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Today we’re going to up your chicken dinners game with this steam oven tandoori roast chicken.
Butterflied so it cooks fast, and coated in earthy spices, yoghurt and lemon, you’ll be amazed that you can produce a roast chicken this juicy, deeply flavored and wonderful in little more than 30 minutes.
Turn your roast chicken into a feast by adding a pan of cubed potatoes to the oven while the bird cooks, then add warmed Indian style flatbreads, herbs and cucumber sauce to serve. It’s a meal that’s been on high rotation at my house and one I’m just as proud to serve to guests as fussy kids.
Can you really roast a chicken in 30 minutes?
Yes, you absolutely can roast a chicken in 30 minutes, if you do so in a steam oven and you’re happy to spatchcock (butterfly) your chicken. These are my two keys to very fast, very even chicken cooking.
The combination of the flattened-out bird and a high heat oven with added steam allows for a roast where the darker leg meat is quickly cooked through, while the white meat stays tender and juicy. It’s exactly what you always want, but rarely get, in a whole roasted chicken.
It’s not just a tandoori chicken where this spatchcock method applies: my butterflied lemon and herb roast chicken in the steam oven is one of this site’s most popular posts. It is no surprise to me at all. Most of us value the ability to cook something comforting and traditional without too much fuss, and the ability to tweak and speed up those dishes to better suit modern life or modern appliances also means we’re likely to cook them more often!
Tandoori seasoning for chicken
Tandoori spices vary from recipe to recipe, but at heart they’re a blend of cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, paprika and chili. Tandoori isn’t meant to be hot and spicy, so it’s a great blend for kids to try out Indian style food without the heat.
The spices are mixed with yoghurt and smeared over chicken, where the yoghurt tenderizes the meat and the spices impart a deep color and flavor.
Traditional tandoori is cooked in a tandoor, a clay oven, which makes the meat smoky and slightly charred on the outside. It’s not especially practical for most of us to have a tandoor at home, so high heat roasting is the next best thing.
I’ve given my tandoori blend in today’s recipe, but if you don’t keep many spices on hand you may be better off buying a good quality pre-made tandoori spice mix instead. Generally it’ll be fresher and tastier than the five-year-old jar of coriander you find lurking in the back of your pantry!
If you buy a pre-made blend, just check to make sure it doesn’t contain salt before adding the salt listed in the recipe below.
Spatchcocking your chicken for roasting
Spatchcocking a chicken is very simple if you’ve got a decent pair of kitchen scissors (or a knife, but I find the scissors easier).
This method is simpler than the one I share in my butterflied roast chicken recipe, where I have you remove the entire ribcage of the bird, leaving only the leg and wing bones attached. In the interests of saving time, today I just want you to remove the backbone and press open the chicken. You’ll end up with a few bones underneath each breast, along with the legs and wings, but the chicken is still very easy to cut into sections after roasting and it’s so much faster to prepare.
If you don’t like the idea of flattening the chicken yourself, buy one from a reputable butcher and ask them to do it for you. I’m comfortable doing the job at home but my local butcher puts my knife skills to shame. He also doesn’t charge any extra for the privilege of a bird that’s totally ready to season and roast. That cuts out an extra five or six minutes of prep, something I find invaluable during the dinner time rush.
If you’re preparing the chicken yourself, start by placing it breast side down on a board. The backbone of the chicken will now be on top, just turn the chicken so the cavity is facing you and that backbone is running top to bottom on your board. Cut through the skin and down one side of the backbone, straight through the rib bones, then do the same on the other side. Remove the backbone. If the neck is still attached, cut this away as well (you can freeze the backbone and neck to add to chicken stock another time, if you like).
Turn the chicken over so it’s breast side up, pressing down to flatten it as much as you can and tucking the legs inwards, with the thighs on the very outside so they get plenty of heat exposure during cooking. If you like, tuck the wing tips under to neaten things up.
You’re done! Now that you’ve got a perfectly prepared chicken, let’s cook.
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30 Minute Steam Oven Tandoori Roast Chicken
- 3.5 lb whole chicken backbone removed and bird flattened out, to give a cooking weight of around 3.3lb (1.5kg)
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 ½ tsp paprika I use sweet, smoked is fine if you prefer
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½-1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 tbs natural yoghurt
- 1 lemon juiced
- Preheat oven to 430°F/220°C, combination steam setting. If your oven has variable steam settings, choose 30% (if not, don’t worry! Just set to combi steam at the correct temperature and the oven will figure out the humidity for you).
- Mix all ingredients except the chicken together in a small bowl. Cut deep slashes into the breasts and thighs of the chicken (this helps it cook faster, but also absorbs the marinade more easily), then rub the marinade all over both sides of the chicken and into the slashes.
- Set the chicken, breast side up and legs splayed as in the pictures, on a rack over a baking dish or pan, so air can circulate all around the meat.
- Put the tray in the preheated oven until the chicken is cooked through and the marinade is a dark golden color, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to rest in a warm place for 5-10 minutes before carving and serving. If any cooking juices have collected in the pan, pour these over the chicken as you serve.
- This recipe is a variation on my popular Steam Oven Roast Chicken with lemon and herbs. It’s a great way to show how variable the method is; while the flavors are different the cooking remains very similar. You can apply the same process to all sorts of spice rubs and aromatics to make different chicken dinners using your steam oven.
- The tandoori style marinade on the chicken is easy to mix up and provides amazing flavor to the meat in a short time. If you don’t have all the dry spices to hand, use about 2 tbs of a decent tandoori spice blend instead. If you have time to prepare ahead, marinating the seasoned chicken in the fridge for several hours will make it even more delicious.
- It might seem like the cooking temperature I’ve given is very high. It’s correct – to get decent browning of the skin in the short time it takes to cook the chicken, you need a hot oven. Time-wise, if your chicken is significantly smaller or larger than the weight I’ve given, adjust your cooking time to suit.
- The easiest way to tell if the meat’s done is with a probe thermometer – a good instant-read one is invaluable, especially if your steam oven doesn’t have a meat probe accessory. The cooked temperature should read 73-75°C (162-167°F) in the thickest part of the thigh joint. Make sure the probe is touching meat, not bone, as that’ll throw off your reading.
- I like to serve this with Indian roti bread, cucumber and yoghurt, cilantro/coriander and some roasted cubed potatoes mixed with mustard seeds and salt. I put the potatoes in a different pan on a second oven rack under the chicken, cooking them while the chicken roasts.
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