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

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Milk Street Recipe

Turkish Minced-Meat Kebabs

Appears in July-August 2021

1¼ hours plus chilling and grill prep

Turkish Minced-Meat Kebabs

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.




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.

1¼ hours

plus chilling and grill prep

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