I had a Greek salad last week and it was topped with shaved slices of gyro meat. It tasted delicious, but I began to wonder what exactly goes into the gyro meat to make it taste so good. It’s clearly not straight lamb.
According to Wikipedia, large pieces of meat are placed on a spit and turned in front of a heat source. If the meat is too lean, strips of fat are added to keep it moist and crispy. Then, the outside layer of meat is cooked to a crisp and sliced very thinly, and used on sandwiches, wraps and salads.
Apparently the type of meat used varies by region. In Greece, the meat is typically pork but can also be chicken or veal. Gyros are also big in Australia, and the meat there is usually lamb, chicken, beef, or (most likely) a combination of the three. And in the United States, the gyro meat is often a combination of lamb and beef.
So far, I am not too surprised at what I’ve learned.
But then I read a New York Times article that was not so glamorous. It said that gyro meat begins with raw beef and lamb trimmings. The raw meat is run through a meat grinder, and certain things are added such as bread crumbs, oregano, water and other seasonings. The mixture is then run through another machine where it is turned into a paste. It is molded into cylinders and then frozen, ready to be put on a spit and shaved off for consumption. This is likely how the majority of the gyro meat we consume in the U.S. is made.
This is a little bit gross, but I’m not surprised. I’ve always suspected that gyro meat may be highly processed, and sometimes I even wonder if they add MSG to it to give it that strong flavor. However, it seems like the quality of the meat depends on where you get it. At a nicer restaurant, they may make their own gyro meat and it may taste a little fresher. But at a kabob stand on the street, you may be getting the highly processed stuff.
I did find a recipe for making gyro meat at home, and it looked delicious! Ingredients included ground lamb, onion, garlic, rosemary, marjoram, sea salt and pepper. There was also a recipe for homemade tzatziki sauce that included plain yogurt, cucumber, garlic, sea salt, olive oil, red wine vinegar and fresh mint. Yum! Nothing bad in that recipe. So, maybe the lesson is I should try to make my own gyro meat and tzatziki sauce! If I do, I’ll let you know how it turns out…