The fundamentals of Tandoori cooking are really as elementary as they are ancient. Marinated meat is lowered on metal skewers into a tandoor oven and cooked at an extremely high heat until done to produce a succulent dish.
The origins of tandoor date back 5,000 years and the method of cookery is found throughout Central Asia. A tandoor is essentially a large, bell-shaped clay pot. Traditionally, tandoors are dug into the ground or enclosed to hold in the heat of the fire with the ceramic sides intensifying the temperature within. Today Tandoor ovens are made from stainless steel and use gas however they still produce the intense heat needed to get an authentic taste.
Tandoori dishes have become a ubiquitous dish on the menus of British restaurants. Exotic and appetising, tandoori marinated meats and vegetables are rich, spicy and tender.
Yoghurt is used as the base in most marinades because its density holds well to the meat. To the yogurt tandoori masala is added to the marinade which is made with a combination of spices ground together. The usual red or yellow colouring of tandoori dishes comes from the addition of spices such as paprika and turmeric. (Many cooks also add food colourings to boost the colour.)
Tandoori chicken is by far the most popular dish prepared in this way but fish, prawns, beef, pork and lamb also do very well in the tandoor. Tandoori dishes are often served with naan bread, curry sauce or Indian style rice to make a meal that is full of flavour.
Tandoori meats are popular when served as kebabs and on skewers which can be cooked in a traditional tandoor or cooked under a grill or on a barbeque. Chicken tikka starters and tandoori chicken masala dishes are a staple of the British menu whether it’s at a restaurant, takeaway or in the home.
Tandoori Skewers for Tandoor Ovens
Skewers are an essential part of cooking tandoori dishes. The metal skewers used in restaurants conduct heat from the fire below and ensure the meat, fish or vegetables are cooked inside as well as out.
40-inch skewers are used in tandoor ovens in restaurants and takeaways thanks to their ease of use and ability to hold plenty of meat, fish or vegetables. Metal skewers come in a variety of thicknesses each best suited to the foods being cooked so it’s worth having a range of diameters available in the kitchen.
Tandoori skewers traditionally come in a round or square shape and each works best with different types of ingredients. You should also give consideration to the weight of the skewer in use. If the skewer is too light then it will heat up much quicker than a heavier skewer resulting in the meat cooking too fast on the inside. Food cooked on a skewer which is too light will also tend to bulge and fall into the fire. If the skewer is too heavy then the meat will cook too slowly on the inside.
Which Skewer to use for Meat, Fish, Vegetables and Paneer
- Skewers 3mm in thickness and 5mm in thickness are good for vegetables, prawns and fish.
- Choose 6mm skewers and 8mm skewers for cooking meats like chicken and lamb tikka.
- Thinner square skewers are necessary for cooking panner tikka and 8mm square skewers are used for producing the likes of kofta and seekh kebabs.
- Very thick skewers with a serrated edge are necessary for heavy whole meats such as whole chickens.
Tandoor Naan Skewers
Naan bread is cooked quickly on the wall of a tandoor oven and requires a hook skewer and scraper or paddle skewer to handle. The paddle is used to ease the bread away from the oven side while the hook stops the naan falling into the fire. Naan breads cooked in a tandoor oven are the perfect balance of fluffy bread and crispy base which can’t be replicated by other cooking methods.
Skewers for chargrills and charbroilers
Tikka dishes, kebabs and tandoori are also cooked in chargrills and charbroilers in commercial kitchens with shorter skewers used to handle the meat, fish and vegetables. These come in a range of thicknesses from 10mm skewers up to 20mm thick. Again, the thickness required depends on the texture and consistency of the food being cooked.
Their 24 inch / 60cm length is the exact length of most commercial chargrills found in commercial and catering kitchens. This ensures you can get the most amount of meat possible onto the skewer to maximise your cooking efficiency whilst also leaving the rest of the grill area free for cooking other foods.
Skewers for barbeques, use at home, kebabs and for presenting food
Finally, it has become increasingly popular to serve tandoori and tikka dishes on skewers themselves in kebabs or from barbeques and grills.
Stainless steel small skewers boast a high quality appearance and are 100% recyclable and reusable. Bamboo skewers come in a range of sizes, usually from 4 inches in length up to 12 inches and add a natural look for plating up kebabs and individual portions.
A well-maintained set of skewers will last a long time in even the busiest of kitchens. To maintain the lifespan of your skewers be sure to give them a thorough clean after every use. When it comes to storing them when not in use try to store them hung rather than flat to maintain the shape of the metal and stop them banging against each other.