All week, we'll be featuring recent college graduates and longtime friends Liyna Anwar and Anum Arshad as they plan, prepare, and host a backyard South Asian-inspired feast for their mothers.
Today: Liyna and Anum succeed in building their very own tandoor oven. This is their second Big Feast post -- check out Shopping for Spices.
We have to admit: when we told our Food52 editors that we could attempt to make a tandoor oven at home, we didn’t really exactly know what that entailed. So that’s why when we started researching how to do this, read all the intricate steps, and watched the detailed YouTube videos, we realized we might be a little in over our heads.
But our fears soon turned to hope. That’s because we took it as an opportunity to get creative. How can we take existing ideas about homemade tandoor ovens and change them a little? How can we make this oven more compact? How can we do this without spending too much money? As we were brainstorming new ideas we realized that a lot of people out there might also have similar concerns. We all want tandoori at home but how?! After researching online we found this example and this blog post to be the most helpful. Both of those at-home tandoor ovens were huge and elaborate, but they seemed to have amazing results. Our goal was to learn from them and make modifications to their design to fit our needs (ease of build, compact, cheap).
At the hardware store we went straight to the terra cotta pots. After deliberating what size would be best, we settled on the 10-inch (diameter) pot. It seemed to be a good balance of size and ample surface area for the naan to stick to the walls. We also bought a more shallow, smaller pot to act as a base area for the coals to sit inside.
We didn’t go to the hardware store with a complete set plan. Instead we went in with a rough idea and drew inspiration from what we saw when we walked through the aisles. At first we were worried that we were “winging it” too much -- but in retrospect, having a loose plan allowed us to be flexible and a little innovative.
When we got back from the hardware store, it was time for assembly. The first thing we had to do (and labor-wise, the most difficult) was to saw an inch off the bottom of the 10” pot. This would be our opening for the tandoor oven.
Initially we went at it with a regular hacksaw. It slowly made a dent but since the saw was meant for wood, it took a long time and the blade got dull. We needed another idea.
We bought a saw that was made for cutting ceramic and tile (about $13) and that really did the trick. It still took about 2 hours though! (note: we didn’t have the right blade for our electric angle grinder otherwise we would have just used that. If you have that, use it!)
We cut almost all the way around on our own but then gave the saw to Liyna's younger cousin Rahil who wanted to help out. And of course the dramatic moment when the bottom inch of the pot finally sliced off happened when the saw was in his hands! We promise we did most of the cutting! Regardless, here’s the moment we were waiting for:
And that’s it – the hardest part was done! After we made the opening in the pot, all we had to do was put together the different components. If you learned anything from this post, let it be that if we can make this tandoor oven, you definitely can. Watch the video below and you’ll see what we’re talking about. And for the total cost? Just about $50 (not including the charcoal, sand, and bricks, which we already had at home).
How to Build a Tandoor Oven at Home:
Making Naan in Our Tandoor Oven:
If you looked closely during the video, you probably noticed a large crack in the base pot when we were putting it together. Here’s what happened. After we assembled the base of the tandoor oven, we wanted to test it out with the coals before we added the sand insulation.
This was a good plan because we were able to see if it worked before setting any of our plans in stone (or sand rather…). But then this happened: a big crack in our base pot.
Luckily, though, the whole pot didn’t break. And besides the aesthetics, it all still seemed to work. We insulated it with sand and went on with our plan. The crack made no difference!
Note: make sure to use un-galvanized cans and lead-free terracotta pots when building your tandoor oven.
Le Creuset has generously offered to reward our Big Feasters for all their hard work, and as our third Big Feast, Liyna and Anum will win, in the color of their choice (flame, cherry, fennel, Caribbean, dune, Dijon, or Marseille): a 5-quart braiser, a 4-quart stainless saucepan, and a large serving platter. Pitch us your Big Feast at [email protected] for a chance to win up to $500 in Le Creuset booty.