Easy Weeknight Tandoori Chicken

A few months ago Shane’s parents were in our neck of the woods on a Saturday afternoon and called to ask if we wanted to meet up for lunch. They suggested an Indian restaurant just a few miles from our house, which neither Shane nor I even knew existed. Clearly we don’t get out much :) But anyway, it wound up being a fun little place with good food so I’m glad someone knew about it!

Our exposure to and experience with Indian food is pretty limited. I’ve made chicken tikka masala and naan at home and we’ve maybe had it out one other time. At the restaurant that afternoon, we tried a variety of new things, but our favorite was the tandoori chicken; we both came home itching to recreate it in our own kitchen!

Easy Weeknight Tandoori Chicken

Cook’s Illustrated came to the rescue with this wonderfully simple recipe, it’s a home-run dish! Tandoori chicken typically calls for a long marinade and is cooked in a clay oven. Obviously the clay oven isn’t happening for most home cooks, and while an overnight marinade can pack great flavor, it can be a challenge to remember to plan ahead for it so we’re skipping that too. Instead, the chicken is coated in a flavorful spice rub and allowed to rest for 30 minutes and then right before cooking, it’s dipped in a yogurt marinade which also includes the same spice combination used in the rub. The chicken is partially cooked in a moderate oven, then finished under the broiler to give it the classic charred edges.

The result? Incredibly juicy chicken packed with so much wonderful flavor! The meat is really infused with the goodness of the spices used here. Dare I say we liked this homemade version even better than the one we had in the restaurant? We’ve made the recipe countless times over the past few months and it’s never let us down. If you enjoy recreating restaurant dishes at home as much as us, you’ll want to put this one on your to-do list!

Easy Weeknight Tandoori Chicken
from Cook’s Illustrated, January/February 2009

{Note: you can use a variety of chicken parts, or do 3 lb of the same type. If you use breasts, cut them in half.}

2 tablespoons canola oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes), divided
2 teaspoons salt
3 lb bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, skin removed

Add the oil to a small skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the garlic and ginger. Cook about 1 minute, or until fragrant, stirring frequently. Stir in the garam masala, cumin, and chili powder and cook for an additional 30-60 seconds, or until fragrant. Transfer half of the mixture to a medium bowl and mix with the yogurt and 2 tablespoons of the lime juice.

Add the remaining half of the garlic-ginger mixture to a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of lime juice and the salt and stir to combine. Use a sharp knife to score the chicken – make 2 or 3 shallow cuts about 1/8-inch deep in each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the bowl and massage the spice mixture into the chicken to evenly coat all pieces. Set aside and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 325 F and place a rack in the upper third of the oven. Place a wire rack inside of a rimmed baking sheet (line the baking sheet with aluminum foil for easier cleanup if you want).

Add the yogurt mixture to the bowl with the chicken. Toss to coat the chicken with a thick layer of the yogurt mixture. Place the chicken on the wire rack with the side you scored earlier facing down. Bake chicken for 15-25 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 125 F in breasts and 130 F in legs/thighs. (If some pieces reach temperature before others, just remove them to a plate so they don’t overcook.)

After all the chicken has reached temperature, preheat your oven’s broiler (keep the oven rack in the upper third of the oven for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, flip all of the chicken pieces over on the wire rack so the scored side is up. Broil for about 8-15 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160-165 F in breasts and 175 F in legs/thighs. Remove the chicken to a plate, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with lime wedges.