Doner kebab is a kind of food which draws every person who is passing by just with the aroma coming from the place where they make them. In a place where I live they make doner kebabs using pork or even chicken instead of mutton and the aroma is still the same so I guess it's not the meat but the spices and/or the way they prepare it.

Now the question is what is the source of the aroma and whether it can be reproduced at home. If so, how?

  • How exactly is this distinct from a recipe request? Are you looking for something that smells like doner kebab but is somehow different? What kind of differences are acceptable?
    – Cascabel
    Apr 8, 2011 at 22:02
  • I don't ask about recipe itself, as it takes meat, vegetables and pita (or however the bread is called). The thing which interests me here is just aroma. I've tried to prepare something like doner kebab at home and the taste was, say, close enough but there was nothing close to the aroma I know from boots at the street and I wish to know what the secret is. Apr 8, 2011 at 22:13
  • Okay, but that still sounds like you're looking for a recipe for the meat. Perhaps your real question is more along the lines of "how do I cook meat like this without having a rotating spit and vertical grill"? Or do you think that the recipe that you used didn't have the necessary spices?
    – Cascabel
    Apr 8, 2011 at 22:34
  • I don't look for a recipe. I don't look for alternative way to cook the meat without vertical grill. I look for a way to reproduce aroma and I don't know whether it takes specific spices or the way the meet is cooked or whatever. I thought it was clearly stated in the question. Apr 8, 2011 at 22:45
  • A kebab is the final bad decision in an evening full of bad decisions. Aug 22, 2012 at 14:32

2 Answers 2


I think that most of the trick with the doner kebab places is simply the time and the amount of meat. The way the gyro is set up, there's always meat cooking on the outside (near the grill heat), which sends out the aroma. Since the spit is usually a metre high, that's a lot of meat, giving off a lot of aroma. Also, remember that the shop has meat grilling form early morning to late evening, so the aroma has plenty of time to start up and get around. When cooking at home, you won't be actually cooking for more than a few minutes, so it hardly has time to get started.

A minor thing, which may be related (and may not), is that in doner kebab places, there's usually a chunk of mutton fat at the top of the spit, which slowly drips down on all the meat. This could be responsible for some of the smell at least.

  • So... we might be looking for an alternative way to cook the meat without the slow exposed grilling, then. I wonder what the OP tried. Slow roast in the oven?
    – Cascabel
    Apr 9, 2011 at 14:33
  • I think it's more a quick grilling, as the meat is not long next to the flame, just long enough to cook the outer edge, which is then carved off. So the meat is continuously getting that chargrilling smell going on the whole time. Like a concentrated barbecue.
    – Orbling
    Apr 10, 2011 at 0:19
  • Also related: The human nose quickly gets accustomed to strong smells. If you are in the same place as a strong smell for a long time, eventually your brain starts ignoring the smell. If you are cooking at home, chances are you are constantly around the cooking meat and your brain will start to filter it out. Try walking out of the kitchen (or, better yet, outside), wait five or ten minutes, and then walk back in.
    – ESultanik
    Sep 21, 2011 at 14:03

Spices AND cooking process are truly what you are asking about. Using spices for such a pronounced and popular food is probably very necessary when it comes to what is usually lamb and veal. Especially the Turkish culture. They use many spices through out the majority of their foods. Without a doubt: dripping fat and vertical spit are important. However these flavors can be replicated in a standard oven with a bit of thought. Just make sure the fat stays close to the cooking meat. :)

Now I do not claim to know the exact spices nor the exact amounts. But through much research and cooking trials I have come to lean towards a certain set of spices for Döner Kebabs which will render a similar, extreme, wonderful smell and taste as your typical Döner.

I've gathered my conclusion through an extremely simple method. You simply need a preliminary understanding of the people and the area to know what spices were used. They obviously used the spices that were most readily available to them to create their recipes. SIMPLE! Of course different combinations for different dishes, but at least it'd you'd be much closer to an authentic dish this way.

Onions, Rosemary, Marjoram. Maybe some small amount of oregano, garlic, cumin, and pepper etc. TYPICAL and SIMPLY mediterranean spices. don't forget the salt! :)

  • Carmi wasn't claiming there weren't any spices, just that the really distinctive thing was the cooking process. If you use the same spices and braise the meat slowly, you won't get the same flavor. (Also your method is reasonable, but a dish doesn't necessarily use all of the easily available spices, nor does it tell you proportions, and further, cuisines always have some dishes that are considered delicacies - and that can be because the flavors aren't as easy to come by.)
    – Cascabel
    Aug 21, 2012 at 23:44
  • updated my comment to be less contradiction and more additive to the chosen answer.
    – Theorian
    Aug 22, 2012 at 9:15
  • Agreed! :) I suppose I'm just trying to point out that one should use, at least, some spices and one also shouldn't use spices uncommon to the area. I've seen it done, oh so many times. Thank you for clarifying, much appreciated.
    – Theorian
    Aug 23, 2012 at 0:40

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