Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chicken Gyro-Style

Lemon is a lovely flavor enhancer for chicken. Many marinades use lemon juice but here we use lemon zest. It has a purer lemon flavor. Lemon juice is very acidic and that tends to overpower the lemony flavor. Lemon zest gets all its flavor from the lemon oil in the skin. Just make sure to only grate off the bright yellow skin. The white underneath the skin, the pith, is exceedingly bitter and not the flavor you want to add to your chicken.

Here's a selection of tools you can use for zesting. My favorite is Microplane® but you can use the smallest holes on a box grater. You can get a box grater for a lot less money than a Microplane and it has multiple purposes (like shredding cheese). If you do spring for a Microplane, get one with a handle. They are easier to use than the handle-less variety. The citrus zester is a bit of an antique these days. Before there was a Microplane - it appeared in culinary stores in the mid 90's - the citrus zester was the tool for zesting. But, it can't compete with a Microplane which is why mine hides way in the back of the drawer these days.

Back to front: box grater, 2 different types of Mircoplane and a citrus zester

Chicken Gyro-Style
(serves 3-4, costs $4.65)

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
the zest of 1 fresh lemon
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
a couple of sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped
1 pound boneless skinless chicken, thighs or breasts
salt and black pepper

Mix together garlic, olive oil, and lemon zest in a non-reactive pan that will hold all the chicken in one layer. Crumble up the dried herbs in your palm and add to the garlic mixture. Add the parsley and mix to combine. Put the chicken in the dish and rub the herb mixture all over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Season chicken with salt and black pepper. Broil or grill until cooked all the way through, how long will depend on thickness of chicken. Thin pieces will take only 15 minutes and whole breasts can take 30 minutes.

Serve on a big salad or stuffed into a pita with lots of lettuce and tomatoes.

(Adapted from a recipe for lamb gyros from the American Lamb Association)


  1. Might be valuable to include a photo of a zester/microplane to show how one arrives at lemon zest!

  2. Though I love my microplane, you can get decent zest with the fine side of a grater. No need for a specialty tool. Again, be careful just to take off the yellow part, not the white part. When I get a chance, I'll add pictures of tools for zesting.