Greek Kebab Skewers
If you can’t travel to Greece this year then bring the flavors and aromas of Greece to you. We are all missing travel right now and looking for ways to stay connected to the world around us. I love watching cooking travel shows on Netflix like ‘Feed Phil’ and ‘Chef’s Table’ for inspiration and to feel like I’ve actually been somewhere!
When I was a young twenty something I had the chance to go to the Greek Islands and let me tell you it was an experience I’ll never forget and, especially now, I’m so grateful for. While there I had many great meals. Everything from the freshest seafood you can imagine in a fancy restaurant served up alongside unbelievable views of the ocean, to street vendors and small cafes as I rode through the mountainous hillsides on a moped throughout the small surrounding towns. Each experience and each meal was unique and special.
One of my favorite ‘sandwiches’ to get while out and about exploring was a Gyro pita. Partly because of the amazing flavor of the meat and partly because both my parents are huge Gyro fans and growing up this was the most exotic dish I’d ever tried. From a real Greek restaurant they were better than any I’d ever experienced before and it also connected me to life back home.
The recipe I am sharing with you below is for the kebab itself but please be sure to serve with all the fixins. A fresh, good quality pita that is warmed up in the oven or on the grill really makes its. As does a little tomato and red onion salad on the side and, of course, a cucumber tzatziki sauce. You can buy tzatziki in most grocery stores or make your own.
An note, a kebab is usually associated with cubed meat skewered with veggies but in this case it’s referring to what is traditionally a huge piece of meat skewered and roasted and then shaved off in thin slices. I decided to go for more of a long skinny meatball that can be considered an individual serving on a skewer. I hope you enjoy.
Ingredients for Greek Lamb and Beef Kebabs
Step by Step
These kebabs are all about the meat. Lamb is a traditional meat to indulge in while in Greece and is found in both fine dining and street food. For many Americans I’ve found they find the flavor of lamb meat too strong or gamey, at least the kind we get here. I wanted to recreate the spit fired style of Gyro but decided to blend both lamb and beef to make it more palatable for most. By making and forming meatballs that we shape around the skewer we are using the same idea of spit fired Gyro meat that gets shaved and served on pita.
Before you even start making the meat mixture you need to soak the wooden skewers so they don’t burn to a crisp on the grill. If you have metal skewers even better. That’s a no brainer. But if you have wooden skewers be sure to soak them in a tall cup of water for at least an hour on each side. Yes, flip them over. Trust me.
Okay now we are ready to make the ‘kebab’ mixture. Start with gently mixing the ground lamb and ground beef in a large bowl. I ended up using 2 lamb sausages from my local butcher (casings removed) for the ground lamb portion of the meat because I like the flavor of their meat and the spices are mild and then regular 80/20 ground beef. But regular ground lamb is great, too.
Chop your veggies very fine. If left too large it will make it harder to form the meatball around the skewer.
Getting there….a few more ingredients to go.
Here we are with the breadcrumbs and feta cheese as well as the spinach.
I highly recommend just getting your (clean or gloved) hands in there to do the mixing. They make the best tools for this. And don’t overmix or your kebab will be tough.
Viola! Kebab mixture ready for the skewer.
FORM THE KEBABS
Set a sheet pan or a large plate or whatever will fit in your fridge on the counter with some parchment paper on it. Take a palm sized scoop and press it around the pre-soaked skewer. I pressed on each side and then rolled them on parchment paper to make kind of a square, log shape. I feel like it had more adherence to the skewer like that. You want to mold it and then let it set up in the fridge because if it’s too loose they will fall apart on the grill and there goes all that yummy flavor.
Once you’ve assembled all of them around equal size cover and refrigerate. I had 2 layers of skewers and parchment in between each layer. I let it sit in the fridge for around 30 minutes before preparing the grill.
GRILL THE KEBBABS
Preheat the grill and brush each kebab with a little canola oil to keep them from sticking. It’s important to get each side of the kebab. If you don’t have a grill or the weather isn’t working with you then a large cast iron skillet will work just fine.
Place on the grill. I was careful to try to position them so that the end of the skewer without the meat wasn’t over a direct flame. Even with a pre-soak that seemed a little iffy.
Grill for 3-4 minutes and turn over and grill on all sides. You’ll know they are ready to flip when they have a little give – they shouldn’t stick if your grill and the meat were oiled. Total cook time was 7-8 minutes. Remove and set aside.
GRILL THE KEBBABS
Serve warm with warmed pita bread, tomato and red onions, and fresh tzatziki sauce.
- 8 oz. ground beef
- 8 oz. ground lamb or two lamb sausages (casing removed)
- 1 egg
- 2 large cloves garlic finely minced
- 1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh leaf parsley
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh spinach
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- Salt and Pepper
- 10 wooden or metal skewers
- Canola oil for brushing
- Pita bread (for serving)
- Tzatziki sauce (for serving)
- Tomato and Red onion (optional)
- Soak the skewers in water. Flip and make sure to get both sides immersed. Approximately 1 hour. If using metal skewers skip this step.
- Place the ground lamb and beef in a large bowl and then add in the rest of the ingredients, be sure to salt and pepper the meat. Mix gently until combined (hands work best).
- Take a palm sized scoop of the mixture and form it around the skewer. Then roll on all sides on parchment until the mixture sticks well and feels cohesive. I found a long rectangular shape worked best. Keep working until all the meat is used and you have approximately 10 skewers. Cover and refrigerate to help them set up.
- Preheat a grill on high and brush all sides of the meat with oil. Place on the grill being careful not to expose the open ends of the skewer to an open flame. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then flip until all sides are browned. Approximately 7-8 minutes.
- Remove from grill and serve warm with recommended warmed pita, tzatziki sauce, and red onion/tomato salad.