To make gyros, pieces of meat are placed on a tall vertical spit, which turns in front of a source of heat.
If the meat is not fatty enough, strips of fat are added so that the roasting meat always remains moist and crisp. The rate of roasting can be adjusted by varying the strength of the heat and the distance between the heat and the meat. The outside of the meat is sliced vertically in thin, crisp shavings when done. It is generally served in an oiled, lightly grilled piece of pita, rolled up with various salads and sauces.
The Greek pronunciation is [yeeros], the pronunciation in English is often, incorrectly.
Though grilling meat stacked on a skewer has ancient roots in the Eastern Mediterranean with evidence from the Mycenaean Greek and Minoan periods, grilling a vertical spit of stacked meat slices and cutting it off as it cooks was developed in the 19th century in Ottoman Bursa.
In Greece and Cyprus, the meat is typically pork or chicken; with veal gyros occasionally found, referred to as "doner" (ντονέρ). In Athens, and most of Greece, a "pita gyro" will contain tzatziki, tomato, onion and fried potatoes in addition to the meat.
Pita is about 20 cm in diameter. Gyros are also served in sandwich-type bread in northern Greece.
It is said that in Thessaloniki one will find the biggest pita and gyros; there, an order will typically include tomato, onion, fried potatoes, mustard and/or ketchup and an optional sauce, most commonly tzatziki or ktipití (a feta cheese and hot pepper dip), in addition to the meat.
Gyros were introduced to the United States via Chicago between 1965 and 1968.
Several people claim to have brought gyros to Chicago and been the first to mass-produce them. George Apostolou claims he served the first gyros at the Parkview Restaurant in 1965. In 1974, he opened a 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) manufacturing plant called Central Gyros Wholesale.Peter Parthenis claims he mass-produced them at Gyros Inc., in 1973, a year before Apostolou. In 1968, at The Parthenon restaurant, Chris Liakouras developed an early version of the modern vertical rotisserie gyros cooker, and popularized gyros by passing out samples free to customers.
The vertical broiler was later refined by Tom Pappas and others at Gyros incorporated. Pappas would go on to develop the modern commercial recipe for gyros in the United States, substituting compressed meat for slices of beef, lamb and pork, or beef and lamb (for Halal distribution). They achieved success as an independent manufacturer of gyros in Florida during the early 1980s, and popularizing it in the southeastern US (Orlando Sentinel, 1981). They have since spread to all parts of the country, but the gyro is still identified as part of Chicago's working class cuisine.
The name gyros is most commonly used in American and Greek-American restaurants and stores.
In the United States, gyros is typically made from ground compressed meat. The compressed meat typically comprises lamb or a combination of beef and lamb, and frequently additional ingredients including soy and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Chicken gyros are sometimes seen as well. As of 2011, there is a gyro made from a wheat-based plant protein, manufactured exclusively by U.S. based company, Taft Foodmasters, LLC. The bread served with gyros in the U.S. resembles a Greek 'plain' pita.
The traditional accompaniments are tomato, onion, and tzatziki, sometimes called "cucumber", "yogurt", or "white" sauce. Some establishments use plain sour cream in lieu of tzatziki sauce. Such sandwiches are often served in luncheonettes or diners.
While some Greek restaurants in America make gyros in a traditional way from sliced meat arranged on a vertical rotisserie, most, particularly fast-food restaurants, use mass-produced gyros loaves, of finely ground compressed meat compressed at 400 kPa (60 PSI) pressed into a cylinder and cooked on a rotating vertical spit, from which thin slices of meat are shaved as they brown. Some restaurants even sell pre-formed, frozen strips, also formed of compressed ground gyros meat, grilled or pan-fried individually, to prevent waste.
The Greek Chef