How To Grill Spicy Turkish Adana Kebabs

Turkish Adana kebab plate with grilled vegetables.

In the Middle East, there are countless varieties of grilled and skewered meats. Many of these kebabs are made with ground meat, ranging from the parsley-rich kofta kebab of Lebanon to the soft and savory koobideh kebab of Iran. One of the most famous of these styles is the Adana kebab, a spicy Turkish lamb mince fragrant with chili peppers.

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What is the Adana Kebab?

Turkish Adana kebabs on the grill.

The Adana kebab originated from the southern Turkish city of Adana. A proper Adana kebab is serious business in Turkey — the dish is officially a protected designation of origin (PDO). Essentially, this means that a true Adana kebab can only be made in the city of Adana and only by someone who has cleared a series of rules.

First, Adana kebabs should be made from a male lamb less than one year old. The meat is hand-chopped with a crescent-shaped cleaver called a zırh and mixed with lamb tail fat. The fat content should be around 1/5 of the total mixture. This process of hand-chopping and mixing produces a texture that’s very different than mixing by machine. For seasoning, sweet red peppers,  spicy green chilis, garlic, purple sumac, and salt are added to the meat mixture. Ideally, the meat should be left overnight to fully develop all the flavors.

For grilling, Adana kebabs are kneaded onto a broad metal skewers shaped like a sword. Be sure to wet your hands beforehand — this will help the meat maintain its shape on the metal skewer. An authentic Adana kebab will be grilled over hardwood coals and turned frequently. As it grills, cooks will also periodically wipe pieces of flatbread on the meat to collect the savory fat drippings.

Read more: Best Grill Recipes

Accompaniments

Adana kebabs are usually served on a plate or in a wrap, both with Turkish flatbread. The flatbread has the added bonus of being able to soak up the salty and fatty meat drippings, enhancing the bread. Grilled vegetables like tomatoes, green and red peppers, and a salad of thinly sliced raw onions with parsley and sumac are common. These elements help balance the spicy meat of the kebab.

Turkish cuisine is all about a variety of flavors and textures. Central to this concept are the plentiful sides dishes and accompaniments called meze. These can include exciting items like a red pepper paste mixed with fruity pomegranate molasses, mint and tarragon, or a variety of pickled vegetables and chili peppers.

Turkish Style Adana Kebab

Turkish Adana kebabs over flatbread.

(By Executive Chef Ari Bokovza of Dagon)

Dagon is a thrilling new restaurant in New York City that showcases cuisine from “somewhere in the Mediterranean.” Named for the Phoenician and Philistine god of agriculture and the earth, the food of Dagon combines modern Israeli cuisine with Levantine influences of the Middle East.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 5 oz lamb or beef fat
  • 5 oz minced white onion
  • .5 oz minced garlic
  • .5 oz chopped parsley
  • .5 oz chopped cilantro
  • 2 oz harissa
  • Small pinch chili flake
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 oz panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp sumac

Method:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Cover and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. 
  2. To prepare, wet your hands and mold meat mixture into desired shape.
  3. Prepare charcoal grill and cook meat quickly over hot coals, turning often, about every 6-8 minutes depending on size of kebabs. If a grill is unavailable, a cast-iron skillet will suffice.
  4. Serve hot with rice or flatbread and grilled vegetables.

Read more: Best Dinner Recipes

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