This is a recipe for a whole tandoori chicken that is marinated in a yogurt tandoori masala, slow roasted in a home oven, broiled to get those crisped bits, and then smoked with charcoal for a tender, juicy, and flavorful dish.
A whole tandoori chicken is perfect for a large dinner party or to serve as the centerpiece Thanksgiving dinner. If you are looking for other Indian-inspired Thanksgiving dishes, check out this blog post that has a whole Thanksgiving menu.
Tips for spatchcocking a chicken
Spatchcocking is a fancy word that describes the technique of flattening a chicken. This method helps the dark meat and the white meat cook evenly and thus results in a tender bird! Here are some tips when it comes to spatchcocking a chicken:
- Ask your butcher for help. If you are too intimidated to break down a chicken, just ask your grocery store butcher to spatchcock the chicken for you!
- Get a sharp set of kitchen shears. Kitchen shears are one of the easiest ways to take out the spine of the chicken. If you have really sharp shears it helps to cut on either side of the spine and remove it.
- Work near the sink and compost bin. Cutting a whole chicken can be quite messy so it is best if you can position yourself next to the sink so you can easily clean up and next to the compost bin so you can throw out any unnecessary parts of the chicken.
- Use your body weight to press down on the chicken breast. When breaking the breast bone of the chicken, use both of your hands as though you are preforming CPR and use your body weight to press and crack the rib cage underneath. You should hear and feel an audible crack.
Why it's important to dry brine AND marinate
This recipe seasons the chicken in two parts. The first part involves adding a dry spice rub of salt, garam masala, Kashmiri chili powder, and sugar to the chicken and letting it sit in the fridge uncovered for at least 2 hours. The dry brining process is important because it helps season the chicken within AND results in a tandoori chicken that is tender. The 30 minute marination process involves adding a yogurt-based tandoori masala to the exterior of the chicken. This marination is important to add delicious exterior flavor to the chicken.
How to get a flavorful crust
In order to get a flavorful crust, you should:
- Dry brine the chicken over night. An overnight brine helps the outer skin of the chicken dry so that the marinade can easily stick and roast on top of the chicken.
- Baste the chicken every 20 mins. Basting the chicken with ghee, butter, or oil really helps prevent the exterior marinade from drying out and adds enough fat to help the exterior get those charred bits.
- Broil the chicken at the end. I personally like to use a kitchen torch to help charbroil the chicken at the end. However, you can easily set the oven to the broil setting for 2-3 minutes to help get charred brown spots on the exterior of the chicken.
Using the dhungar method for smoking chicken
The dhungar method is a way of introducing a smoky flavor to South Asian dishes. For this method, we will heat a piece of charcoal until it's hot, place it in a small bowl, and pour ghee/oil on it to create smoke. You will trap the tandoori chicken and the charcoal smoke together in a tent until the chicken is infused with the smoky flavor.Print
Frequently Asked Questions
You can get a smoky flavor for tandoori chicken by broiling it at the end and using the dhungar method for a charcoal flavor.
You can dry brine the whole chicken up to 24 hours in advance.
Spatcocking helps to flatten the chicken, which helps the thighs cook at the same rate as the breasts.
If you really like the skin, you can keep it on. However, traditionally tandoori chicken is eaten without the skin. Removing the skin also helps the brine and marinade to penetrate the chicken.
Kashmiri chili powder is a red chili powder that helps impart the red color. However, you can opt for red food coloring if you want a bright red like the chicken that they serve at restaurants.