Friday, June 23, 2017

American Gyros – Mystery Meat Demystified

If you’re from Greece, you’re probably pretty confused right now, and wondering why I’m calling this gyros. There, pork and chicken are used, in non-ground form, and as the meat turns slowly over a fire, the cooked, caramelized surface is shaved off into thin slices. 

It’s amazing stuff, but believe it or not, I prefer this Americanized “mystery meat” approach, which uses ground lamb and/or beef. The spices are similar, but the texture is totally different, and for me, more interesting. I can eat fresh, identifiable meat anytime, so when I’m in the mood for gyros, I want the stuff you can only get from certain street vendors. Of course, since the meat is ground, you’re taking their word for which specific animals made the ultimate sacrifice, which is why this stuff became affectionately known as “mystery meat.”

This style is perfect for making ahead of time. Once it’s chilled, and sliced, all you need to do is brown it in a pan, and find some flatbread to roll it up in. Preferably, that would be homemade Lebanese mountain bread, which I will attempt to show you in the near future. In the meantime, your favorite pita will do, just as long as you don’t forget to make some tzatziki. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 portions:
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon freshly minced rosemary
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste (you can cook a small piece to test)
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons bread crumb
- Cook at 350 F. for 45 minutes, or until an internal temp of 160 F.
-- Note: to make the pickled red onions, simply slice them about 1/8-inch thick, and cover with red wine vinegar for a few hours, or overnight. They will turn into the beautifully colored garnish seen herein.


Dale Percy said...

I think if you go around the Mediterranean, you'll find a lot of cultures have their own style of: "ground meat rotated on a spit". However, I don;t know why you'd say they're only available from carts in the worst neighbourhoods in the worst cities. In Canada, we've got them in nice restaurants in cities all away across the country. They just call it different names, depending on which province you're in. "Gyro", "Doner (or in Nova Scotia: 'Donair', "Shawarma" -- who cares? As long as it tastes good, it's all good!

arthur dent said...

I have watched all your vids multiple times

first time hearing "never let the food win"

i like it

thanks for vids

Yaawei said...

In absence of lamb, what meats would work the best in this recipe?

Salli Gillespie said...

Looks good, thanks C.J. I'm going to have to make this pretty soon. I love gyros.

henk haas said...

Chef Jhon, how do we make the pickled onions?

Azi said...

Two comments, first, in recipes like this cumin is usually paired with ground coriander (1:1). Together the flavor is more complex. This might help get you closer to the street flavor you seek. Using smoked paprika might help imitate the fire.
Second, traditional pickled onions are as easy to make as your version, but contain 3 different ingredients: white onions, lemon juice (so far no surprises) and ground Sumak, which not only creates the red color, but is a crucial component of the flavor profile. A fair warning, these are totally addictive and you might find yourself putting them on all sandwiches - heroic and cowardly ...

Scott Barber said...

The ceremonial "Lifting of the Parchment" was the highlight of the video.

Dale Percy said...

I apologize if anyone is confused by my original comment. Usually, I'm a lot more terse, with better punctuation and grammar, but, you know, beer. Which reminds me, the whole family of: "ground meat roasted on a spit" is a great way to end a night of revelry! :)

Carol said...

Yum! Gyros are one of my most favorable foods to eat! I always eat them when I go to Greektown in Detroit. Now I can eat them at home.

BTW, I couldn't find the recipe for pickled onions.

rancholyn said...

I'm assuming we can freeze leftover meat..then defrost and brown...correct??? I love this recipe...The gyro places around me use cheap meat that looks and tastes like shoe leather:(

Martin said...

Chef John, reading my mind today as I had some ground lamb I needed to use. I did this in a loaf pan and pressed it with a covered brick.

Matt R said...

This recipe is a little different than the Gyros found in Detroit area Coney Islands, which I grew up on, but it is absolutely delicious. It’s the same basic concept but the spices are a bit different. Not to boast though, my parchment held. :-P

j wallace said...

I made this yesterday and the flavor was good, but my texture still ended up like crumbly meatloaf. I think I didn't mix it enough or something. 😞

Ned G said...

Chef John: Rather than letting the meat sit in the fat as it cooks and then be reabsorbed, why not bake it on a wire rack to allow the fat to drain off? Ned

James Rudow said...

Wish you would demystify souvlaki seasoning. Also, do a Souvlaki recipe.

Aaron Alexander said...

These turned out quite fantastic! I did homemade flat bread to boot! The recipes you give and steps you teach are incredible. Please keep up the good work! I've tried so many new things because of your blog!

Unknown said...

Amazing recipe chef John. We're looking forward for the Lebanese Mountain Bread recipe.

LindsayH said...

I used it's own fat to brown the pieces. #heroofmygyro. It came out so good. Thanks for the recipe

Sheriff of Jorttingham said...

Awesome recipe. Worked great for a big family fourth of July weekend. The only thing off about your recipe is the pronunciation. If you want to be authentic the pronunciation should be ---- Y-IH-RRRRROS (roll the r's). Thanks for all your hard work.

Lunatic Chef said...

@James Rudow... there's no mystery to a good souvlaki. Just mix up a quick marinade with some extra virgin Olive oil and some fresh lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons of each, with a TBSP of dried Oregano and a tsp of dried Rosemary. Add some garlic powder if you want a touch of garlic. mix it all together, let it sit for a half hour and let the flavors come out and blend. Then cut your favorite meat, lamb to be authentic, or pork or chicken, into small cubes and mix it with the marinade in a glass container. Let it marinade for at least 2 hours and then make your skewers and toss it on the grill or under the broiler or even in a fry pan.

I've been eating too many souvlaki lately and will have to give this Gyro recipe a shot. I will mix up a blend of beef and veal, or just all beef, as I'm not a fan of lamb. Most of the restaurants in Montreal serve all beef anyways, and there are a lot of places to grab a Gyro or souvlaki in this city. Every shopping mall will have at least one, usually two, in the food court. NEver really thought of making my own until I saw this recipe! I have a feeling that it will become a regular in the rotation, along with a number of others. And I ALWAYS have at least a jar of Bread and Butter pickles in the fridge! :)

Ross said...

Dear Chef John -

Enjoyed this plenty. Too plenty, in fact.

I made it the day after i prepped the Greek Debt Rescue Sauce (which is pronounced either "tza tzee key" or "Pow, right in the kisser!") and the two magically appeared on my counter simultaneously. Boom. Tasting-fest.

Anyway, for the remaining Slab O Gyro, I noticed it was about 3/4" thick and that your slices looked more like 1 1/2" -- did I compress the meat too much? It went in a 9"x9" baking pan, but ought one be forming the loaf away from the edges, to keep the height/thickness?

No matter, really, it was crazy delicious, with the Pow sauce. Thanks.

Unrelated question -- any way to get you to talk tools at some point? You're great for the small kitchen, light-on-tools crowd, but would love to hear your thoughts on how any and all aspects of how to equip a humble but very functional kitchen.

Thanks for your research, experimentation, presentation, and sharing!

Dave Feiker said...

Tried this today along with the tatziki, love your recipes! BTW I doubled the parchment paper and it lifted out like a charm! I am a huge fan (partly because of the delicious food)! Also did the Frozen vanilla custard for dessert (except I DID use vanilla bean instead of the extract), also top notch! I had made several attempts but the consistancy was never right... Till now. What a great Sunday treat all around. The wife and I thank you!

Jim said...

I made this over the weekend and it turned out perfect and really tasted like a good gyro. I really worked the meat with my hands to get a tight solid consistency when it baked. Pan-frying it was the clincher, so good. A winner that will go in my recipe book.

Ilene McKenna said...

Can this be made with Bison instead of beef? Also can this be made in advance and frozen ?

Joey Lemoine said...

I made this with using sourdough bread crumbs (made with your sourdough recipe from a few years ago). It was amazing!

Shannon Dillon said...

Chef John you’ve done it again! Another recipe that I would easily give a 10/10!
Do you recall the movie Ratatouille? Remember the chef that says anyone can cook, you embody that so well. I truly feel when I make your recipes that you’ve made it possible for thousands of people like myself to make restaurant quality food at home, all because of you.

I followed the recipe to the T, and made the lovely Tatziki, and pickled onions, along with the mouth watering gyro meat. It was beyond worth it, my husband and I were over the moon when we bit into the soft chewy bread. The meat was perfectly seasoned (the sear made it even better), the tatziki really conplemented the meat and brought out the taste of the lamb, and the onions really pulled everything together. Tangy, rich, comforting, and succulent. We added a smidge of lettuce just like the picture as well. These will be going into my rotation to impress guests. My husband and I had to use some serious self control to stop eating these gyros. I loved the addition of the bread crumbs, the texture of as spot on, and I think many would be hard pressed to tell the difference of whether it was cooked on a spit or not.

You’re an inspiration to the home cook. Thank you so much for all that you do for the at home foodie community. 😊