Cag Kebab is yet another delicious kebab variety of Turkish cuisine. It is originated from Erzurum city which locates at the heart of the Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey. At first sight, Cag Kebab may look like a Döner Kebab to you; however, it is different in how it is made and tastes-wise.
Cag Kebab is made with a combination of boneless lamb ribs and boneless leg of lamb meat. On the other hand, Döner Kebab is made with a combination of boneless veal meat, lamb meat, and tail fat. When it comes to cooking styles, Cag Kebab cooks at the wood fire on a horizontal rotisserie; however, Döner Kebab cooks at a specially designed electric vertical rotisserie.
Erzurum city is a city that has more than 4000 years of history. Because of its strategic location; various civilizations such as Romans, Byzantines, Kipchak Turks, Persians, Armenians, and Seljuk Turks tried to control the city to control the silk road during those years.
Erzurum city is famous for its animal husbandry and its own local tastes. According to local historians, Cag Kebab is date back to the Kipchak Turks period which lived in the region between the 11th and 12th Centuries.
Once Selim the Grim (Ottoman Sultan) conquered the city in 1514, this magnificent taste spread throughout the all Ottoman Empire borders. Today, you can find many Cag Kebab restaurants in almost every city in Turkey.
How it is made?
As I mention above; we use both boneless lamb ribs and leg of lamb meat to make Cag Kebab and cook it beside or on the wood fire. If you are serious about making this recipe, you will need to tell your butcher to clean the boneless lamb ribs and boneless leg of lamb meat very well by removing the fat cap, silver skin, membranes, and hard tissues from the meat and cutting them into palm sizes.
After the meat is prepared by your butcher, you will need to marinate the meat and rest it overnight to make a perfect Cag Kebab.
The marinating stage of Cag Kebab meat
The marinating stage of the Cag Kebab meat is probably the easiest part of this recipe. You will just need sliced cut onions, freshly ground black pepper and rock salt. And also you will need a deep oven tray to place the meat and make the marination. Try to marinate the boneless leg of lamb meat and the boneless lamb rib meat separately in the same tray because you will stack them one by one. After you finish the marination, you will let the meat rest in the refrigerator overnight.
The stacking stage of Cag Kebab meat
After resting the meat, the next day you need to stack the meat on the rotisserie skewer before you start to roast. Take one piece of boneless leg of lamb meat and stick it to the rotisserie skewer. Then, take one piece of boneless lamb rib meat and stack it on top of it. Continue until all the marinated meat finishes.
The grilling stage of Cag Kebab
Cag Kebab is one of the few kebab varieties in Turkish cuisine that cook with a wood fire. To grill the meat well enough, you will need either an electric winding rotisserie or a manual winding rotisserie that you can place on top of your BBQ.
I don’t suggest you make Cag Kebab at an oven rotisserie because it is against the origin of the recipe and it may be difficult to handle to insert skewers into the oven to cut the cooked layer of the stacked meat.
When you place the stacked meat either on top of the wood fire or in front of the wood fire, there must be a 20cm to 30cm (8 inches to 12 inches) distance between the stacked meat and the wood fire.
If you set the stacked meat too close to the heat, you can burn the meat. If you place the stacked meat too far from the heat, you can lose the heat quickly. From the below picture, you can see the best distance between the meat and heat.
The cutting stage of Cag Kebab
When you roast the Cag Kebab, you need to cut the roasted top part by inserting skewers into the top layer of the stacked meat.
To cut the roasted layer of Cag Kebab, you need to stick the skewer inside the meat at a depth of 3cm (1.5 inches). Then, you need to start cutting by the endpoint of the skewer through the handle of the skewer.
How to roast the bottom part of the trimmed Cag Kebab?
Once you cut the roasted part of the meat, you will see that the other side of the meat is not cooked as well as the top. To roast this non-roasted bottom part, you have two options.
According to your BBQ setup, if the heat comes from the bottom then you don’t need any additional wire rack because all BBQs have a rack on them. However; if the heat comes from the backside of the stacked meat like the image I shared above, then you may need a separate wire rack to put on the fire to place the skewers to cook the bottom parts.
In Turkey, Cag Kebab restaurants have special rotisseries. In these rotisseries, the heat comes from the backside of the stacked meat. Once the chef inserts the skewers on the roasted layer of stacked meat and cuts the roasted layer, he puts the skewers on a side part of the rotisserie to cook the bottom part of the meat.
Where to eat?
If you are going to visit Erzurum city, I suggest you stop by Gel-Gör Cağ Kebap restaurant. It is one of the best in the city. If you are going to visit Istanbul and give a shot at this taste, I suggest you stop by Şehzade Cağ Kebab restaurant.
- 500 gr Boneless Lamb Rib cleaned, palm size cut with finger thick
- 500 gr Boneless Leg of Lamb cleaned, palm-size cut with finger-thick
- 3 Onions Sliced Cut
- 1/2 tbsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- 1 tbsp Rock Salt
Place the meats to the deep oven tray.
Squeeze the sliced onions within your palms to remove the onion juice. (If you put sliced onions without squeezing, it lefts its bitter juice into the meat while resting)
Spread the squeezed sliced onions on top of the meats evenly..
Spread the freshly grounded pepper on top of the meats evenly.
Spread the rock salt on top of the meats evenly.
Mix the meat with the ingredients very well with your hand and put a stretch film on top the tray than put it into the refrigerator to rest it overnight.
The next day, stack the meats to the adjustable grill rotisserie skewer and squeeze the meats very well.
Place the fire wood to your BBQ and fire it up. Let the wood burn until it reaches its maximum heat.
According to your BBQ set up, place the adjustable rotisserie skewer either in front of the heat or the top of the heat. Don't forget to give enough space between the heat and the meat.
Hit the start button of the automatic turning rotisserie to start roasting the meat.
Roast the stacked meat until all sides turn from flesh color to brown color.
After the top of the stacked meat roasted, stick a skewer from the left part of the stacked meat through the right side of the stacked meat by the depth of 3cm (left to right direction). And then start cutting the roasted layer of the meat by starting from the end of the skewer which you stick through the handle of the skewer (cutting from right to left direction).
Once you trim the roasted top layer of the meat, place the skewer to the BBQ’s wire rack to roast the bottom part of the meat.
Continue the same cutting and roasting process until all meat finishes on the rotisserie.