Whole Roasted Tandoori Chicken – with step by step pictures

Tandoori Chicken has become synonymous to Indian food all over the world. Here is my quest to know why? The dish originated in Punjab region of India Pak . The use of tandoor (oven ) dates back to Mughal era when small chicks and lamb pieces were roasted. But what actually stirred up the demand for tandoori chicken are  the small eateries that sprung up in the recent years on the road sides known as dhabas they mainly catered to truck drivers, which served heavy calorie rich food to keep them full during long hours of driving.
 Traders from these regions who migrated at the turn of the century and later became enterprising restaurateurs and emigrants from there since 19th century settled mostly in Britain and Canada,  have all contributed to making the Punjabi cuisine popular all over the globe. 

The complexity of spices and flavors yet the simplicity of almost replicating the royal looking dish  in an average modern kitchen has made tandoori chicken even more sort after by the home cooks of all nationalities these days…. I take this opportunity to bring my version of Tandoori Chicken to the blog. It is by no means authentic but .. but I would say by far the best tandoori chicken I have ever tasted!

Usually tandoori chicken is roasted on open fire with large chunky pieces on metal skewers  I find it convenient to make whole roasted because there is no major cutting involved. It is a simple marinate twice and bake to perfection dish. I had posted whole roasted chicken with Kerala masala  during 2013 Holidays which is our other family favorite . 

 Before u begin:

  • This recipe for tandoori chicken is moderately spicy for an average spice loving Indian :))
  • Tandoori chicken is traditionally made in a large tandoor(clay oven/metal) in a pit with charcoal burning inside, fueled by the fat dripping from the large chunks of meat inserted on a metal skewer above it. So baked in electric oven may fall short on smoke taste, but charred look and taste wise we are almost there.
  • Your cob oven can be used for making tandoori chicken.
  • The tandoori chicken u find in restaurants outside India is much watered down version with little to no spice and artificial color to replicate the chili red without any heat. 
  • I have not removed the skin which acts as a protective layer and makes the chicken juicy and tender by retaining moisture inside. 
  • I have not added red color instead gone for tomato paste for even brownish red coloring.I have used mustard sauce and olive oil here but traditionally mustard oil is applied on the chicken. 
  • Fresh powdered garam masala makes a  lot of  difference. If u do not want to invest in each of the spices most Indian grocery stores carry most of  these dry spices together in one single pack  but check the contents before u buy. Sort it after bringing it home.Use what is asked in the recipe only as there may be other spices too.
  • If you are not accustomed to Indian spice levels I would suggest less spice is fine but more of any one of it is always overpowering. Above all use spice only according to ur endurance levelPlease be aware that whole red chilies,black pepper,ginger and chili powders together produce a lot of heat.
  • Every oven is different so keep an eye on the chicken and also plan ahead to make it stress free..

Ingredients :
Chicken – 1 whole (around 5 lbs)
1.Mix A
Red chili powder -1 tsp
Kashmiri chili powder / Paprika  1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Lime juice- of one lime
Mix and make a paste

2. Mix  B
Tomato paste – 2 tsp
Mustard sauce – 1 tsp
Garlic ground – 1 tsp
Ginger ground – 1 tsp
Thick yogurt – 2 tbsp
Garam masala –  use 2 tsp of any brand of store bought one / Tandoori chicken masala powder (MDH brand works well)
OR make ur own  in minutes I promise it is sooo worth it.
Home made garam masala: 
Cardamom / elakka – 2
Cinnamon sticks /Karuvapatta- 1 inch piece
Cloves /Grambu  – 4
Coriander seeds/ Malli – 2 tsp
Black pepper corns/  kurumilagu- 1 tsp
Cumin seeds / Jeerakam- 1 tsp
Fenugreek /uluva seeds – 1/2 tsp
Star anise / thakkolam – 1 petal from the flower
Whole red chili/ chumanna mulagu- 2
Nutmeg powder/ Jatikka podi- 1/4 tsp (don’t dry roast simply add to powder)
Dried fenugreek leaves / unakka uluva ella – 1 tsp (don’t dry roast add while powdering)
Dry roast in an empty pan to warm up (that is warm on touch and the aroma comes out not to brown it) and powder to fine dust using a coffee grinder or mortar & pestle. (I used the entire batch for marinating this chicken)

For stuffing and finishing:
Red onion -1 cut into two
Lime – 1 cut into two
Twine for tying the leg
Olive oil – 3 tsp +

1.Wash chicken thoroughly inside and the outside well (remove giblets or other other parts inside wash and keep that separately apply leftover mixes and it can be put on the side while chicken cooks or it could be used later when u make soups) Do not discard skin, it acts as a protective coating on the chicken and retains moisture and makes it tender and juicy.
Pat dry the chicken using a paper towel. Make gashes only on the flesh without tearing skin where ever u can reach. Mere poking with knife works too.

2.  Apply the first mix (A) on all sides (inside and out side) . Refrigerate overnight.

3. In the morning make a paste with mix B apply as shown in between the skin and flesh and on the inside of the chicken. Refrigerate for atleast 4-6 hours. (it could be done along with mix ( A) if u don’t mind the garlic giving out an aged taste.)
4. Bring the chicken to room temperature by removing it from fridge at least 1 hour before putting it into the oven so the meat does not get temperature shocked. The chicken will turn chewy if u put from refrigerator to oven straight.

5. Stuff the inside with the lime and onion. This helps the heat to circulate better. Tie the leg with with one hand by making a loop as shown in the pic below.
Lay the chicken on the baking dish straight (I have not made a bed of veggies this time)  fold the wings backward so it does not burn while roasting.

6. Preheat oven to 400 F apply olive oil on the skin of chicken so the spices do not burn. Bake for 30 minutes then take out and turn  apply olive oil and return to oven remove after 30 minutes turn again return to oven for 10 -15 minutes.( If it is not brown enough increase heat to 450 for last 10 minutes )
The thickest part of the chicken should be 165 -175 F when the chicken is cooked completely check with a meat thermometer.
The plastic thermometer should pop too.

7. Drain and discard the excess fat flowing from the chicken that collects in the dish every time u take out the chicken to turn. So the meat does not boil in its own juices

Keep an eye on the chicken after 50-60 minutes of baking as every oven is different if it is not cooked and browning too fast reduce temperature to 350 and loosely cover the top with aluminium foil to prevent further browning.

If the chicken is cooked well switch off oven and keep in the oven itself  to crisp up for another 10 -15 minutes.This is completely optional as I find only Indians like slightly dry chicken:)

8. Give a final  brushing of olive oil or butter if u like .Let the chicken rest in room temperature for another 15 minutes to cool down and absorb all its juices.
Slice from skin towards inside like u would slice bread.

Serve tandoori chicken with naan, jeera rice ,salad, raita and fruit salad.

How to test if the tandoori chicken is done:
1.Insert a thermometer on the thickest part of the flesh and it should read 165-175 F.
2.The skin should be crisp and give a crunch sound and the knife should glide through the meat  without too much effort until it touches a bone.
3. The flesh should be opaque and kind of flaky not pinkish and jiggly.
4. When a skewer is inserted near the thigh the juices should run clear not cloudy (no traces of blood or pink color) since the masalas are all red here the juice should be clear orangish with no smell of blood.
In all the above cases return to the oven and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes check again and allow it to rest before cutting.

Hope you enjoy the delectable tandoori chicken.

Here are more chicken ideas from Food Network friends:

14 Replies to “Whole Roasted Tandoori Chicken – with step by step pictures”

  1. Julie

    manushyane noyambu kalathu engane kothipikennamayirunno??? 😉 looks mouthwatering and nicely explained too….Scrumptious spread 🙂

  2. Rafeeda AR

    Your tandoori chicken looks amazing… that whole set of ingredients can scare but nevertheless the effort is all to be seen… really godo one dear…

  3. Rekha Vengalil

    ufff looks so so delicious. I have been wanting to roast a chicken in a while now but end up with curry. Hope to try this recipe soon. What a sexy looking chick is that Meena 🙂

  4. Remya Elizabeth Anish

    Wow….. Looks delicious and super tempting one with beautiful pics…… I love this and will try this soon….. I bookmarked…. and one more thing…I love your new banner also….. 🙂

  5. Priya

    Loved reading through your intro Meena. And that chicken looks so very good 🙂 I have never added tomato paste or mustard sauce in Tandoori chicken, but by the looks of it, I must try it your way the next time 🙂

  6. Tisa Jacob

    I actually typed in a comment and was directed to sign in. It disappeared- but I wanted to wait and see, just in case I repeat 😉
    Anyhoo, I miss seeing your gorgeous pictures- hv to come here more often..such inspiration, girlie! Love how juicy and plump the centerpiece looks and how its all so well placed. Wonderful job, Meena! And, thank you for enlightening us with a course study on tandoori 😉

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