||This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2013)|
Gyros sandwiches in Greece, with meat, onions, tomato, french fries, and tzatziki sauce rolled into a pita
|Place of origin||Greece|
|Type||Meat or sandwich|
|Main ingredient(s)||Meat: pork, chicken; occasionally veal, lamb, or beef
Sandwich:gyro meat, tomatoes, onions, tzatziki sauce, pita
A gyro (pron.: // YEER-oh,// ZHEER-oh; Greek: γύρος, [ˈʝiros], lit. 'turn') is a Greek dish of meat roasted on a vertical spit. It is also commonly served in a sandwich, called pita gyro or psomaki gyro depending on the type of bread used, with tomato, onion, french fries and optional sauce, wrapped in pita or sandwich bread.
To make gyros, pieces of meat are placed on a tall vertical spit, which turns in front of a source of heat, usually an electric broiler. If the meat is not fatty enough, strips of fat are added so that the roasting meat remains always moist and crisp. The rate of roasting can be adjusted by varying the strength of the heat and the distance between the heat and the meat, allowing the cook to adjust to varying rates of consumption. The outside of the meat is sliced vertically in thin, crisp shavings when done. It is generally served in an oiled, lightly grilled piece of pita, rolled up with various salads and sauces. The pita and gyro meat themselves are the only obligatory ingredients.
The name comes from Greek γύρος ('turn'), a calque of the Turkish döner meaning "turn", a name which was used in Greece as well as ντονέρ [doˈner] The Greek pronunciation is [ˈʝiros], but the pronunciation in English is often // or, occasionally /ˈɡɪəroʊ/ or /ˈjɪəroʊ/. The final 's' of the Greek form is often reinterpreted as a plural in English.
Along with the similar Middle Eastern shawarma and Mexican tacos al pastor, gyros is derived from the Turkish doner kebab, which was invented in Bursa in the 19th century. There are several stories regarding the origins of gyros in Greece: One says that the first "gyrádiko" was "Giorgos" who brought gyros to Thessaloniki in 1900; another legend from a meat production company states that doner was first introduced in the 1950s in Piraeus by a cook from Istanbul.
Greece and Cyprus 
In Greece and Cyprus, the meat is typically pork or chicken or occasionally veal, where veal gyros are referred to as "doner" (ντονέρ). In Athens, and most of Greece, a "pita gyro" will contain tzatziki, tomato, onion and fried potatoes in addition to the meat. However some places offer different alternatives to the classic ingredients. A pita gyro with pork will be served with tzatziki sauce as a dressing, whereas the chicken dressings vary from shop to shop but are most often a variant on mayonnaise mixed with mustard, called "σως" (sauce) in Greek.
Pitas are available in at least three types: 'plain', 'Cypriot', and 'Arabic' in some chain restaurants, however in most places only 'Plain' is offered. 'Plain' pita is around 20 cm in diameter and the thickest of the three. 'Cypriot' pita is crisp and has larger size, and is split like pocket bread. 'Arabic' pitas are crisp, and the flattest and largest. Gyros are also served in sandwich-type bread in northern Greece.
It is said that it is in Thessaloniki that one will find the biggest pita and gyros; there, an order will typically include tomato, onion, fried potatoes, mustard and/or ketchup and an optional sauce, most commonly tzatziki or ktipití (a feta cheese and hot pepper dip), in addition to the meat. "Russian salad" (a mixture of diced pickles and mayonnaise) and "Hungarian salad" (a mixture of mayonnaise and diced bacon) are also popular.
In other Greek cities, like Patras, where gyros are not as popular, the wrap is often prepared and then put in a toaster or toasted under a press, like a panino, a popular grilled sandwich throughout Europe. In Kalamata, it can sometimes be eaten in Thrakópsomo (bread baked on embers), a thick round loaf of country style bread, cut in two halves and stuffed with a double serving of Gyro meat.
Merída (portion) is an alternative way of serving gyros, where instead of putting the meat into a pita or bread, it is put on an aluminum foil box, or a sheet of baking paper, or a regular platter. A 200 gram portion of gyros, with tomato, french fries, sliced onions, one or more of the sauces and the pita, usually cut in pieces, comprise such an order. The portion of gyros can vary from 150 grams to even 450 grams.
Gyros in Australia are typically based on lamb, chicken, beef, or a combination of those meats. In addition to the usual fillings of onions, lettuce and tomato, extra fillings may include bulgur (cooked wheat), hummus, cheese and tabouli. The sauce is usually a yogurt sauce such as tzatziki, but barbecue sauce and chilli sauce can also be used. The pita bread may be quickly toasted before the dish is assembled or the entire dish may be toasted in a sandwich press after assembly. The Australian dish has two to three times as much filling as is used in Greece — which can surprise Greek visitors.
Different names are favoured in different regions of Australia. In South Australia they are known as yiros, a romanised rendering of the correct modern Greek pronunciation. In New South Wales they are known as doner kebabs or kebabs in Turkish or Lebanese shops, and yeeros/yiros in Greek shops. In Queensland and Western Australia they are called kebabs. In Victoria (which has a large Greek population), they are generally known as gyros or souvlaki. In Tasmania, they are generally called kebabs or souvlaki.
In most cases yiros or souvlaki tend to be made of thicker pieces of meat than that of doner kebabs which are usually made using thin shards of meat. Also different meats often vary on the region of Australia with beef and chicken being often used in Queensland, while in Victoria and Tasmania lamb is more popular.
In Brazil, the names gyros or doner kebab are used but the dish is also known as churrasco grego (Greek barbecue). Churrasco grego is a very popular food in downtown São Paulo and Brasília. Churrasco grego meat is essentially beef[clarification needed] and it is served with bread. There are also some kebab houses with more options of lamb, beef, pork or chicken kebab with pita.
Greek-style gyros are the most common in Canada. Most Greek immigrants settled in Toronto and Montreal. By the early 1980s, Greek-owned hamburger restaurants that served gyros opened in many areas in Toronto. This coincided with the increasing popularity in the northern United States. They are most prominent in areas of heavy Greek populations such as the Toronto Danforth area, and the Mile-End, Park-Extension and Chomedey areas in Montreal. They are also common in Edmonton as a popular late night snack.
In Atlantic Canada, a similar dish is the donair (< Turkish döner), made using a mixture of minced beef, bread crumbs and spices, which is seared, topped with tomatoes, onions, and a sweet sauce consisting of sweetened condensed milk and garlic powder. This is especially popular in and around Halifax, Nova Scotia and St. John's, Newfoundland and is claimed to have been invented in Halifax in 1971. Donair meat and sauce is also available as a type of pizza.
While the name gyros is not commonly used in France, a similar and very popular fast food is sold under the name sandwich grec (Greek sandwich), kebab, chiche kebab or döner kebab (or shawarma in Lebanese and Israeli restaurants). As a street food, it is served optionally with french fries stuffed into the sandwich on top of the meat and salad.
In Iran, a similar food to gyros and doner kebab is available called kabab Torki ("Turkish kebab") and is a popular fast food in certain major cities like Tehran and Shiraz. While the meat is prepared in a similar fashion as gyros (using beef or lamb) and sliced from a rotating spit, the preparation of the sandwich is different. After having been sliced from the spit, the meat is then chopped up and mixed with onions and green peppers on a grill. It is not generally served with any kind of sauce.
Middle East 
In Arabic-speaking countries and Israel, the dish most similar to gyro and doner kebab is called shawarma and is usually made of chicken, turkey or lamb. The shawarma can be served in a pita, or in a lafa (a pita without a pocket which holds more food). The meat is not commonly prepared in strips like American gyros, but chopped into smaller chunks and usually served with tahini sauce. As commonly practiced in the early 1900s, Arabs used finely sharpened fillet knives to preserve the meat's natural tenderness and avoid depleting it of natural juices.
The Turkish döner kebab is similar to the gyro in terms of cooking. Lamb, beef or chicken, and even fish, are used, but not pork.
United Kingdom 
These kebab shops were initially primarily owned by Turkish Cypriots, and typically use dry, hard "pocket" Cypriot pita rather than the doughy, more naan-like Turkish (mainland) pide bread. The small pocket pitas are difficult to fill without breaking, and so the dish may be served as a loose assortment in a polystyrene container. Tzatziki/Cacik and "Tarama" is still available but usually replaced by garlic and/or chili sauce.
United States 
Several people claim to have brought gyros to Chicago and been the first to mass-produce them. George Apostolou claims he served the first gyros at the Parkview Restaurant in 1965. In 1974, he opened a 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) manufacturing plant called Central Gyros Wholesale. Peter Parthenis claims he mass-produced them at Gyros Inc., in 1973, a year before Apostolou. In 1968, at The Parthenon restaurant, Chris Liakouras developed an early version of the modern vertical rotisserie gyros cooker, and popularized gyros by passing out samples free to customers. The vertical broiler was later refined by Tom Pappas and others at Gyros incorporated. Pappas would go on to develop the modern commercial recipe for gyros in the United States, achieving success as an independent manufacturer of gyros in Florida during the early 1980s, and popularizing it in the southeastern US (Orlando Sentinel, 1981). They have since spread to all parts of the country, but the gyro is still identified as part of Chicago's working class cuisine.
The name gyros is most commonly used in American and Greek-American restaurants and stores. Doner kebab and shawarma may be seen in Middle Eastern-style establishments.
In the United States, gyros are made from lamb or a combination of beef and lamb. Chicken gyros are sometimes seen as well. As of 2011, there is a gyro made from seitan, a wheat-based plant protein. The bread served with gyros in the U.S. resembles a Greek 'plain' pita. The traditional accompaniments are tomato, onion, and tzatziki, sometimes called "cucumber", "yogurt", or "white" sauce. Some establishments use plain sour cream in lieu of tzatziki sauce. Such sandwiches[clarification needed] are often served in luncheonettes or diners.
While some Greek restaurants in America make gyros in a traditional way from sliced meat arranged on a vertical rotisserie, most, particularly fast-food restaurants, use mass-produced gyros loaves, of finely ground meat pressed into a cylinder and cooked on a rotating vertical spit, from which thin slices of meat are shaved as they brown. Some restaurants even sell pre-formed, frozen strips of ground gyros meat, grilled or pan-fried individually, to prevent waste. The ground meat forms of gyros are as different from traditional gyros as sausage is from solid meat, and the traditional gyro is usually considered[by whom?] to have better taste and texture than the mass-produced ground-loaf form.
Vertical gyros broiler 
The principal difficulty in making gyros at home is access to the vertical broiler, a professional-oriented machine whose cost and complexity are geared towards restaurants rather than the home. Conceivably an electric or gas-fired barbecue broiler can be modified to accommodate vertical roasting, provided the gyros is in direct "eyesight" of the fire element. The purpose of the vertical layout is to keep the lower parts of the rotating cone always doused in the flavourful liquid fat drippings from higher up. This and the standard top-heavy conical shape of the gyros assures two kinds of cooking: the higher parts are more directly grilled by their closer proximity to the heat, whereas the lower ones are partly fried in the resulting drippings. The hot metal-plate collector beneath the spit serves to collect the shavings and give them the finishing touch as they lay in sizzling drippings. A good serving of gyros contains shavings from all parts of the roast, top to bottom, thus offering a variety and richness of taste.
Meat choice and preparation 
The meat can be any kind of boneless beef, veal, pork, lamb or even chicken, or any blend thereof, provided it can be cut into approximately round, thin, flat slices (about the thickness of slices meant for schnitzel and about the width of a 45 rpm vinyl single). The kinds of cuttings used for making Mexican fajitas (e.g. skirt steak) can be a useful guideline for procurement and dressing. The slices are then pierced at their center through a metal vertical spit: smaller slices go to the bottom of the spit and larger towards the top. As each slice is threaded into place, it is sprinkled with the spice mix (see next paragraph). Fat trimmings can be layered in between if the meat is too lean. The juice collected when slicing onions can also be sprinkled in at this time. Leftover trimmings are then shoved in between slices, so that nothing is wasted.
Spice mix 
A typical spice mix consists of: 9 parts salt, 3 parts sweet paprika, 1 part hot paprika, 1 part white pepper, 1 part black pepper, 3 parts dried parsley, 2 parts garlic powder, and 3 parts of dried oregano. This is the base mixture, to which small amounts (a pinch each) of other powdered spices can be mixed (e.g. cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, anise, coriander, fennel and allspice). Some of these more potent spices can be added or omitted to taste. They are mixed and stored in a closed container overnight for their flavours to blend. Some of this spice mix is then lightly sprinkled on each meat slice as it takes its place on the spit. The prepared spit often spends a night standing in a refrigerated space, so that the meat is infused with the spices and onion juices. Some variations of the recipe also uses sumac for the seasoning.
Depending on the overall quantity of gyros and the number of meals to be served, roasting and eating of gyros can be a long or a short affair. The rate of cooking can be changed by altering the intensity of the fire, the proximity of the meat to the heat source, and the speed of the spit rotation.
See also 
- gyros at dictionary.com
- Babiniotis, Λεξικό της Ελληνικής Γλώσσας
- Aglaia Kremezi and Anissa Helou, "What's in a Dish's Name", "Food and Language", Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, 2009, ISBN 190301879X
- "Jack in the Box rolls Greek gyro in 600 units", Nation's Restaurant News, December 21, 1992. article
- Kenneth F. Kiple, Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas, eds., Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge, 2000. ISBN 0-521-40216-6. Vol. 2, p. 1147
- Hellenic Gyros SA
- “CBC and donairs: two of my favourite things,” The View From In Here (blog) (14 March 2006)
- Segal, David (July 14, 2009). "The Gyro's History Unfolds". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-15. "A dapper man wi a gray mustache, Mr. Tomaras, 73, was narrating a tour of Kronos Foods, the world's largest manufacturer of gyros (pronounced YEE-ros, Greek for “spin”), the don’t-ask mystery meat that has been a Greek restaurant staple in the United States since the mid 1970s."
- Zeldes, Leah A (2002-09-30). "How to Eat Like a Chicagoan". Chicago's Restaurant Guide (Chicago's Restaurant Guide). Archived from the original on 2002-10-01. Retrieved 2002-09-30.
- "Exploring Chicago". University of Illinois at Chicago. Archived from the original on 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2007-09-23.
- "Greektown, a Chicago Neighborhood Guide". chicagotraveler.com. Retrieved 2007-09-23.
- Zeldes, Leah A. (August 27, 2009). "Opaa! Chicago Taste of Greece flies this weekend". Dining Chicago. Chicago's Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc. Retrieved Aug. 28, 2009.
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2009)|
- The dictionary definition of gyros at Wiktionary