Friday, August 11, 2006

An Oil Drum Tandoor?

I really love cooking and cooking outdoors over wood or charcoal adds the ingredient missing from the electric cooker in the house. I've worked out that replacing take away meals with food cooked at home - even on an exotic outdoors device - should pay for any wildly extravagant construction costs. And I've got a few weeks off work to engage in some wildly extragavant construction.

We already have a small kettle barbeque. I don't have much confidence in a device if nobody can decide how to spell its name. (Barbeque? Barbecue? BBQ?) I want something more exciting, more authentic, more unusual.

I've done some internet research and the options seem to be:
  • A wood-fired brick pizza oven in the garden. This is perfect. But after measuring out the dimensions in charcoal on our patio, I've realised that a half-ton of fire bricks makes it difficult to get out of the house and makes for very little light into the kitchen.I need something smaller and more portable for my outdoor culinary adventures.
  • a smoker. There are some great smoker projects out there, the Big Baby Double-Barreled Barbecue (spelling again?) caught my eye - perfect for that whole hog if you have the welding skills to balance one oil drum on top of another with connecting pipes. I don't have the welding skills, and I don't eat hog. Ruled out.
  • a tandoor. I love a large helping of tandoori king prawn with a nan. It looks about the right size for the garden and surely you can tandoori-fy thousands of other dishes...?
A thorough search of the internet turns up only two home-made tandoor projects.

Piers Thompson built a tandoor in his garden using bricks, vermiculite insulation, concrete and a commercial clay tandoor liner. Some guy called Bob has also tried it out and raves about how well it cooks. It looks good. I wonder how much a commercial clay tandoor liner costs? Ebay tandoors are about £400-£600 so I guess a clay liner is a fair chunk of that.

Paul Wright has instructions on his website for creating a tandoor out of an oil drum by filling it with a broken glass/concrete mix and then lining with fire cement. 2kg of fire cement costs over £5 at B&Q, making this look like a cheap project that turns expensive. I'm not sure if cement is good to eat. I think they mix it up with the wrong kind of lime (mineral, not fruit)?

Hmmm...looks like time to go back to the drawing board.


Blogger Raghu said...


Great resource on the topic and I plan to build one using your techniques.

What should be the clay characterstics ? Any details you know of ?

- Raghu/USA

7:50 pm  
Blogger bigbrowncow said...

Thanks raghu.

The clay needs good thermal shock characteristics to minimize cracking and to have a low firing temperature as the tandoor won't get as hot as a kiln.

The pottery experts I spoke to recommended raku clay for these attributes but I expect others would work just as well.


9:39 pm  
Blogger Molly said...

great site Bigbrowncow. I want to build a tandoor oven and am interested to know if you have had any problems with the raku clay cracking in the long term.

1:34 am  
Blogger bigbrowncow said...

The clay has been really stable following the first firing - no cracking in the last 2 years despite being outdoors the whole time.


1:27 pm  

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