What is gyros?
Gyros (Greek spelling γύρος, pronounced: ‘JIER-os’) is a Greek dish consisting of slices of meat, which are seasoned and draped around a large skewer. The result is a meat cone that’s roasted upright. In its native Greece, gyros is usually made with pork or chicken, while elsewhere in the world, Greek restaurants may also offer the dish with lamb. Sometimes, the cone is made of minced meat rather than sliced meat.
The dish is called a pita gyros when served in a pita roll with tomato, onion and tzatziki. It’s called souvlaki when the meat is draped on small skewers and barbecued or pan-fried. It’s the same core ingredient, but the cooking technique is different.
The name gyros comes from the Greek word guros, meaning ‘spinning’. The name refers to the meat itself, in particular the way it is prepared on a rotisserie. Gyros was first brought to Greece at the start of the twentieth century by Armenian and Greeks fleeing from Ottoman Turkey as refugees. Throughout the Ottoman Empire, people had been roasting meat on a rotating grill (resulting in the doner kebab) for a very long time indeed.
Did you know?
In Canada, National Gyros Day is celebrated on the first day of September.
How to make gyros
Thin slices of meat – this could be chicken, pork, lamb or beef – is seasoned with salt, pepper and oregano. Additional ingredients like paprika, garlic, honey and other green herbs can be added, although this is down to preference of the chef. The meat is then sprinkled with wine vinegar and left to marinade for a few hours.
The marinated meat slices are then draped around a rotisserie skewer. At first, smaller pieces are used, with larger pieces added later. This creates the signature cone shape gyros takes on during the cooking process. The con-shaped formation of meat is then well pressed, before a final layer of fat is applied, keeping the meat moist while it cooks.
The meat rotates on the rotisserie grill until the outer layer is cooked and crispy. Pita bread is brushed with oil and briefly baked in preparation. The juicy meat is then cut from the rotisserie cone into thin slices and stuffed into a pita roll. Finally, the meat is then garnished with slices of tomato, sliced onion and tzatziki.
How to eat
Pita gyros is a staple street food. It’s usually served wrapped in paper or foil and eaten by hand. Be careful though, because no matter how perfectly wrapped your pita is, you always run the risk of making a mess with your meal. Make sure you have a napkin handy when eating pita gyros.
In addition to the popular pita gyros, gyros meat is served in all manner of ways in Greek cuisine. Common variants include gyros served alongside fries, as well as part of a mixed grill.