What is Shawarma
Shawarma is probably one of the most recognizable Middle Eastern ethnic food names in the West, behind Falafel and Hummus. The name comes from the Turkish word çevirme which means “turning,” and where you have some deeply marinated layers of beef, lamb or chicken stacked on a vertical spit and slowly turning against a soft grilling fire for hours. The meat is then shredded and wrapped in a pita bread with garlic paste (chicken shawarma) or Tahini sauce (beef shawarma) and other goodies such as grilled tomatoes, chopped parsley, french fries, grilled onions, and salted Lebanese pickles.
Shawarma (Arabic: شاورما) is also spelled as schwarma, shwarma, shawrma or shawerma depending on how folks hear their ethnic brethren say it! 🙂 This delicacy may get confused sometimes with the Greek Gyro but there is a major difference in the spices used and how meat is processed. In this post we’re going to feature our refined and well tested Beef Shawarma Recipe. (You can check our Chicken Shawarma Recipe Here)
How to Make Shawarma at Home
Growing up in Lebanon, we almost never had to make Shawarma at home since it was an integral part of Lebanese Street Food and was thus so readily available. However in the US it’s not as common, at least not in Upstate NY. So my wife and I embarked on a little journey of fine tuning the art of making Shawarma at home, and I think we got it! We were able to replicate a very delicious Shawarma recipe that is so close to a high quality restaurant Shawarma both in flavor and texture, you can’t even tell. And we were able to accomplish that using two different methods of cooking the meat.
Preparing the Meat
Pick your favorite beef cut and ensure it has plenty of fat in it. Our photos here feature a roast cut, however you can do this with any steak cut, Ribeye, or even butter steak. Any fat in the cut will greatly enhance the flavor of the Shawarma. And if you like lamb, you can also mix some leg of lamb meat with the beef.
Cut the meat into chunks of about 3 to 4 inches in length and no more than 2/3 inch in thickness. You don’t want to have very small cuts since they’ll dry out and won’t be as moist as you’d love them to be. And if you make larger cuts, it may work if you roast it, but not on the Panini grill.
Mix the spices with the lemon juice and vinegar in a blender (we use MAGIC BULLET for such quick mixes) then rub meat cuts with the marinade. It’s important to not blend the olive oil with the spices and lemon/vinegar because it tends to emulsify and mask the flavors, for some reason. Instead, after you have rubbed the meat with the marinade you just made, sprinkle some olive oil at the end, rub a bit more and you’re done. Cover container and refrigerate overnight (it needs several hours of marination).
Two Cooking Methods That Work
If you don’t have much time on your hands, use a panini or George Foreman grill on medium/high and grill the Shawarma chunks for 10-15 minutes, no more. If otherwise you are in no rush, place the Shawarma chunks in a pyrex tray with a bit of marinade, wrap it tightly with aluminum foil, and gently bake at 270-300F for 2 hours. The Pannini grill method yields a more flavorful Shawarma, where as the oven method yields juicier and more tender meat.
Once cooked, shred the Shawarma into small pieces on a cutting board then wrapp in pita bread with some Tahini sauce, grilled tomatoes, fries, and some salty Lebanese pickles.
- 2 lbs of fatty beef cuts (roast cut/steak cuts/butter steak...)
- 5 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon caraway
- ½ teaspoon cardamon
- ½ teaspoon of oregano or thyme
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon crushed peppercorn
- ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons of Tahini paste
- 1 cup of freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
- 3 gloves of garlic, crushed
- a dash of Salt
- ½ cup of finely cut Italian parsley
- Grilled tomatoes
- French fries
- Pita bread
- Mix the spices along with the lemon juice and apple cider vinegar in a blender for a couple of minutes. Don't mix in the olive oil yet.
- Cut the beef into chunks of 4 inches long by no more than ⅔ inch in thickness.
- In a bowl, rub the meat with the marinade, sprinkle a bit of olive oil then rub again, cover and let marinate overnight in the fridge.
- Lay the marinated shawarma chunks on a panini or George Foreman grill and cook for 10-15 minutes on medium-high heat.
- Once cooked, shred the meat on a cutting board and serve hot.
- Lay the shawarma chunks in a Pyrex tray with a bit of marinade, cover the trap tightly with aluminum foil, then gently bake at 270-300F for 2 hours.
- Once cooked, shred the meat on a cutting board and serve hot. This roasting method will make the meat very tender and juicy and will almost fall apart.
- In a small bowl, whisk the the Tahini paste, crushed garlic, lemon juice and salt until you turn the paste into a sauce.
- Place about 4-6 ounces (to taste) of shredded shawarma in a pita bread along the diameter, sprinkle some Tahini sauce, add freshly grilled tomatoes, french fries, a garnish of Italian parsley.
- Roll and enjoy.
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