A Greek classic, made in a way you have not even imagined
ingredients for 4 servings (cost about 4 € pp)
- 1 kg pork neck (makes about 20 souvlakis)
- A bunch of oregano (better fresh)
- 2 lemons
- 20 wooden sticks
Well, well, well.
Somebody may think that preparing souvlaki is something very easy. It is the same false impression that people have about grilling or roasting.
The simpler a dish is, the harder it is to prepare it perfectly. A large variety of ingredients helps us hide our culinary mistakes, but if the dish is minimal and simple the triumph is just a step away from the complete failure.
Souvlaki is well known all over the world. The word souvlaki means in Greek a small skewer, but in Athens and the southern part of the country, it also refers to a more complicated preparation with pita, tomato and onion.
To clarify some things: The Greek pita sandwich is EXCLUSIVELY made with pork meat, already grilled on wooden sticks.
Gyros is a Turkish filling which was brought in Greece by the refugees at the start of the 20th century, while skewers (souvlakis) of chicken meat are invented by stupid hipster cooks who address to – even stupider – consumers, who falsely think that they can loose weight, just by substituting the Godly pork meat with the awful chicken one.
So, the Greek souvlaki is only made with pork meat, skewered on wooden sticks. Lamb meat is also excellent, but it is not Greek. Italians prepare MONUMENTAL lamb “souvlakis”, the Arrosticini Abruzzesi, which have no difference in the way they are prepared, compared to their Greek cousins.
I NEVER buy ready-made souvlakis, they are all awful, disgusting, vulgar. Souvlaki in Greece is the cheapest food, so it is very very rarely well made. Equally awful are the souvlakis sold by butchers and super markets. But what are the most common problems of ready made souvlakis and how we can resolve them?
a) The meat quality. In order to keep the cost at low levels, the butchers use bad quality meats from Holland and Denmark, which condemn the whole preparation. Buy local organic pork and you are gonna eat the best souvlaki of your life.
b) The meat cuts. In Greece, almost all parts of pork meat are consumed grilled as souvlaki, chops etc. It is evident that the pork neck, which is the part of the animal that must be used for a perfect souvlaki, wouldn’t be enough to cover the consumers’ demand. So, the butchers use practically every part of the animal, fatty or not, tender or hard to prepare souvlaki. And they also do something even worse. They add between meat pieces, slices of pork belly fat, which always remains tough and almost “raw” and they downgrade even more the result.
c) The cutting of the meat. Souvlakis are made in Greece by machines, which cut them in uniformed cubic shapes, something that prevent the creation of the pleasant Maillard reactions, which a manual cutting would provoke.
d) The size of the souvlaki. The ready made souvlaki weighs between 75 and 100 grams, which means that it is made with large pieces. But, why is this a problem? Well, the external part of the souvlaki piece cannot resist for a long time to high grilling temperatures. Therefore, we have to grill the souvlaki only for a few minutes. If the meat pieces of the souvlaki are too large, their internal part will not be well cooked during the few minutes, within we grill the souvlaki. So, large cubes of souvlaki provoke burnt and dry external part and undercooked and tough internal.
e) The absence of pre-salting and the use of chemical substances. Pork neck is a relatively tough piece of meat, so it needs time to be well cooked. The dry or wet brining resolves this problem, but, as it needs care and time, this solution is not preferred by the souvlaki makers, who choose, instead, to use chemical substances with bad odour for this job.
After reading these rules I think we are ready to prepare our first homemade souvlakis. Hurray!!!!!
The day before we cut the meat in slices of 1,5 cm thickness. We lay them on a baking sheet and we season them with salt and oregano. We put the meat in fridge overnight. We also immerge the wooden sticks in water to humidify them and protect their exposed parts from the intense heat.
The day after we wash and dry very well the meat, we cut it in very small pieces and we prick them with the wooden sticks, till having a whole souvlaki. Every souvlaki must weigh about 50 gr.
We prepare the grill using charcoal of high quality, otherwise we preheat a cast iron pan with stripes and we roast the souvlakis.
We also prepare a solution with lemon juice, a little bit of salt, pepper and oregano, where we immerge the souvlakis for just an instant, right after they are ready.
We serve with roasted onions and potatoes and, of course, allioli sauce.