Look. I’m not going to lie and say that you can make gyro meat so good that it immediately brings you back to your yoga retreat in Santorini from 2019, where the chef’s hand-raised Lady the Lamb until she was of age and gracefully laid her down before making the most succulent lamb rotisserie in the northern hemisphere.
But… I will say that you can make some pretty great gyro meat at home. Good enough to at least wow your friends, your tastebuds, and make you miss Santorini.
We cover the basics and then get into all the juicy details. Let’s gyro!
What is gyro meat?
Gyro actually means turn or revolution (think gyration), and gyro meat is usually lamb, pork, or chicken cooked on a vertical rotisserie.
It spins all day next to heating coils or flames, and the crispy outside meat is shaved for each sandwich, leaving room for the newly revealed meat to cook.
But… this is where definitions break down a bit. Traditional greek gyros are actually stacks of marinated pork skewered and spun. Greek-American gyros are blended/minced meat mixtures skewered and spun like a giant sausage. This changes the texture from more traditional slices to a sort of crispy lamb meatloaf.
So you just need to choose whether or not you’re making traditional gyros or Greek-American gyros.
And while gyro meat is similar to shawarma, in Middle Eastern cuisine the rotisserie is never made with pork.
Typical Gyro Meat Seasonings
There are a lot of ways to make gyro meat, and that includes switching up the seasoning, but in general you’ll find:
- 2% salt to meat ratio (18g for 2lbs)
- Oregano or Greek Oregano (Rigani)
- Cumin, Thyme, or Marjoram
What You Need to Make Gyro Meat
While having a vertical rotisserie would be awesome, you don’t have to have one to make super tasty gyro meat at home.
- A bread loaf pan, vertical rotisserie, or wooden skewers
- Kitchen towels
- Fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth for sauce
How to make traditional gyro meat (with a rotisserie)
Before we talk about home recipes, if you happen to have a rotisserie and want to make gyro meat in the traditional Greek style, you essentially:
- Layer pork in a big pan and season each layer with a mixture of salt, pepper, paprika, and oregano (rigani specifically).
- Sprinkle with white wine vinegar along the way to allow acid to start tenderizing the meat.
- Layer meat on a skewer, ensuring there is no space between.
- Push down and compress the meat.
- Put a fat cap up top so the fat seeps down through the cone and keeps it moist.
- Move to a few inches from the heating coils on the rotisserie.
- Thinly slice after the exterior is cooked to 145 degrees.
- Put in pita bread and layer with tzatziki, onions, and tomatoes.
Here’s a video of some guys from Greece explaining it. Just use the English subs since they are speaking Greek. This is overkill for most people, but I don’t want to ignore the cooking nerds!
Now let’s talk about making Greek-American gyros at home.
How to make gyro meat at home (no rotisserie)
The debate around how to make good gyro meat at home is a spicy one, but after a lot of research, here’s what the consensus of pro chefs recommend. We’re going to list out specific recipes after this so don’t worry if these steps feel too broad.
- Add 2% salt, oregano, pepper, and any other spices you’d like to your chosen ground meat blend (usually lamb, pork, or chicken) and let sit for 2 hours or overnight in the fridge for the best results (when you salt ground beef early, the salt unravels the protein clumps and helps them be more soluble, resulting in a finer grain texture).
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
- Grab your food processor and blend your chilled meat mixture with a diced sweet onion until it’s a smooth paste.
- Grab a rimmed baking sheet, put some aluminum foil down, and form the mixture into a rough loaf, ideally 1-2 inches tall.
- Bake until the thickest part of the loaf reads 150-160 degrees.
- Let meat rest for at least 10 minutes so the protein strands have time to relax and retain more of the juices.
- Cut loaf into thin slices and either broil or saute them in a skillet with a little olive oil.
5 awesome gyro meat recipes
Some of these recipes will differ from the recommendations above, but we highly recommend salting your mixture in advance, blending the meat chilled, letting loaf rest before cutting it, and broiling or sauteing the meat after you bake it — these small steps make a big difference!
This traditional pork gyro recipe from Akis Petretzikis cleverly uses wooden skewers to sub for a vertical rotisserie. It also adds in some fresh veggies that soak up all the delicious juices and make for great pita toppings.
Here’s a good recipe from Foreign Fork that gets you a great bang for your buck. It isn’t hard, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty. You can sub lamb for the ground beef, mix in bacon to up the fat content — really whatever you want!
Feeling healthy? You don’t have to make sandwiches! Why not grill up some fresh lamb, tomatoes, onions? This is a great and healthy main that you can easily put on top of rice if you want to stretch it a bit longer.
Why not take the Greek-American bit and make it more American? Tzatziki tucked under a good bun and ground lamb patty makes a great lunch. They are super easy to throw together, too!
Sweet, Savory, and Steph reminds us that you can make gyros with chicken, too! If you have leftover chicken or just want a leaner alternative to lamb or pork, then give this recipe a shot.
Pro tips for making great gyros
Here are a few extra tips when making gyros:
- Fry the gyro slices again before putting them into a sandwich.
- Use ground meat with plenty of fat so the meat stays moist and emulsifies well.
- When making tzatziki, grate the cucumbers with a cheese grater, salt lightly, let it sit for a few minutes, and then squeeze the liquid out. This creates a thicker tzatziki.
- Use vinegar instead of lemon when making tzatziki as well! It’s more traditional.
- Traditional gyro pitas don’t have a pocket and they fold it like a taco, but you can do either.
- Buy high-quality meat for the best results.
Where to buy good gyro meat
Since gyro meat can mean pork, chicken, lamb, or any combination thereof, where to buy the best gyro meat is a bit of a broad question.
So, the trick is to find a meat producer you trust, one that raises animals the way they should be raised, avoids detrimental shortcuts like fattening animals up with low-quality feed or using antibiotics to prop up their sick animals, and prioritizes health over profits.
That could be a local butcher. It could be a farm you order directly from, or you could go the easy route and get 100% grass-fed and grass-finished meats delivered directly to your door with U.S. Wellness Meats. We’ve spent decades championing natural raising practices, and everything we sell is as good as meat can get for your body and taste buds.
Try this 100% grass-fed and grass-finished high-fat lamb that’s perfect for gyros.
Gyro Meat FAQ
What is gyro meat made of?
Traditionally marinated pork, but in America it’s usually a sausage made of lamb, pork, or chicken.
What is served with a gyro?
Cucumber salad, white rice, orzo, fried potatoes, marinated tomatoes — literally anything you want!
Can you cook gyro meat in the oven?
Just bake it at a lower temperature (around 300 degrees) to avoid spilling too many juices and cook it until it’s around 155 degrees.
Can you eat gyro meat cold?
Assuming it has been cooked before, of course!
What is the best way to warm up gyro meat?
Broiling or high heat on a cast iron is the way to go.
How long does gyro meat last in the fridge?
Treat it like any other pork, lamb, or chicken. Eating meat in the fridge within 3-4 days is the tastiest and safest!
There’s an art to gyros but don’t let that scare you
Everyone has their opinions on gyro meat, but in the end, just about anything you try will end up being delicious — it’s grilled meat after all! Get some good pita, use fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, and make a big batch for the week or to share with friends. You won’t regret it.
Get the best meat for gyros, delivered right to your door.
Nathan Phelps is a writer, ethical foodie, and outdoors-aficionado hailing from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.