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Food & Drink

Where did the gyro come from?

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 (Stephanie D.)

Whether you pronounce it "yeer-ro", "jai-ro" or "gear-o," gyros are tasty and popular Greek-American sandwiches that you don't need to be able to pronounce to enjoy.

What is a gyro?

Gyros are sandwiches made with thinly-sliced, seasoned lamb, beef or chicken, and placed in a pita or flatbread. Traditional gyros are topped with onions and tomatoes. Tzatziki, the white creamy sauce that is usually added to gyros, is made with strained yogurt, cucumbers, salt, pepper, garlic and dill. Lemon juice, parsley and mint are additional add-ons. Some places opt for sour cream-based tzatziki or just sour cream in place of yogurt.

The meat for gyros that is purchased through a manufacturer is run through a grinder and then shaped into cylinders by hydraulic pressure. These cylinders are then frozen. When it comes time to cook it, the meat is usually roasted on a vertical spit or electric rotisserie. It is then sliced into thin pieces and added to the pita. 

Where did it come from?
The history of the gyro is about as clear as tzatziki sauce, but it is believed that gyros originated in Greece. (The word "gyro" comes from the Greek word for "turn.")

A gyro is similar to Turkey's doner kebab, which was invented in the 19th century.

According to Devanco Foods, an Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based gyro manufacturer, George "Papa George" Apostolou is the "father" of today's gyros. Apostolou reportedly served the first U.S. gyro at Chicago's Parkview Restaurant in 1965. He opened a gyros manufacturing plant called Central Gyros Wholesale nine years later. Central Gyros Wholesale took off after some initial struggles, and it was eventually sold.

Kronos Foods, which is now the world's largest gyro manufacturer, reports that they developed and marketed the Gyrokones -- uncooked masses of gyro meat. Along with the Kronomatic broiler, a vertical meat broiler also invented by founder Chris Tomaras, the Gyrokones helped standardize gyro production and spread the sandwich to restaurants across the country.

Popularity
Michael Austin, CEO of Kronos Foods, says that more than 300,000 gyros made by Kronos are eaten every day in the United States - which equals more than 100 million a year.

"Consumers today are more experimental and are eager to try flavors and cuisines from around the world," Austin says. "Gyros provide a taste sensation everyone craves, by combining savory meat, flavorful sauce atop hearty pita bread."

Says Austin about the gyro's pronunciation discrepancy: "It doesn't matter how you say it as long as you love them as much as we do."