Why It Works
- The right level of salt and proper mixing ensures that the kebabs come out juicy with a pleasantly springy texture.
- Sumac and Turkish chili flakes are essential for the flavor of these kebabs. We add them directly to the meat before grilling and sprinkle them on as the meat cooks.
I ate a lot of good things when I was in Istanbul last winter—eggs scrambled with tomatoes and chilies, flatbreads topped with cheese and eggs, teeny tiny dumplings served with yogurt and sumac—but kebabs, made with juicy lamb meat molded around flat metal skewers and grilled over live coals were the kind of thing that even at their worst, were still pretty freaking awesome. Here's how to make them at their best.
- For the Kebabs:
- 500 grams (about 1 pound 2 ounce) ground lamb
- Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
- 2 tablespoons ground sumac, divided
- 2 tablespoon ground Urfa pepper flakes, divided
- 2 tablespoons ice-cold water
- For Serving:
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 6 pieces lavash or pita
- 1 cup picked fresh parsley leaves
- 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Pickled sport peppers or pepperoncini
For the Kebabs: Combine lamb with 7.5 grams (about 2 teaspoons) kosher salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoons sumac, and 1 tablespoon pepper flakes. Knead by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until mixture turns tacky and starts sticking to the side of the bowl. Add water and continue kneading until incorporated. Place in refrigerator and chill well.
Meanwhile, combine remaining teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoons sumac, remaining tablespoon pepper flakes, and 2 teaspoons salt in a small bowl. Set spice mixture aside. Combine remaining 2 teaspoons sumac and red onions in a medium bowl. Season with salt to taste and set aside.
Using wet hands, divide lamb mixture into 12 even balls. Using wet hands, form each ball into a long, flat kebab around a skewer.
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the highest heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place kebabs directly over hot side of grill, cover, and cook, turning occasionally and sprinkling with spice mixture until well charred on both sides and kebabs are cooked through, about 12 minutes total.
During last few minutes of cooking, place bread directly on top of kebabs in batches until heated through.
Serve kebabs with warm bread, sumac onions, parsley, tomatoes, and pickled peppers.
Stainless-steel kebab skewers or bamboo skewers soaked in water for 15 minutes