Larry’s Tandoor Experience

Larry built a Tandoor and he shared with me his experience along with photo’s. I asked Larry if I could share with you all and think these sorts of experiences are really helpful to everyone. Larry wrote a good email explaining his build, and I am going to share as it is, as I can’t better his writing:

Well, here it is!  But not without some unforeseen “opportunities” rearing their heads. First it had rained Monday so the garden centers pots were wet. Not a deal breaker. The largest chain garden center here had surprisingly horrible clay pot selections as all the styles I was looking for were plastic or resin. I ended up at Home Depot which is a huge hardware/garden chain in the US. I chose pretty plain pots and put them in the garage under fans over night. Yesterday I marked my cuts and got to work. I sure wish I’d have just got that diamond blade for the angle grinder first!  No matter what I’ve read, a hand saw, hack saw, reciprocating saw with differing blades, and metal grinding wheel on the angle grinder are frustrating time and energy wasters. I ran to the local hardware and picked up a 4″ diamond blade for $16 and cut the top pot in about a minute. The vermiculite was a rather fine grind, but a 2 cubic foot bag was more than enough. I used a clay pot saucer for the bottom ring as we discussed. I just used the angle grinder to cut the center out. Minus the blade and new welding gloves, I got it all for under $100. Additionally, my wife found a cure solution recipe online that’s apparently used in tandoors. A simple mix of salt, sugar, spinach and vegetable oil went in the blender to make a slurry/paste. I smeared it on the inside of the oven pots and let it dry. Smeared the rest once again and left it over night. I put it together and fired it up slowly this morning. It seems to be working perfectly!  We’ve had chicken marinating in a madras curry and yogurt mix over night to test it out this evening. If this works out, I may cook on this every night for a month!

Now I was getting excited to hear how the madras curry came out, when I got the following reply:

You know that sound you hear a minute or so after pushing down on the cans and plastic bottles in the recycle bin?

So everything was going great. Piping hot oven, skewers cooking nicely, side dishes prepped. I was in the kitchen, and my wife was on the back porch with the kitchen door open. I hear this sound and totally think it’s the trash settling. She comes in and asked why she heard a loud ping sound coming from the yard. I swore it was the trash and moved on.

We finished the meal (which was great) and I went outside to make sure everything was cooling off ok. Then I felt the large outer pot and there it was. A crack from bottom to the middle. 

Talk about the wind being taken out of your sails!

The pot was fully dry, so the only thing I can imagine is that I let it get too hot. Or I bought a bum pot, since I inspected it well for cracks before I bought it. I also never saw a temp on the outside pot higher than 120f and was checking it often. As mentioned, I raised the oven pots off of the bottom of the outer pot with a pot tray ring before the vermiculite went in. I added additional holes to the bottom oven pot, and raised the coals inside using a perforated pie tin, so there was a full 2 1/2″ between the outer pot bottom and the actual coals. I only left the single factory hole in the bottom of the large pot. The outer pot thickness at the bottom is roughly 1/2″.  To add insult to injury, it was the $50 pot!  I also used lump charcoal instead of briquettes, which some say burns hotter, but I didn’t think I used too much. I also checked the inside temp often, seeing high 800’s only occasionally.

Based on what I’ve described and the attached photo, I welcome any ideas you have as to what may have happened. All the pots are very standard red terra cotta Deroma brand with Italy stamped in the clay.

To be honest I have no real answer to Larry, as I have not come across this problem before or heard of other people having the same problem.

I did wonder about posting this blog, as some people might get scared off from building one of these Tandoor, but I believe in honesty and sharing the highs as well as the lows. What I can say, I have seen this problem with either of my ovens. The second oven is nearly two months old and I have used it every week since making and often twice at the weekend. I have also regularly done burns for 8 hours, where I have cooked at lunch and then again for evening dinner. The outer pot is in perfect condition and the inner pot has a couple of very fine cracks which don’t affect the performance. I have also being contacted by lots of people that have built an oven without problems.

Anyone else had experiences like this or have thoughts on what went wrong? 

Brian did suggest – Larry. I wonder if the brick support under the tandoor was the problem. Maybe the weight of the entire tandoor resting on a small point on the brick put too much pressure on one little spot, causing a crack

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