Turkish Minced-Meat Kebabs | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Milk Street Bowtie Turkish Minced-Meat Kebabs

Turkish Minced-Meat Kebabs

Appears in July-August 2021

Turkish Minced-Meat Kebabs

Free

Turkish Adana kebabs are minced-meat kebabs (typically lamb) seasoned with enough finely chopped fresh sweet peppers and pepper flakes that the meat is tinted a deeper shade of red. Formed into thick, undulating ribbon-like shapes onto large, sword-like skewers and cooked over a live fire, the fatty meat takes on a light charring. We loved the Adana kebabs at Yirmibir Ocakbaşı restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey, but re-creating them was no easy task. To mimic the coarse, hand-minced texture of the meat, we learned we needed to grind our own using a food processor, processing half until of it until finely chopped and half until roughly chopped, then combining the two batches. And to get the right degree of succulence and richness, we borrowed the restaurant’s technique of incorporating ghee (a type of clarified butter used in Indian cooking) into the meat mix (salted butter works, too). This may sound extravagant, but the added fat greatly improved both the flavor and texture of the kebabs. For seasoning the meat, we use the food processor to grind tomato paste, red bell pepper, sweet paprika and Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes) to approximate the intensity of flavor and color of Turkish kapya peppers and pepper flakes. You can use either lamb (boneless leg) or beef (boneless short ribs) to make these kebabs. If grinding your own meat isn’t an option, store-bought ground meat will work (see the directions below), though the kebabs will cook up a little tougher and finer in texture. Flat metal skewers work better here than slender square or round ones because they give the meat, which is soft and quite sticky, a better surface to grip on to. But even so, the kebabs are quite delicate, so handle them carefully until cooked. Moistening your hands with water when forming the meat mixture on the skewers helps prevent sticking and a wide metal spatula is useful for transferring the kebabs to the grill and flipping them on the grate. For accompanying the kebabs, we make cumin salt and a yogurt sauce, and also offer lavash, sliced tomato and sliced onion alongside.

Tip

Don’t forget to bring the ghee (or butter) to room temperature. If it’s cold, it won’t break down and incorporate properly into the meat. Also, don’t put the kebabs on the grill until the grate is nice and hot, and don’t attempt to move them until they’re well charred and release easily from the grate.

1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb or boneless beef short ribs, trimmed of silver skin and cut into 1-inch chunks
3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
Kosher salt
3 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
Grapeseed or other neutral oil, for the baking sheet
1/2 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 1/4 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup ghee or salted butter, room temperature
Lavash, to serve
Sliced white onion, to serve
Sliced ripe tomato, to serve
Ingredients
  • pounds boneless leg of lamb or boneless beef short ribs, trimmed of silver skin and cut into 1-inch chunks

  • ¾

    cup plain whole-milk yogurt

  • ½

    cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped

  • 2

    teaspoons lemon juice

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, finely grated

  • Kosher salt

  • 3

    teaspoons ground cumin, divided

  • Grapeseed or other neutral oil, for the baking sheet

  • ½

    medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped

  • 1

    tablespoon tomato paste

  • teaspoons sweet paprika

  • teaspoons Aleppo pepper or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • cup ghee or salted butter, room temperature

  • Lavash, to serve

  • Sliced white onion, to serve

  • Sliced ripe tomato, to serve

Directions
  1. 01
    Place the meat in a single layer on a large plate and freeze, uncovered, until firm but not fully frozen, 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, mint, lemon juice, garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. In another small bowl, stir together 2 teaspoons of the cumin and ½ teaspoon salt; set aside until ready to serve.
  2. 02
    Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Have ready eight 10- or 12-inch flat metal skewers. In a food processor, combine the bell pepper, tomato paste, paprika, Aleppo pepper, the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin, half the meat cubes and half the ghee. Process to a coarse paste, about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl as needed. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the remaining meat and ghee to the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, 6 to 8 pulses; transfer to the bowl. Add ¾ teaspoon salt and mix with your hands until well combined.
  3. 03
    Moisten your hands with water to prevent sticking, then divide the meat mixture into 8 portions (each about 3½ ounces). Form each portion into a 6-inch log. Insert a skewer lengthwise into a log and, with wet hands, form the meat mixture into a cylinder about 6 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter. Lay the skewer on the prepared baking sheet and press your fingers in the meat to slightly flatten the kebab and create ridges that run perpendicular to the skewer. Shape the remaining portions in the same way. Cover the skewers and refrigerate while you prepare the grill or for up to overnight.
  4. 04
    Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. For a charcoal grill, ignite a large chimney of coals, let burn until lightly ashed over, then distribute evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents. For a gas grill, turn all burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grate. If using gas, turn off 1 burner, leaving the remaining burner(s) on high.
  5. 05
    Using tongs and/or a wide metal spatula, place the skewers on the hot side of the grill, positioning them perpendicular to the slats of the grill grate. Cook without disturbing until lightly charred on the bottom and the meat releases easily from the grill, about 4 minutes. Using tongs to grip the skewer handle and a thin metal spatula to slide under the meat, carefully flip the skewers. Cook until the second sides are charred and release from the grill, about 2 minutes. Move the skewers to the cooler side of the grill and cook, turning occasionally to ensure even browning, until nicely charred on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a platter and serve with the cumin salt for sprinkling, along with the yogurt sauce, flatbread, onion and tomato.
  6. 06
    Follow the recipe to prep the meat, make the yogurt sauce and cumin salt, form the kebabs and refrigerate them. Heat the broiler with a rack about 4 inches from the element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spread 1 cup kosher salt evenly over the baking sheet, then place a wire rack on top. Using tongs and/or a wide metal spatula, transfer the kebabs to the prepared rack and broil until browned on top, 6 to 8 minutes. Using tongs and the spatula, carefully flip the kebabs and broil until browned on the second sides, another 2 to 3 minutes. Serve as directed.
  7. 07
    Follow the recipe to prepare the yogurt sauce and cumin salt. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with neutral oil; have ready eight 10- or 12-inch flat metal skewers. In a food processor, process the bell pepper, tomato paste, paprika, Aleppo pepper and cumin until finely chopped, about 30 seconds, then transfer to a medium bowl. Add the ghee, 1½ pounds ground lamb or 70 or 80 percent lean ground beef and ¾ teaspoon salt, then mix with your hands until the ingredients are well combined. Form the kebabs and refrigerate them as instructed. Follow the recipe to prepare the grill, cook and serve the kebabs.
Tip: Don’t forget to bring the ghee (or butter) to room temperature. If it’s cold, it won’t break down and incorporate properly into the meat. Also, don’t put the kebabs on the grill until the grate is nice and hot, and don’t attempt to move them until they’re well charred and release easily from the grate.
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Turkish Minced-Meat Kebabs

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4

Servings

Tip

Don’t forget to bring the ghee (or butter) to room temperature. If it’s cold, it won’t break down and incorporate properly into the meat. Also, don’t put the kebabs on the grill until the grate is nice and hot, and don’t attempt to move them until they’re well charred and release easily from the grate.

Ingredients
  • pounds boneless leg of lamb or boneless beef short ribs, trimmed of silver skin and cut into 1-inch chunks

  • ¾

    cup plain whole-milk yogurt

  • ½

    cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped

  • 2

    teaspoons lemon juice

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, finely grated

  • Kosher salt

  • 3

    teaspoons ground cumin, divided

  • Grapeseed or other neutral oil, for the baking sheet

  • ½

    medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped

  • 1

    tablespoon tomato paste

  • teaspoons sweet paprika

  • teaspoons Aleppo pepper or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • cup ghee or salted butter, room temperature

  • Lavash, to serve

  • Sliced white onion, to serve

  • Sliced ripe tomato, to serve

Step 1 of 7

Freeze Meat

pounds boneless leg of lamb or boneless beef short ribs, trimmed of silver skin and cut into 1-inch chunks
¾
cup plain whole-milk yogurt
½
cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped
2
teaspoons lemon juice
2
medium garlic cloves, finely grated
¾
teaspoon kosher salt
2
teaspoons ground cumin, divided

Place the meat in a single layer on a large plate and freeze, uncovered, until firm but not fully frozen, 30 to 40 minutes.


Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, mint, lemon juice, garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.


In another small bowl, stir together 2 teaspoons of the cumin and ½ teaspoon salt; set aside until ready to serve.

Step 2 of 7

Prepare Skewers

½
medium red bell pepper, stemmed seeded and roughly chopped
1
tablespoon tomato paste
teaspoons sweet paprika
teaspoons Aleppo pepper or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1
teaspoons ground cumin, divided
cup ghee or salted butter, room temperature
pounds boneless leg of lamb or boneless beef short ribs, trimmed of silver skin and cut into 1-inch chunks
¾
teaspoon kosher salt

Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Have ready eight 10- or 12-inch flat metal skewers.


In a food processor, combine the bell pepper, tomato paste, paprika, Aleppo pepper, the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin, half the meat cubes and half the ghee. Process to a coarse paste, about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl as needed. Transfer to a medium bowl.


Add the remaining meat and ghee to the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, 6 to 8 pulses; transfer to the bowl. Add ¾ teaspoon salt and mix with your hands until well combined.

Step 3 of 7

Divide The Meat

Moisten your hands with water to prevent sticking, then divide the meat mixture into 8 portions (each about 3½ ounces). Form each portion into a 6-inch log.


Insert a skewer lengthwise into a log and, with wet hands, form the meat mixture into a cylinder about 6 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter. Lay the skewer on the prepared baking sheet and press your fingers in the meat to slightly flatten the kebab and create ridges that run perpendicular to the skewer.


Shape the remaining portions in the same way. Cover the skewers and refrigerate while you prepare the grill or for up to overnight.

Step 4 of 7

Prepare Your Grill

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. For a charcoal grill, ignite a large chimney of coals, let burn until lightly ashed over, then distribute evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents.


For a gas grill, turn all burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grate. If using gas, turn off 1 burner, leaving the remaining burner(s) on high.

Step 5 of 7

Cook Skewers

Ground cumin
Kosher salt
Yogurt sauce
Lavash, to serve
Sliced white onion, to serve
Sliced ripe tomato, to serve

Using tongs and/or a wide metal spatula, place the skewers on the hot side of the grill, positioning them perpendicular to the slats of the grill grate. Cook without disturbing until lightly charred on the bottom and the meat releases easily from the grill, about 4 minutes.


Using tongs to grip the skewer handle and a thin metal spatula to slide under the meat, carefully flip the skewers. Cook until the second sides are charred and release from the grill, about 2 minutes.


Move the skewers to the cooler side of the grill and cook, turning occasionally to ensure even browning, until nicely charred on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes.


Transfer to a platter and serve with the cumin salt for sprinkling, along with the yogurt sauce, flatbread, onion and tomato.

Step 6 of 7

[Broiler Instructions]

Follow the recipe to prep the meat, make the yogurt sauce and cumin salt, form the kebabs and refrigerate them.


Heat the broiler with a rack about 4 inches from the element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spread 1 cup kosher salt evenly over the baking sheet, then place a wire rack on top.


Using tongs and/or a wide metal spatula, transfer the kebabs to the prepared rack and broil until browned on top, 6 to 8 minutes. Using tongs and the spatula, carefully flip the kebabs and broil until browned on the second sides, another 2 to 3 minutes. Serve as directed.

Step 7 of 7

[To make Adana kebabs using store-bought ground meat]

Follow the recipe to prepare the yogurt sauce and cumin salt. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with neutral oil; have ready eight 10- or 12-inch flat metal skewers.


In a food processor, process the bell pepper, tomato paste, paprika, Aleppo pepper and cumin until finely chopped, about 30 seconds, then transfer to a medium bowl. Add the ghee, 1½ pounds ground lamb or 70 or 80 percent lean ground beef and ¾ teaspoon salt, then mix with your hands until the ingredients are well combined.


Form the kebabs and refrigerate them as instructed. Follow the recipe to prepare the grill, cook and serve the kebabs.

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