I relish the memory of meeting up with friends at Fontana Famous Pizza & Gryo in Bayside, New York for late night gyros. The restaurant is still around twenty years later, which tells you that they’re doing something right. While my stomach can no longer tolerate late night eats, I still love a good gyro. The greek sandwich starts with soft pita bread as a base. Mounds of crispy meat, traditionally a beef and lamb mix with herbs and spices, are piled high atop with lettuce, tomato, onion and garlicky tzatziki sauce completing the sandwich. The pita is rolled up into a cone shape and then devoured. It’s messy but delicious. Making restaurant-style gyros like the ones I used to eat at Fontana is totally in reach with my simple recipe.
The traditional method of cooking gyros involved shaping meat into a large cone which is then cooked on a rotating spit. As the spit rotates, browned meat is cut off into crispy strips. Unless you plan on buying an expensive piece of equipment and feeding a ton of people, cooking gyros at home with this technique is neithr practical nor cost effective.
I’ve reviewed some of the online recipes for gyro meat including Alton Brown’s and J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s. I haven’t tried either, and while I’m sure both yield delicious results, both require a two-step cooking process. First, meat is molded into a loaf and baked. Once cooked, the loaf is sliced and then browned. My goal was to consolidate the two-step process into one without sacrificing on taste or texture.
Reading Kenji’s post made me think about making sausage and the process is very similar, if not identical in some respects to making gyro meat. Properly made sausage is salted and allowed to rest for a period of time prior to being processed. This allows the meat to more effectively bind to itself providing a uniform texture, and also yields a juicer product after cooking. This requires a little patience and planning since there is some down time, but the results are superior and skipping these steps isn’t recommended.
Achieving a thin and browned, yet moist piece of gyro meat required some testing. For the first rendition I rolled out the meat into a thin sheet and broiled it. The edges of the meat curled up causing uneven cooking, and while I was pleased with the flavor, the end result was dry. For the second go-round, I altered the method by which I rolled the meat which helped reduce the curling but didn’t help with moistness. Finally, I decided to freeze the gyro meat before cooking so that the exposed area would crisp, while the remainder stayed moist. Getting the meat as close to the broiler was also important for a concentrated blast of heat.
I’m really happy with my homemade version of gyro meat. If you’ve never had a gyro or attempted to make one at home, now’s the time. There’s only about 10 minutes of actual cooking time and the rest inactive. Enjoy!
- ½ pound ground lamb
- ½ pound 80/20 ground chuck
- 2 teaspoons Morton’s kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Add all the ingredients to a medium-sized bowl and mix to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
- Transfer the meat to a food processor. Process unit the mixture is the consistency of a paste
- Place half the meat mixture between two pieces of wax paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the meat until it is ⅛ to ¼ inch thick. You can place chopsticks or skewers between the wax paper as a guide for rolling pin which will ensure even thickness (see video in post). Repeat the process for the remainder of the meat.
- Freeze the meat on a flat surface for 25 minutes.
- Set the oven rack to its highest position and turn the broiler on high.
- Remove the wax paper and transfer one of the frozen meat pieces to a sheet of oiled aluminum foil. Trim the foil to the size of the meat. Place a cooling rack onto a large sheet pan, and then the foil atop the rack (see video in post)
- Cook under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes or until the top of the gyro meat is brown and the remainder cooked through. Keep a close eye as it will cook quickly. Repeat the process with the second piece of meat.
- Slice into one inch strips and serve.