Whether you say "yee-ros" or "jy-ros," gyros are Greek “sandwiches” of lamb, beef or pork served on a pita with tomatoes, onions and cool, creamy, cucumber-infused tzatziki sauce. Popularized as a street food in Athens, gyros migrated across Europe and to America, where they are served in the traditional Greek style of either pork or lamb, or as “Greek-American” gyros with a mix of lamb and ground beef. Although some recipes instruct the meat to be cooked in a loaf pan like a meatloaf, gyro purists prefer to cook the meat on a vertical rotisserie to get the crispy, salty flavor and texture gyros are known for.
Preparing the Meat
Ground gyro meat, whether lamb, pork, beef or a combination, is mixed with seasonings including marjoram, oregano and rosemary for traditional Greek flavor. When thoroughly blended, the meat mixture should be refrigerated from 1 to 2 hours or overnight. Chill the blade and bowl of a food processor in the freezer while the meat is refrigerated. Puree the chilled meat in a food processor for about 1 minute, or until it is a paste.
Cooking and Slicing the Meat
In the traditional Greek cooking style, large pieces of lamb or pork are sliced thin and layered horizontally on the vertical spool or skewer of a rotisserie and then cooked and sliced vertically into strips. Greek-American gyros’ pureed meat mixture is packed in a mound around the spool, cooked and sliced vertically before serving. By grilling gyro meat on a vertical rotisserie, the crispy outside meat is shaved off and the next layer is exposed to the heat to become the new crispy outer layer, thus achieving the gyro’s salty, crispy texture.
Serving the Gyro
Gyros are distinctive for what is served with the grilled meat: chopped tomatoes, onions, feta cheese and a yogurt-based tzatziki sauce cradled in a soft, rich pita bread. Tzatziki sauce, the signature condiment of a gyro, is a cool, tangy blend of strained Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon juice and mint in its traditional preparation; modifications include using sour cream or mayonnaise, dill and parsley. When serving, wrap a traditional gyro in aluminum foil and eat with your hands.
Whether the meat is layered in the Greek tradition or mounded in the Greek-American style, cook gyro meat thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160 degree Fahrenheit. Many charcoal or gas grills include a rotisserie attachment, and you should follow the same safety guidelines for using a rotisserie as for grilling. Grills should be placed in a level location for safety and to ensure the rotisserie operates correctly. Place a fireproof material such as a sheet of metal or a patio protector under the rotisserie if it’s being used on a wooden deck. Don't operate rotisserie grills in windy locations, and keep children and pets away from rotisserie grills when in use.
- Serious Eats: The Food Lab -- Greek-American Lamb Gyros
- Fine Cooking: Food Science -- The Secret of Spooled Gyro Meat
- The Culinary Institute of America: Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce
- Morrisville (New York) State College: Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce
- Serious Eats: Food Lab --- Greek-American Lamb Gyros Recipe
- RotisserieGrilling.com: Rotisserie Grilling Tips