Nashville has a terrific selection of kebab restaurants all over town. The big pita sandwich loaded with döner, shawarma or gyro shaved from a vertical rotisserie is the quick, fresh and affordable lunch of choice for many. However, those kebabs made with ground meat — the hamburger of the Mediterranean kebab corridor — are the style you can, and should, make at home. They’re a more interesting alternative to the usual grilled burger and kids love “meat on a stick.”
So think hamburger but instead of patties, form kebabs into logs on skewers. Use ground beef, lamb or a combo of both, and simply season with garlic, cumin and salt. Make a quick, cooling cucumber-yogurt sauce, slice up some Tennessee Cherokee tomatoes and quickly grill some pita bread. Plain old burgers may never be quite enough after this meal.
A few important kebab tips:
Finely chop the garlic and use the flat side of a chef’s knife to mash it into a paste along with the salt. This helps spread the garlic and salt through the meat and prevents any big, raw chunks in the kebabs.
As you can’t taste test the salt level in uncooked meat, our rule of thumb is a ½ teaspoon kosher salt per pound of meat. It’s spot on when salting ground mixtures like meatballs and meatloaf too. Remember, you can always add more at the table, but you can’t take it out.
Bamboo skewers work just fine, but we like the flat metal style (about ⅜” wide) more than the thin style for ground meat kebabs. The meat holds to the skewer better, and the metal helps cook the kebab from the inside. Plus, turning kebabs on the grill is easy with a wider skewer.