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What is the difference between grill barbeque and tandoori BBQ?

Both grill barbeque and tandoori BBQ are popular methods of cooking meat, vegetables, and other foods over an open flame or hot coals. However, there are some key differences between these two BBQ styles.

Cooking Methods

Grill barbeque typically involves cooking food directly over hot coals or an open flame. The food is placed on a grill grate above the heat source. Common fuels used for grill barbeque include charcoal briquettes and propane gas. Wood chips or chunks may be added to the coals for extra smoke flavor. Grill barbeque allows the food to take on a charred or crispy texture from the direct radiant heat. Popular grill barbeque foods include hamburgers, hotdogs, steaks, chicken, ribs, kebabs, and vegetables.

Tandoori BBQ utilizes a cylindrical clay oven called a tandoor. The tandoor oven is heated with charcoal or wood fire at the bottom. Food is skewered and cooked by the radiant heat circulating within the oven as it bounces off the clay interior. Tandoori BBQ originated in India and is commonly used to make tandoori chicken. Marinated meat, seafood, and vegetables are other popular tandoori BBQ foods. The clay oven allows for even cooking while adding a distinctive charcoal smoky flavor.

Flavor Profiles

Grill barbeque focuses on the smoky flavor imparted by the fuel source – charcoal, gas or wood. Spices and marinades may be used to add flavor, but usually play a secondary role to the smokiness. Kansas City and Memphis styles of American barbeque are good examples of grill barbeque cuisine where the smoke flavor takes center stage.

On the other hand, tandoori BBQ relies heavily on bold spice blends and marinades. Traditional tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt and spice mixture containing cayenne pepper, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, and lemon juice. These flavorful marinades permeate the meat before cooking in the tandoor oven. The marinade flavors mix with the smoky charcoal tandoor oven flavor.

Temperature and Cooking Time

The direct grilling method of barbeque involves cooking at a high temperature, often between 450-550°F. Cooking time is relatively fast, usually totaling 20-30 minutes to fully cook thinner cuts of meat like chicken breasts or veggie skewers. Thicker cuts like brisket or ribs take 1-2 hours of grilling time. The high heat helps sear and char the exterior while cooking the interior.

Tandoori ovens reach a high temperature, around 900°F. However, cooking time is slower due to the indirect radiant heat. Tandoori chicken takes about 45 minutes to an hour to fully cook. The slower cooking allows the marinades to thoroughly penetrate the meat while the clay oven seals in moisture.

Types of Meat

In American-style grill barbeque, common meats include beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, and veggies. Brisket, pulled pork, ribs, chicken wings or legs, and sausage are very popular. The grill barbeque method works well for a variety of meats.

Chicken and lamb are the most common meats cooked in the tandoor oven. Pieces of meat with bones, like chicken legs and lamb chops, are well suited for the tandoori style of cooking. Seafood like fish, shrimp, lobster tails, and squid are also found in tandoori cuisine.

Side Dishes

At an American grill barbeque, typical side dishes include baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, french fries, cornbread, and biscuits. The sides tend to be comfort foods and picnic staples. Grilled corn on the cob is also a popular grill barbeque side.

Indian-inspired sides like biryani rice, naan bread, raita cucumber yogurt, vegetable curry, or masala-spiced french fries often accompany tandoori entrées. The cool, creamy sides contrast with the spicy tandoori meats.


Modern American-style grill barbeque originated in the Southern United States. It’s closely linked to Southern barbecue traditions dating back hundreds of years. Grilling meat over open flame was a cooking method born out of necessity rather than refinement. Backyard grill barbeque grew in popularity across the U.S. in the 1950s and 60s as charcoal grills became widely available.

On the other hand, tandoori BBQ traces its roots back to India and the tandoor oven. It originated in the Punjab region of India around 3000 years ago. Tandoori chicken as it’s known today was developed in the 1930s at the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi, and became popular worldwide by the 1970s.

Common Dishes

Grill Barbeque Tandoori BBQ
Hamburgers Tandoori chicken
Ribs Tandoori lamb chops
Pulled pork sandwiches Tandoori shrimp
Hot dogs Tandoori fish tikka
Chicken wings Tandoori paneer
Kebabs Tandoori lobster tails
Smoked brisket Tandoori vegetables


While both grill barbeque and tandoori BBQ involve cooking over an open flame, they represent distinct cooking traditions. Grill barbeque relies on simple seasoning and the smoky flavor from the fire. Tandoori BBQ depends heavily on marinades and the tandoor oven’s cooking environment for its flavor profile. Grill barbeque incorporates a variety of meats, while tandoori cuisine favors chicken, lamb and seafood. Side dishes also differ significantly. But both styles result in flavorful and tender meat dishes perfect for outdoor dining and social gatherings.