Döner word means the action of ‘rolling‘ in English. When you see a Döner Kebab restaurant, you can easily notice that the cone shape stacked meat is slowly rolling by the roaster itself or the chef manually. This slow-rolling action lets to cook the out layers of the stacked meet evenly and help to keep meat juice inside the meat as much as it can.
It is one of the most famous kebab varieties of Turkish cuisine that is made from seasoned veal leg meat slices, stacked and cooked on a rolling vertical rotisserie. It is the ancestor of Greeks’ gyro and Arabs’ shawarma.
In Turkey, we call Döner Kebab restaurants as ‘Dönerci’. These restaurants are generally very small restaurants that only have 6 to 8 people working inside. You can also eat Döner Kebab at normal size restaurants too. However, as we consider Döner as fast food, we like to eat it at these small Döner shops. It is more practical and time-saving.
The history of Döner Kebab
There is no specific evidence exist about by whom and when it was first made; however, the below photo shows that it is in our culture since the early 1900s. You can easily notice that the roasting format is still the same today. Vertical rotisserie with a rolling pin and stacked meat on it and a chef waiting right beside of the rotisserie to cut the roasted layers with a special long knife.
The difference of Döner Kebab and İskender Kebab
Döner Kebab is the plain version of İskender Kebab. Döner Kebab is served with sliced onions and tomatoes within the lavash bread or plain bread; however, if you eat it at a restaurant, it is served with Pilaf and chips aside also. On the other hand, İskender Kebab is served with hot tomato sauce and melted butter on top and plain yogurt aside and warm, square-cut pide bread under the meat. Basically, you can consider Döner Kebab as the core of İskender Kebab.
How it is served?
Once the outer layers of the stacked meat cook, the Döner chef cuts off the cooked layers with a special Döner Knife and serves it either in bread or in a dürüm roll (wrapped) with salad and sliced tomato and onions inside. This is how it serves at small Döner shops. However, if you prefer to eat it at a restaurant, you need to tell the waiter whether you want it on a plate or in a dürüm roll. Personally, I always prefer to eat Döner Kebab in a dürüm roll (wrapped). In Turkey, we use lavash bread for dürüm rolls.
In addition to these, Döner Kebab also serves with Ayran beverage. It is the wingman of this delicious food. As Ayran is considered our national beverage, we love to drink it when we are eating Döner Kebab. So if you are going to eat this mouth juicing kebab, I strongly recommend you to drink Ayran with it.
How it is made?
We have two different Döner Kebab varieties. The one is made with veal leg meat and the other one is made with chicken meat. I like both of them. But in the summertime, I stay away from chicken meat because it gets bad quickly. My all-time favorite variety is the one made with veal meat.
Most Döner Kebab chefs told me that the best Döner Kebab meat is formed from the mixture of 75% veal leg meat, 20% lamb meat, and 5% tail fat. The chefs also said 24 hours is ideal for marinating Döner Kebab meat.
When I ask the chefs about the ingredients, none of them share the exact ingredients of their Döner Kebab. They generally said the same ingredients which I already shared at my homemade İskender Kebab recipe. I heard that some restaurants are using milk and ground dried fruits during marination to soften the meat and to give a special taste.
Frankly speaking, there are some special foods in our cuisine that you seriously come and taste in here. Döner Kebab is one of them. However, if you still insist to make Döner Kebab at your home and challenge your skills, you will need a vertical rotisserie for the Döner Kebab recipe. Otherwise, it may not give the same taste as Döner Kebab.
- 1 kg Veal leg meat
- 2 onions grated
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 2 tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cut the Veal leg meat into slices as thin as you can. In a bowl, put the all ingredients and mix them well.
Then put the meat slices into the mix and marinate them. Cover the bowl and let it to marinate 24 hours at refregirator.
Next day, stack the meat slices one by one to the vertical rotisserie. I assume; you already have or bought one.
Bring the heat of rotisserie to the low-medium level and start to roast the meat. If your vertical rotisserie has auto-roll function then you don’t need to roll it manually. However; if not, you need to roll it slowly with tongs by your self to let the stacked meat layers roast evenly.
After 30 minutes, the stacked meat’s outer layer will start to change its color from flesh to medium cooked. Then you can start to cut off the roasted outer layers and serve.
Continue to same process untill the all stack of meat finishes.
Tip: Serve with salad, sliced onions and tomatoes, and lavash bread aside.