The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

I've seen fire and I've felt pain...

proth5's picture

I've seen fire and I've felt pain...

Lest anyone who reads my posts think I know what I'm doing, I've decided to post my latest adventure as an illustration to the contrary.

The story of how the tandoor got into my back yard is one for which the world is not prepared, but it is there, the weather is too hot to turn on the oven, and I thought to myself “Well, this is a good time to learn to make naan.”

The first step is getting the right tools.  After watching and watching the YouTube video of a chef making naan, I decided that the little tool seemed pretty handy.

Although it just looks like a wad of towels, it is actually a convex pad of compressed straw covered with a cloth.  It is firm enough so that (if you know what you are doing) you can get the naan dough to make good contact with the side of the tandoor.  It is pictured below:

Bread Pad 

Armed with the tool – the next step is to heat up the tandoor.  It took about two hours for my model (pictured below) to heat to the point where the walls were nearly 700F.

Not Pretty, but it gets the job done Fire in the hole

So it was time to cook the naan. 

I took about 4oz of dough and shaped it into thin disks and then draped them over the dough pad (sort of as per the video), gave them a quick spray of water (so they would stick better – hahahahahaha) and steeled myself to put my hand near a 700F tandoor entrance to stick the dough to the side.My first disk (of six)dropped promptly to the bottom to become a flaming dough ball.

Oh well.  I learned that you really need to apply some firm pressure on that tool.  Never mind the smell of burning feather as the hair was singed off my hand.

Finally disk three stuck.  But it also stuck to the side of the tandoor when it was done and came off in shreds.  Four was the turning point (or so I thought) and I moved on to five feeling like I had figured this thing out.  Four and five are featured in the pictures below.

One finally Stuck!

Looks almost good enough to eat

Two of six isn't bad... 

Number six showed me to be overconfident and slid off the dough pad without ever making contact with the tandoor wall.

Well, two out of six isn’t bad – and what bread I did get was eaten with relish.  Of course, failure never deters me – it just makes me more determined.  I’ll be back with a report when the whole thing has been perfected. In about a year or so...

Meanwhile my consolation prize is pictured below.  It has been a long while since I had real Tandoori food…

Consolation prize

Happy Baking!


weavershouse's picture

You are brave and funny and probably now hairless. Where in the world did you get that cooker?


That chicken looked so good, was it cooked in that beast? Sorry.                                      weavershouse

proth5's picture

Truely, the story of how is a story for which the world is not prepared.  But I note that there are many companies that you can find on the internet that will ship you a nicer one if you feel the need.

It's a beast alright - not pretty on the outside, but well constructed and sturdy - it has survived a number of Denver winters with no protection.  Just a little touchup paint - that's really all it needs...

Chicken was threaded on a skewer and cooked in the tandoor.  This is hot and scary work, but the chicken was cooked in under 10 mins...

Now that all the hair is off my right arm - I see no reason not to make this my Friday night tradition.  I'll get it right - I'll get it right - I'll...

Happy Baking!

foolishpoolish's picture

That's some serious naan there! and the tandoori chicken looks mighty tasty and juicy.

Tandoor looks scary though! You are brave (or made of asbestos!)


proth5's picture

is the word - but you are just too polite to use it.  I can be a maniac.  I know this.

A bowl of ice water is kept nearby.  I didn't need it this time, but I will, I will...

breadnerd's picture

I bet they're like crepes--the first one never turns out. 'Course maybe with some practice...

Just make more dough next time LOL. And that chicken looks awesome too!

Very cool oven! And hot! Reminds me of when I was gently lecturing my guy on being more careful when he singed his eyelashes adding wood to the mud oven fire...and then he said maybe I should look in the mirror.... Yep, mine were gone too!

proth5's picture

The small comfort that I do have is that when I get my woodburning bread oven, I will have toughened up considerably.

I have actually worked with a wood burning oven and that nice, flat floor is a breeze to work with compared to trying to stick bread on the side of a clay pot.

ejm's picture

What a great account!! Sorry to hear that you no longer have any hair on your arms though.

And the bread that turned out and chicken look fabulous!



(What naan recipe do you use?)

proth5's picture

Alas the hair is gone and will probably not grow back until I stop this nonsense.  We must suffer for our art. 

Half anticipating the "flaming dough ball" experience, I just used my standard pizza crust recipe - which tastes pretty good when grilled and has the advantage of containing only inexpensive ingredients.

When I get this figured out - I'll get a naan recipe together...

ehanner's picture

I too have been interested in the ancient ways of the tribesmen and the tandoor. Your first try looks like it was a learning experience. I have seen the video on the net and to me it looks like the fire has burned out or removed. Similar to a hearth oven where they burn to heat the mass then cook in a clean oven. It looks like your naan was cooked first and fastest on the bottom. I would try heating it and let it stabilize for a bit with a cover. If you have active charcoal burning below, ouch that's got to be way over 1,200 degrees at the top.

A question about the construction. Does there seem to be added thermal mass around the outside of the clay cooking form? If it took 2 hours to heat it must be heavy.

Great Post Proth5, thanks for sharing. Puts a whole new meaning on the term "cooks hands".


proth5's picture

Good idea on the clean oven - meat is definitely cooked with the coals still burning so I might have to change the order of my cooking.  Not 100% sure how to get hot ash out of the oven.  The ash removal door is pretty small.

Although the tandoor cooks I saw in Malaysia seemed always to have an active fire going.  Something to think about, though.

The "boldly baked" parts of the naan are not disagreeable.  The flaming dough balls are, however, inedible.

There is definitely something around that clay cooking pot because I finished cooking at 6PM last night - closed the thing up as much as I could - and at 9:30AM the walls are still at 145F with the fire out, but out. 

Yeah, and I thought grabbing loaves out of 500F ovens toughened me up. Ha!

PS: I've studied the video again, and the camera angle never gives us a view of the bottom of the tandoor.  That little stream of smoke coming from the bottom of the bread kind of hints to me that there is a fire down there.  Don't think just because the chef is calmly putting his hand in the oven that it isn't searing hot.  I've seen tandoor cooks load those things with nothing but their bare hands (ouch!). A couple of other videos do show the fire burning as the naan is pulled out.  But I think that better fire management might help me.  All these factors give me something to think about.  Let me know your observations.

ehanner's picture

Proth5, check this site out.

This guy has some very good tips and tricks for using a Tandoor. I hadn't seen this before but I notice he recommends using a glove. There are tips here for all the issues you mentioned.


proth5's picture

Thanks for the link.  I had looked on FXCuisine, but didn't hit that particular page.

He is using a glove instead of the bread pad - I tried that once that last time I became tandoor obsessed and the bread pad (believe it or not) seems to work better.  Of course wearing a glove would be a more sane approach to bodily protection.

I will definitely study up this week before the next attempt.  In the end I fear that there is nothing better than practice.

Thanks, again.


proth5's picture

This week I tried letting the fire burn down a bit.  It was successful in its way... but as soon as the fire burned down, the temperature of the walls dropped.  This was after heating for a couple hours.

The naan worked out.  I got six for six.  I think the key is the firmness with which each activity must be done.  Slapping the dough between the hands is really quite muscular and pressing the dough to the side of the tandoor means really pressing that dough.  However, with the fire being not so active, I didn't get the "cooks in two minutes with boldly baked spots" for which we strive.  I guess I look on it like pizza - ya gotta keep that fire live to make good pizza.

Anyway, the fire needed to be stoked and the tandoor re-heated before I could cook meat.

I'll try again next week...

holds99's picture

Very interesting and are very brave.  Thanks for sharing.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL