken is lightly charred and an instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. Serve with lime wedges and raita.
You know that you’ve scored the dinner jackpot when everyone likes it!