[Sca-cooks] tannurs

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Wed Aug 4 05:54:59 PDT 2010

> Adamantius answered my questions about a tannur with:
> <<< The rationale is that dough-based products stuck to the walls of the 
> tannur will stick to the rather porous limed inner surface (it's basically 
> tile grout, sort of chalky), but not too tenaciously >>>
> How were medieval/mass ovens typically lined? Different from these 
> Indian/Asian ovens?

Mass heat ovens will vary from unlined to terracotta to mortar.  It depends 
mostly on available materials.

> <<< because the dough will shrink at the edges as it cooks and begin to 
> peel itself off the surface of the tannur, especially since the wet dough 
> has an instant jet of steam built up between the hot wall and itself. 
> Often what happens it that the trick to removing the cooked bread or 
> pastry is to know exactly when to go in after it with a long hook: it has 
> puffed up enough to be fully cooked, and also to push itself off the wall; 
> the experienced baker knows when it's expanded as much as it'll go without 
> launching itself off the wall and onto the coals. >>>
> The entrance to the oven is usually covered over, correct? So you can't 
> really see the bread baking. This sounds a bit tricky knowing when to open 
> the oven and pull off the bread. Late enough that the bread is baked well 
> enough, but not so long that any have fallen off into the coals.
> So if there are coals, does this mean a tannur is not a mass oven? Where 
> the oven is heated up to temperature, all the coals are raked out and the 
> food is then put in and is baked by the retained heat only? I that case 
> there wouldn't be any coals to be concerned about the bread falling onto.
> Stefan

Tannurs are continuous fire ovens.  They are a covered cylindrical clay pot 
with a heat source in the bottom center with space for baking around the 
heat and up the walls.  They are more efficient buried in a mass to prevent 
heat loss, but they aren't designed to bake by mass heat.  It's a very old 
oven design, found in Mohenjo Daro and Harrapa (approx 2500 - 1500 BCE).  It 
may be quite older.

Unlike European mass heat ovens, where the baking chamber is closed off to 
retain heat, the cover of the tandoor is regularly opened to check on the 
food being cooked and to rotaate, remove and replace.  The tandoor is best 
suited to cooking for small groups while the mass heat oven can be sized to 
cook for a family or an army.


More information about the Sca-cooks mailing list