One of the most recognized Greek foods has to be the Souvlaki. i.e. cubes of meat skewered and grilled over glowing embers. The most common souvlaki you’ll find in Greek eateries is pork but you’ll also find chicken, lamb and beef versions. The other popular Greek street food has to be the Gyro: slabs of marinated meat stacked high on a vertical rotisserie and allowed to rotate, render and cook slowly until the fat has rendered and offer up a succulent morsels of meat with the edges of the meat crisping up – a textural delight in the mouth.
For those fortunate enough to have visited Greece, you’ll will have immediately noticed shops/eateries offering souvlaki and gyro on practically every corner. Like souvlaki, the most common gyro one will find is made of pork but almost every “Gyradiko” (Gyro shop) will also offer up a chicken version (which is providing serious competition to its pork cousin). One might find lamb Gyro in Greece and I’ve even (gasp) have found that mystery meat Gyro made of things unknown.
There have been many attempts (by me and others) to recreate Gyro at home. Someone from a big city (like Toronto) or one with a significant Greek community would want to make your Gyro when one can simply go out and have one made for you without all the fuss? The short answer is: “everything tastes better at home”, I like a challenge and finally, you come here “this blog” for something a little extra. Homemade Pork Gyro is special.
My quest to make homemade Gyro was inspired after seeing this post at the blog ‘One Big Kitchen’. I discovered that there are from vertical rotisseries out there (in the market) that would fulfill making home-Gyro. I also took into account that I would have to snip some wiring off the basket (that comes with the rotisserie) to accommodate the stacks of meat. Off I went into the uncharted territory of eBay to bid and purchase my very own Carousel Rotisserie. I lost some initial bids but I finally was able to secure one and my patience was tested as I waited the usual 4-6 weeks for my new cooking appliance to arrive. If you’re interested in making your Gyro at home, I suggest to get on eBay or enrol on eBay and begin searching for the “carousel rotisserie” by Oster or Sunbeam.
The only other proviso with making homemade Gyro is that the rotisserie is smaller than the commercial rotisseries we see when we buy Gyro. This rotisserie could probably stack about 3lbs. of meat. Since this Gyro stack is shorter, there’s less meat to shave off with your knife, enough for filling one pita bread. At this rate, your serving one Gyro every 15 minutes. My recommendation is prepare and offer homemade Gyro along with other food or shave off the meat and keep warm until you’ve shaved off the layers of crispy and juicy Gyro and then assemble your Gyro in pita bread sandwiches for your guests. The result of Pork Gyro is your home is just as good as anything I’ve had in Greece or any Greektown outside of Greece.
Pork Gyro is not something one should eat everyday, it should be a treat…a holiday from your usual diet. Having said that, Pork Gyro (or any type of Gyro) to be juicy and crispy and ultimately delicious requires your cut of meat to contain some fat. To make pork Gyro, pork butt is used (the same meat that’s used to make Souvlaki). Pork butt is actually the upper part of the pig’s shoulder and it can be bought bone-in or boneless. For Pork Gyro, you’ll require a boneless pork butt.
The pork butt contains fat and if/when you slice into it, you see (unlike other cuts of pork where the fat surrounds the meat) that the meat itself contains marbled fat. That fat renders during cooking, basting the meat as it rotates and trickling down into your fat/grease pan. I am a fan of some fat in meat and when we’re talking about pork, I like the tender lean part to be married to some of the fat still attached: the combo is a delight. Don’t try to make Pork Gyro with a leaner cut – you will end up with dry, bland meat. Make it for a party or special occasion but make it right. Use pork butt.
Assuming you have a boneless pork butt, half your battle is won right there…it’s going to be a breeze to slice your pork butt into thin slices. You’ll need to thinly slice your pork butt and throwing the cut into the freezer for about an hour will firm t he meat up and allow to to easily cut the pork butt into thin slabs that will be stacked high on your rotisserie. The only mystery to solve with homemade Gyro is the flavouring. The best and most logical reason one should make Gyro at home is that you get to experiment with flavours and enjoy the experience each time. Having visited Greece 21 times, I’ve tasted many a’ Gyro and not all Gyros are created equal. Some are simply seasoned with salt and pepper, others contain oregano or thyme and spices can range from paprika to cumin! There doesn’t seem to be regional recipe(s) for Pork Gyro, license to be creative is given to the person making the Gyro.
My take on Pork Gyro contains grated onion for some flavour and yes, the juices of an onion helps tenderize the meat. Another tenderizer of meat is apple. Pork loves apple (fruit in general) and I’ve chosen a tart, green apple. There’s also one grated tomato, some sweet paprika for a warm undertone and flavour and of course, sea salt and ground pepper. There’s a big of dried Greek oregano in the mix but not too much as dried herbs can burn when cooked over long periods of thyme.
Pork Gyro at Home (Σπιτικός Γύρος)
1 kg. of boneless pork butt (from shoulder)
1 medium, onion, peeled and passed through a box grater
1 ripe tomato, passed through a box grater
1 green (tart) apple, passed through a box grater
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. sweet paprika
4 tsp. of sea salt
2 tsp. of ground pepper
2 tsp. of dried Greek oregano
- Place your pork butt in the freezer for about an hour or until the meat is firm to the touch. Remove and look for a line of fat on the side of the meat that looks like an almost natural dividing line. Cut the pork butt into two pieces. You now will be able to cut your pork butt into almost uniform size. Now slice the pork butt into 1/2 cm. slices and reserve.
- In a large bowl or tub, add your marinade ingredients (remaining ingredients in recipe) and mix well. Take one of the smaller pieces of pork and fry-off to taste-test. Adjust seasoning accordingly, cover the bowl/tub and place in the fridge overnight or for a day. The next day, Place the pieces of meat on your metal skewer of the rotisserie and use your hands to wipe off any excess marinade off the meat and form the stack of pork into a uniform shape. Keep the stack upright, place on a tray and cover and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to set and drain any leftover marinade (excess marinade will cause your Gyro to steam rather than roast on the rotisserie).
- Afix the skewered meat onto your rotisserie and turn on the timer/heat. Close the heat heart and roast the pork for approx. 1 hour or until the outside of your pork Gyro is golden-brown, slightly crispy. At this point you may begin slice off the outer layer of your Gyro. Serve up a plate of Gyro meat or reserve in a warm oven and continue to slice off cooked Gyro meat until there’s none left to slice off. Season with fine sea salt if needed.
- Serve in warm pita bread with Tzatziki, thinly sliced onions, tomato slices and Fries or on a platter with the same ingredients (de-constructed). Serve with ice cold beer.
Variation: In and around Thessaloniki, Gyro often is often served with ketchup, mustard, onions, tomatoes, fries. I like this version as well or a Gyro platter with some mustard and Boukovo (chilli flakes).
Note: Can’t get a hold of a rotisserie? Place the meat on one of those upright paper towel holders. Stack the meat on one of those, wrap in foil and roast in the oven for an hour at 400F and then un-wrap, place back in oven and roast again until the outside is golden and crisp. Shave pork and return Gyro into oven. Keep on trimming crisp pork Gyro until meat is all done.
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