Turkish kebabs derive from what began a s a wide array of skewered meats that originated throughout the Middle East and were later embraced by the Caucasus, Balkans, and area of Europe as well as South and Central Asia. Today kebabs are found around the world. Turkish kebabs are cooked over or beside open flames in small or large cuts of meat—maybe even ground meat—and served in bowls, on plates, and in sandwiches. Traditionally lamb is used for making kebabs but today kebabs are made from chicken, beef, goat, and even fish.
Doner kebabs are made from beef, veal, or lamb on a vertical spit. Once cooked, the meat is served in pita, lavash, or some other type of flatbread. Doner kebabs are common fast food in the Middle East, the Balkans, New Zealand, and Australia. Toppings include onion, chili, tomato, pickled cucumber, and lettuce. Arab Shawarma, the Greek Gyro, and Tacos al Pastor from Mexico are each derived from Doner Turkish kebabs.
The “shish” in Shish Kebabs literally means skewer. This dish comprises any one of a variety of meats, usually lamb, veal, or beef, that is put onto a skewer ad grilled on an open flame. Shish kebabs seem to leave more to the imagination; it is common to see cubes of vegetables and/or fruit threaded on to the grill spit along with the meat itself. These add-ons can include onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and bell peppers. When referring to kebabs in English, it’s Shish Kebabs that are the most common reference.
There are several other types of kebabs originating from similar regions. The Turkish Bugu Kebab, or Steam Kebab, is a traditional Turkish dish cooked in a casserole dish of earthenware. The lid of the earthenware pot is sealed shut with dough so the meat steeps and cooks in its own juices. Garlic, thyme, onions, and other spices are added. Adana Kebabs are long lengths of hand-minced kebabs threaded onto an iron skewer and grilled over a charcoal fire. Usually fairly spicy, this type of kebab is also called Urfa Kebab. In Turkey alone, there are more than thirty different types of kebabs.