A gyro or gyros is a Greek dish made from meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie. Like shawarma it is derived from the lamb-based doner kabab. In Greece it is most often pork or chicken, while a mixture of beef and lamb is common in the US and other countries. It is usually served wrapped or stuffed in a pita, along with ingredients such as tomato, onion, sauces like tzatziki, ketchup and mustard and french fries.
Gyro vs Shawarma
The gyro and the shawarma are two staples of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine that have gone mainstream in the United States. But even though some gyro-producing companies can make enough meat to crank out 600,000 sandwiches a day, we often don’t inquire about what goes into either of these dishes. However, we at Plated like to uncover every technique and mystery food has to offer, so we’re about to reveal what’s actually wrapped up in that pita.
Why do people confuse them
At first glance, gyros and shawarma look like the same thing. The meat for both is shaved from a large cone that slowly turns and roasts all day, cooking the meat in its own juices. And below this surface of similarity, the two meals share a common ancestor: the doner kebab. Invented in Turkey in the 18th or 19th century, doner kebab means “rotating grilled meat.” When it was introduced to Greece, the locals named it “gyros,” the Greek word for “turn.” Likewise, when it spread through the Middle East, it was called “shawarma,” an Arabic word for “turning.” Of course, if you’ve ever seen the meat gloriously spinning on a rotisserie, you understand why these names stuck.
Preparation of Gyro
In Greece, gyros is normally made with pork, though other meats are also used. Chicken is common, and lamb or beef may be found more rarely. Typical American mass-produced gyros are made with finely ground beef mixed with lamb.
For hand-made gyros, meat is cut into approximately round, thin, flat slices, which are then stacked on a spit and seasoned. Fat trimmings are usually interspersed. Spice mixes generally include salt, hot and sweet paprika, white and black pepper, dried parsley, garlic powder, and oregano. Additional spices are sometimes added (e.g. cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, anise, coriander, fennel, allspice, sumac).
The pieces of meat, in the shape of an inverted cone, are placed on a tall vertical rotisserie, which turns slowly in front of a source of heat or broiler. As the cone cooks, lower parts are basted with the juices running off the upper parts. If the meat is not fatty enough, strips of fat are added so that the roasting meat always remains moist and crisp. The rate of roasting can be adjusted by varying the strength of the heat, the distance between the heat and the meat, and the speed of the spit rotation, allowing the cook to adjust accordingly for varying rates of consumption. The outside of the meat is sliced vertically in thin, crisp shavings when done. In Greece it is generally served in an oiled, lightly grilled piece of pita, rolled up with sliced tomatoes, chopped onions, fries and sauces like tzatziki, ketchup and mustard.
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