This is a homemade recipe for the mystery Doner kebab meat you see rotating on vertical rotisseries in kebab shops. It’s a miniature version but what it lacks in size is made up in flavour – and authenticity!! Use to stuff into beef or lamb Doner Kebabs OR Gyros.
Excellent large format food for gatherings – make ahead and economical! Also see Chicken Doner Kebabs.
How many times have you walked past a Doner kebab shop and glanced at those giant punching bag-sized kebab meats rotating round and round, and wondered how long has that meat been out for?? I wonder if it’s really meat, or 90% fillers??
Well wonder no more!! Shops might use fillers, but WE don’t need to!
Doner Kebab Meat recipe – beef or lamb
This homemade version of rotisserie Doner Kebab Meat can be made with either lamb or beef. While beef is a firm favourite here in Australia, in Turkey (the home of Doner Kebabs) they are made with both lamb and beef. Both are delicious, I couldn’t choose a favourite!
Though this is a miniature version of the giant ones you see in the shops and we’ve adapted the cooking method for home kitchens, the end result is so similar to the real deal it is going to amaze you!
Stand it upright, carve it up thinly and fry it up gently to get golden edges. Your house is going to smell like a kebab shop!
What is Doner Kebab meat made of?
Ahh, you’ve always wondered, haven’t you?? Here’s what you need. Bacon is the surprise secret ingredient for this homemade version – more on this below!
- Beef or lamb – get 15% fat for best results. If you inspect those kebab shop meats closely, you will see they are DRIPPING with fat!! Ours is not as fatty, but when we tried it with lean meat, it just wasn’t the same. Also remember, the flavour of meat is all in the fat. Mix lamb fat into lean beef, and you’d swear you’re eating lamb!
- Streaky Bacon* – the secret ingredient, as discovered by Kenji at Serious Eats whose Gyros recipe we used as a base for ours. It doesn’t make the meat taste bacony, but it adds salt into the meat and most importantly, it adds fat. It is key, do not skip it! (Or if you do, do not complain if disappointed with the recipe outcome ) (UPDATE: substitute added to recipe for those who can NOT eat bacon for religious or health reasons. If that’s not you, you’re not allowed to use that option!!);
- Spices – a mix we figured out ourselves by sampling the meat from our favourite kebab shops; and
- Onion and garlic – essential flavour base!
* Note on BACON and authenticity – as Doner kebabs are mainly from Muslim countries, bacon might seem out of place given pork is not consumed for religious reasons. The reason it is included is to make this recipe accessible for home cooks. Traditional Doner Kebab Meat is made with loads of animal fat. When you watch You Tube videos of the layered version of kebab meat, they thread a layer of meat (like chicken) then they literally COVER that layer with chopped fat then thread chicken on, and again fat. SO MUCH FAT! Using bacon is a shortcut method and more accessible to ordinary home cooks – my butcher doesn’t sell buckets of chopped fat!
How to make Doner Kebab meat
And the best part – how to make it! It is easy. Once you get your head around manhandling a giant block of meat!
In a nutshell, the meat is pureed in a food processor which transforms it into a “paste” which gives it the unique carvable meat texture (as opposed to, for example, Meatloaf where ground/mince beef is just shaped by hand and has a more “crumbly” texture).
Then roll it into a log shape using foil – this holds the shape while suspended over a pan using skewers (without it, the meat sags when raw) – then cook it in the oven. Whip off the foil at the end to brown it, stand it upright and carve!!
Carving and pan frying
The texture of the cooked meat is such that it can be carved thinly – just like in kebab shops!
Shave it quite thinly and once you’ve cut off as much as you want/need, pan fry it gently to get a blush of gold on it. This is a magic touch that really transforms the meat because once you carve off the outer browned layer, the meat inside is just pink. It’s the same special finishing touch we do with Mexican Carnitas!
And here’s a close up of the Doner Kebab Meat being pan fried. Just lightly pan fried, not to crisp it, just to get a hint of gold on it like they do in Kebab Shops to freshen up the meat.
It only takes a minute or so because it’s so thin.
And here is a big fat juicy Doner Kebab! Wildly popular here in Australia, particularly after a late night out at the pub with mates!
Made with Lebanese bread or other thin flatbreads, smeared with hummus, topped with Doner Kebab Meat, lettuce, tomato, onion and sauces such as yogurt, garlic and chilli sauce. Optional extras include cheese (which I think is a blasphemy!) and tabbouleh.
Imagine it over CHARCOAL!!
I’ve had to make do with a boring old oven to cook this. I would LOVE to to make this over charcoal one day! Imagine it on a spit, rotating slowly over hot coals….that smokey flavour would be to die for!
One day, one day…
Doner Kebab vs Gyros vs Shawarma
Gyro, shawarma and doner kebab all have the same meaning. Those words all translate to “turning” or “rotating meat” and they refer to the rotisserie cooking technique.
Which word is used depends which part of the Mediterranean or Middle East you’re in. Gyros is Greek. Shawarma is Israel and Arab countries (spicing is much stronger). Doner Kebab is what they call it in Turkey.
While there are of course some differences in the finished dish (type of flatbread, sauces used) and the seasonings used for the meat, they are similar in spirit!
As for what animal meat it is, it varies. Chicken, beef, lamb and pork are all used to varying degrees, depending on the country. Also whether it’s layered (like in Chicken Doner Kebab) or smooth meat style (which is what I’m sharing today) also varies depending where you are.
One thing’s for sure. I’m yet to meet a Doner Kebab/Gyros or Shawarma that I haven’t loved!
Recipes I’ve shared
Here in Australia, Doner Kebabs is common though you will find Gyros in ethnic areas. In America, it’s the other way round – Gyros is the common version. Harder to find Doner Kebabs!
Nowadays, you’ll find both all around the world. Last year, I had some amazing Doner Kebabs in the heart of Paris of all places!
Here are Gyros/Shawarma/Doner Kebab recipes I’ve previously shared:
Excellent large format food to make ahead
Two more big things this homemade Doner Kebab Meat has going for it:
- Excellent for making ahead – it stays 100% fresh because the meat is so juicy (ahem! Fatty…… ). Cook the log through, cool, fridge or freeze, then reheat in the oven; and
- Excellent for feeding a crowd – this makes lots! 1 kg / 2lb probably serves 8 people – shaved meat goes further. Maybe 6 if you stuff very generously. Fry the slices on a BBQ so you can cook lots at the same time, though you can also just pan fry it a bit in advance then reheat in the microwave (I did this, and it worked perfectly).
And if that’s not enough to convince you to make this, then just do it to get a kick out of how it is a dead set replica of the kebab shop meat. Or your favourite gyros cart. Depending on where you live! – Nagi x
PS I honestly cannot stress enough how your house is going to smell just like your local neighbourhood kebab shop!!
Watch how to make it
Homemade Rotisserie Doner Kebab Meat – beef or lamb!
Excellent food for gatherings – make ahead, wow factor, DIY wraps and economical.
- 1 kg / 2 lb lamb or beef mince (ground meat) , preferably 15% fat (Note 1)
- 200g / 7oz streaky bacon , roughly diced (Note 2)
- 1 onion , diced (brown, yellow, white)
- 2 clove garlic , roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil (for frying)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 tsp salt , kosher/cooking salt (Note 3)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 8 flatbreads (Lebanese bread authentic!)
- 1 iceberg lettuce , finely shredded
- 6 tomatoes , halved and sliced
- 2 red onions , finely sliced
- Yogurt sauce , optional (recipe Note 8)
- More Sauce options: chilli sauce/Sriracha (I use this), BBQ, sweet chilli, tomato sauce/ketchup
- Extra options: tabbouleh, shredded cheese
Mix beef or lamb with all the Spices – mix well using your hands.
Cover and refrigerate 2 hours minimum, or up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 170°C/ 325°F (150°C fan).
Line baking pan with foil.
Check to ensure skewers are long enough to prop on the sides of the pan. (Note 5)
Place onion, bacon and garlic in a 8 cup/2L+ food processor. Blitz until it becomes a paste (video at 29 sec),~30 sec on high, scraping down sides as you go.
Add meat and blitz on low until it becomes a paste (video at 42 sec), scraping down sides (~1 min for powerful food processors, 2 min for less powerful). (Note 4)
Shape Doner Kebab Meat:
Turn meat out onto work surface. Wet hands with water, then shape into an even block 20cm/8″ long.
Place 2 x 60cm / 2 feet long pieces of foil overlapping each other by 1/3. (Note 6)
Place meat on the end of the foil, then roll it up, tightly wrapping it in the foil.
Twist the ends firmly to form a log 25cm/10″ long, then snip off excess foil. Roll into even log.
Thread skewers through the log.
Place log elevated in pan by propping skewers on the edge of the pan. (Note 7)
Cook for 1 1/2 hours, turning once after 1 hour, until the log reaches 70°C/160°F (up to 80°C/175°F is fine). The log is cooked at this point. (Note 9)
Remove foil from log but leave skewers in place.
Increase oven heat to 250°C/480°F, or as high as your oven can go if it can’t reach this.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating once, until browned all over.
Shaving / pan frying (kebab shop style!):
Remove skewers then stand the meat upright.
Shave meat thinly – carve as much as you intend to use.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook shaved meat lightly coloured but still “floppy” (not crisped). Use immediately for Doner Kebabs!
Smear hummus on warmed flatbread. Top with lettuce, tomato, and onion.
Pile on Doner Kebab Meat. Drizzle with sauce(s) of choice.
Roll up tightly, wrap in foil if desired (to hold together). Grab and devour!
Supermarket meat typically discloses fat % nowadays (look at the nutrition table), and butchers should know the fat % of their meat.
Beef is most common in Australia, both are popular in Turkey
2. Bacon – ie. belly-only part of a bacon – no loin eye.
See note in post on authenticity and reason for inclusion (re: Doner kebabs mainly from Muslim countries and pork is not consumed for religious reasons).
Can’t have bacon?? Use one of these options:
- Get 20% fat meat, get an extra 200g/6oz meat and add and extra 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Get 20% fat meat and use turkey bacon instead of pork bacon
3. Salt – I know it sounds like a lot, but remember the meat is shaved thinly so you don’t get much salt in each bite.
If you only have table salt, decrease to 2 teaspoons.
4. Pureed meat consistency – See video for how it should look – you should be able to do a smooth “smear” on the surface.
5. Skewers optional – skewers enable the meat to be cooked in a cylinder shape by keeping it elevated off the pan. But if you don’t have them, that’s fine – just shape into a log and cook on the pan or on a tray (in foil).
6. Foil – purpose is twofold: to hold the shape of the log as it cooks (otherwise raw log slides down through skewers) and hold in juices as it cooks.
7. Propping issues – if your log is too long to fit in the pan / skewers not long enough to reach edges, use things like ramekins or scrunched up balls of foil in the pan to keep the log elevated. OR prop it on the diagonal.
8. Lemon Yogurt Sauce – mix and set aside 20 minutes:
2 cups (500g) Greek yoghurt
2 garlic cloves, minced using garlic mincer or finely grated
1 tsp cumin (optional)
2 – 3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
9. Uncooked meat – if you don’t have an meat thermometer and you carve away and find the inside is a bit undercooked, don’t worry, the thin slices cook in a flash on the stove!
10. Storage – keeps exceptionally well due to the high fat content! Options:
- Cook log but don’t brown. Cool in foil, then unwrap and cling wrap (don’t leave in foil). Refrigerate up to 5 days OR freeze. On day of, thaw, wrap in foil and reheat in oven (temp per recipe) until heated through (insert knife to check), about 20 minutes. Then unwrap and brown then use per recipe.
- Use some now, save some for later – either store uncarved log or carved meat (not pan fried). Then pan fry fresh just before using.
- Freezing – cooked log or carved meat can be frozen for 3 months. Thaw then pan fry before serving.
11. Recipe credit goes entirely to Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats for discovering this amazing technique! We used his method, added our seasonings and tweaked it to make it an authentic looking log (added foil, skewers etc etc).
12. Nutrition per serving – meat only, assumes 8 servings.
Life of Dozer
Same expression whether he’s gagging over a giant hunk of Doner Kebab meat or panting from exertion at the park….