Spit Roasted Gyros Sous Vide

If memory serves I was introduced to the American style gyro and all things Hellenic by a gorgeous Greek coed that I was trying oh so desperately hard to woo back in college. Not sure of the restaurant but It was most certainly located in Detroit’s vibrant and ouzo soaked, historic Greektown. Along with other gastronomic Greek goodies we enjoyed during my tasty tutelage the gyro seemed to be the go-to dish, inexpensive and filling it hit the spot washed down with some questionable Greek Retsina wine - OPA!

American style gyros (pronounced YEE-ros, Greek for “spin”) are just that, American. The culinary eggheads trace the Greek version back to their culinary cousins the döner kebabs of Turkey and shawarmas of the Middle East. Those delicious tidbits are made from savory slices of layered marinated meats but the American gyro, well, that’s a different beast all together.

finished gyro

Ground zero for the gyro here in the states seems to be from the Windy City, Chicago, back in the early 70’s, when the hair was big and the gyros were even bigger. Fabricated from a blend of meats that are heavily seasoned and minced to a fine puree it’s then fused into cylinders by applying a “whole-lotto” pressure (about 60 pounds per square inch of pressure!) and finally flash frozen. The restauranteur places the raw gyro tube on specially designed vertical roasters where the savory loafs spin away crisping up as they cook, the flavors melding together under the intense heat. Now, I don’t have a vertical roaster, nor do I have a hydraulic press to form the cylinders but I do have VacMaster vacuum machines and SV1 circulators and I do have an outdoor rotisserie and I do have a passion for meat on a spit!
The forming and subsequent compression of the American gyro has to be the most difficult part of recreating this classic at home. By wrapping the gyro mixture in plastic wrap and forming it into the classic tube shape helps and you can find numerous methods calling for just that but what about the pressure? Well this is where it gets interesting, I carefully place the wrapped gyro formed cylinder into a large VacMaster bag carefully keeping the shape intact. Then, I vacuum pack the whole shebang compressing the gyro even more - take that hydraulic press! Unlike it’s commercially fabricated cousin, I don’t freeze, I cook and I cook sous vide!

gyro ingredients

Not only does the gyro keep its compressed cylindrical shape during the cooking but it’s sous vide straight jacket also keeps all the juices in during its time in the warm waters of the SV1. My result was a beautiful cylinder of fragrant meat bursting with flavor and juicy to boot! The final turn on the outdoor rotisserie brought the whole dish together allowing each slice to have that perfect combination of moist flavorful meat with crunchy crispy bits that would make any yiayia proud!

• 2 pounds ground lamb

• 3/4-pound ground beef 80/20 blend

• 1/2-pound ground pork

• 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, or to taste

• 2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground

• 3/4 cup oregano leaves, fresh, stemmed and chopped fine

• 1 jumbo onion, white, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

• 8-10 large garlic cloves, fresh, quartered

• For the cucumber yogurt sauce ...

• 3/4 cup yogurt plain, Icelandic style, strained nonfat or similar

• 1 large cucumber, English style, diced

• 1 large garlic cloves, fresh, minced

• 1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh, or to taste

• 1/2 cup mint, fresh, stemmed and chopped

• 2 tablespoons oregano, fresh, stemmed and chopped 

For the basting sauce, optional:

• 6 large garlic cloves, fresh, minced

• 1/4 cup oregano leaves, fresh

• 3 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh

• salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1/2 cup olive oil

To serve the gyros:

• 4 flat bread, naan or hand pulled pita etc..., warmed

• lettuce leaves, romaine, red leaf or similar

• tomatoes, whole diced or halved cherry size

• red onion, peeled and finely sliced

• feta cheese, high quality, crumbled 

cucumber yogurt sauce ingredients

mixing gyro meat

Processed meat

wrapping gyro meat

gyro meat in water bath


1. In a large mixing bowl combine the ground lamb, beef, pork, salt and pepper, mix thoroughly and refrigerate.

2. In the bowl of food processor fitted with the chopping blade add the onion, oregano, garlic and puree.

3. Remove the lamb mixture from the refrigerator and using a spatula mix in the onion puree until thoroughly combined

4. Depending on the size of your food processor puree the gyro mixture until you achieve a smooth puree all at once or in batches.

5. Remove the mixture from the food processor, place back into the mixing bowl, cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

Forming and cooking the gyro sous vide:

6. Preheat the VacMaster SV1 to 60C/140F

7. Set a roll of plastic wrap on the top edge of your work surface.

8. Pull enough plastic wrap over your work surface to cover it completely, plus a little extra over the edge (depending on the width of your plastic wrap you might need to overlap two pieces to accommodate the gyro mixture)

9. Place the all of the gyro mix at the top and center of the plastic wrap in a rough cylindrical shape

10. Pull the loose edge of the plastic wrap (the side closest to you) tight, and pull up and over the mixture. While keeping the plastic tight, roll over three or four times. Grasp firmly on the edges of the meat and pull the plastic outward as if unwrapping a roll.

11. Roll over a couple more times and repeat, then roll a couple more times and cut the plastic wrap.

12. Roll the ends of the lamb mixture in opposite directions, so that the ends of the plastic compress the meat into a tight cylinder.

13. Tie the plastic off in a knot as close to the edge as possible and repeat on the other side.

14. The gyro cylinder should feel very tight and spring back when you squeeze it.

15. Refrigerate for 45 minutes up to 1 hour to firm up.

16. Place the chilled plastic wrapped gyro into a suitable VacMaster bag and using a VacMaster chamber or suction machine vacuum pack.

17. Place the gyro into the SV1 and cook for 4 or up to 6 hours

For the cucumber yogurt sauce:

1. In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon, mint and oregano and using a rubber spatula or similar and thoroughly blend.

2. Season to taste with salt and refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.

For the basting sauce, optional:

1. In a small mixing bowl blend the garlic, oregano, lemon and olive oil together and season to taste with the salt and pepper, reserve

Spit roasting and serving the gyro:

1. Remove from the gyro from the water bath of the SV1 and let sit for 10-20 minutes for the gyro to reabsorb some of its cooking juices then carefully unwrap using scissors.

2. Pat the gyro dry with paper towel, reserve

3. Set up your rotisserie/grill according to your manufactures directions for medium high to high heat.

4. Slide one pronged fork onto the rotisserie rod with the tines facing inward, setting it about 10 inches from the end of the spit, and tighten the fork halfway.

5. Slide the spit through the center of the gyro lengthwise and push the gyro until it’s firmly embedded on the fork tines.

6. Attach the other pronged fork with the tines facing inward and slide it down until it’s firmly embedded in the gyro.

7. If necessary, adjust the forks and pork so that they are centered on the spit then tighten both forks into place

8. When the grill is ready, load the pointed end of the spit onto the rotisserie motor.

9. Turn on the rotisserie motor, cover the grill, and cook basting the gyro from time to time with the optional basting sauce.

10. When the meat is well caramelized stop the motor and using a thin bladed slicing knife cut across the top of the gyro from right to left into thin long strips and continue around the whole loaf, starting and stopping the rotisserie as needed.

11. After the first batch of gyro strips have been removed you can continue to cut or restart the rotisserie, basting the meat until the gyro is crispy again and repeat procedure until of the meat have been sliced.

12. Serve a few of the slices of spit roasted gyro in each warmed flat bread garnished with the cucumber yogurt sauce, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and top with crumbled feta cheese.

cucumber yogurt saucebasting spit roasting gyro meatslicing meat off of spit

served gyro