Kebab secrets and how to grill it

Kebab, as we’ve shared many times before, is not a skewered meatball or a burger pattie. What makes kebab a completely different dish is its distinctive texture, elasticity, and full flavor, along with the very juicy result. Kebab also does not contain any breadcrumbs. We encounter it in all Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines and depending on the dietary local habits of each country that makes it, we’ll encounter different versions of kebab recipes, some with mutton mince or mixed mutton and beef mince or even pork mince. But they also differ in the grilling way. For example, in the Middle East, the usual way of grilling kebabs is skewered in wide kebab spits, while in the Balkan area the most common way is grilling small kebabs on the grilling grate. Whichever grilling way you choose, the preparation procedure is the same! So, let’s see a kebab recipe with mixed mutton and beef minced meat. Happy Grilling, everyone!

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kg (2.2 lb) boneless mutton leg
  • 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) beef chuck roll
  • 450 g fat (half beef-half mutton)
  • 38 g salt (preferably fleur de sel)
  • 4 g black peppercorns
  • 5 g sumac
  • 2 g allspice
  • 1 g wild cumin seeds
  • 4 g sweet and hot chili flakes (3:1)
  • 3 g coriander
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 long sweet red pepper (grated)
  • 2 medium onions (grated)
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • Cypriot pitas (for serving)
  • A little cold water

Yogurt sauce:

  • 400 g strained Greek yogurt
  • 40 ml whole milk
  • 40 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sumac 

PREPARATION

The secret to a great kebab recipe lies in the way you grind meat. If the butcher grinds the meat for you with a meat grinder, then the meat should be very cold. Moreover, the ground meat should be very cold when you start kneading. If you can grind your own meat, the ideal method is to chop the meat by hand using a special knife or a cleaver, or a kitchen ax. This is an old-style mincing technique that was used before the invention of the meat grinder. If you use this technique, the meat doesn’t have to be cold before chopping and kneading, since you won’t over-process the mince in the meat grinder. Refer to our video above for our instructions on how to chop the meat with a special knife.

Mix the chopped meat with the chopped fat. At this point, I should mention that fat is essential. It will add moisture and flavor to our kebabs, and it’s partly responsible for the mince’s elasticity. Use the fine grating side of a box grater to grate the red pepper. Drain the shreds, and repeat the same process for the onions.

Firstly, add the grated pepper and onions to the mince. Knead by folding the mince. Then, add the garlic cloves, and keep folding the mince. After kneading for a while, add the spice mixture gradually, folding the mince each time. Add and fold until the spice mixture is evenly distributed throughout the mince. If needed, add a little cold water, and keep kneading. You can also add 1-2 tablespoons of corn starch if you think it’s necessary. Adding it to the mince helps keep it moist. Refrigerate for at least 5-6 hours.

COOKED ON amber.q A charcoal grills

amber.q A charcoal grills

COOKING

Pile up the charcoals inside the charcoal case of your grill. Place kindling (denatured alcohol-soaked cotton) on top, and light them. The charcoals light upside down, from top to bottom, easily, quickly, and without smoke. Meanwhile, you have enough time to skewer the kebabs onto the spits. Prefer using wide, stainless steel spits that are 18-20 mm wide, and 2 mm thick. Soak your hands in cold water before you start skewering. This way the mince won’t stick to your hands, and you’ll be able to spread it and stick it to the spit more easily. Depending on the length of your kebab spits, estimate the amount of mince you’ll need for each spit. If the spits are 20-22 cm long, for example, you’ll use up to 120 g of mince. 

When the charcoals are fully lit, spread them inside the charcoal case. Grill the kebabs over high heat, and turn them over frequently. Cut a couple of tomatoes in half, and skewer them onto the spits. Grill them along with the kebabs. Grill sweet red peppers, hot green peppers, and Cypriot pitas, as well. 

A few hours before grilling, prepare the yogurt sauce. Stir together all the listed ingredients until they are thoroughly combined. Don’t overcook the kebabs. It doesn’t take long to grill them. It usually takes 10-15 minutes; depending on how hot is your grill. Remove them from the grill, and let them rest for 5-6 minutes. Spread yogurt sauce in each Cypriot pita, and then stuff with 1-2 kebabs. Add chopped green onions, and sprinkle with the mixture of sweet and hot chili flakes (3:1). 

Another option would be to serve them on a plate. Place the kebabs on top of pita bread, and add yogurt sauce, roasted tomatoes, and roasted peppers.

Fine-quality wine and good company are a must. 

Happy grilling everyone!      

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