What Is a Turkish Kabob?

Angie Bates

Traditional in Turkey, a Turkish kabob consists of skewered meat and vegetables cooked over a grill or fire pit. Found all over Turkey, these kabobs are available in restaurants or from street vendors. While lamb was once the only meat used to make Turkish kabobs, now any type of meat may be used.

A variety of vegetables can be used on a Turkish kabob.
A variety of vegetables can be used on a Turkish kabob.

A Turkish kabob may include beef, lamb, chicken, or seafood. Only one type of meat is generally used, however, and some styles will only use a particular kind of meat. For example, kofte is a type of Turkish kabob made with ground beef that is formed into flattish meatballs that are then skewered. Doner kabobs spit a large roll of meat and cook it over a fire pit, then turn the skewer vertically and slice meat servings straight off the roll. Most kabobs, however, consist of bite-sized cubes of meat that are threaded onto individual skewers.

Black pepper may be added to Turkish kabob for additional flavor.
Black pepper may be added to Turkish kabob for additional flavor.

Although sometimes just tossed in a spice mixture, the meat is usually marinated in a spicy vinaigrette-style marinade before it is cooked. Crushed garlic is often included in the spice mixture. Mint, oregano, salt, and black pepper may also be added. Various types of ground chili pepper common to the middle east, such as ufra or maras, are sometimes included as well. The liquid base of the marinade usually consists of lemon juice and olive oil.

A variety of different vegetables may be used in Turkish kabobs. Usually two or three different vegetable choices are selected. Onion, tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant are all popular. The vegetables are cut into bite-sized pieces, and then threaded onto the same skewer as the meat or onto their own skewer.

If place on the same skewer, vegetables and meat alternate. Placing vegetables on a separate skewer, however, allows for the different cooking times of the meat and vegetables. Since the vegetables usually need to cook for slightly longer than the meat, the meat can be removed while the vegetables continue to cook.

Skewers are usually wooden, but metal may be used as well. Wooden skewers must be soaked in water for at least half an hour to prevent them from burning when placed on a grill. The exposed ends may also be wrapped in foil for protection. Once cooked, the Turkish kabob may be eaten as is or the meat and vegetables can be removed from the skewers and eaten on pita bread. A type of Middle Eastern condiment, called tahini, may provide a topping for the kabobs as well.

Pita bread, which is often served with Turkish kabobs.
Pita bread, which is often served with Turkish kabobs.

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