Traditional shawarma is made by layering strips of marinated meat onto a vertical rotisserie and then roasting it in its own juices until moist and tender. The meat is then shaved into small pieces and piled onto flatbread with garlic sauce, fries, and pickles, as a sandwich (wrap) or served with rice and sides as a platter.
Today I wanted to share with you the way I like to make chicken shawarma. For this recipe, either boneless skinless chicken breast, thighs, or a combination of both work well. Typically, we’re partial to thigh meat for most chicken dishes, but for this recipe my husband and I prefer the breast meat. But use whichever your family likes best.
Brown bits are delicious
I’ve prepared chicken shawarma in the oven, in a rotisserie, on the grill, and with a cast iron skillet. I’ve noticed whenever we reheated grilled or rotisserie leftovers the next day using a the cast iron skillet and a little olive oil that the edges of the chicken would get nicely browned and extra crispy. My family actually enjoyed it better and suggested we should always eat shawarma the “leftover way”.
The cast iron skillet
So keep in mind, you can certainly start by marinating smaller pieces of chicken and then baking them in a 425ºF oven or by slicing the chicken into tender strips, marinating, and then grilling, but the key to getting the brown tasty bits and crisp edges while maintaining the moistness is to finish the browning in a skillet.
In the method below, I first sear larger pieces of marinated chicken in a hot cast iron skillet, and then slice it into smaller pieces before returning it in batches to the skillet to finish browning.
One of my favorite ways to serve shawarma is by using large Romaine or Butter/Boston lettuce leaves as the wrap in place of bread and filling it with a smear of toum, a scoopful of the chicken, a drizzling of tabbouleh, and of course, a turnip pickle or two.
My family loves choosing their own filling so I usually arrange the toppings separately at the table allowing everyone the opportunity to build their own wrap or bowl.