Kebap (or kebab) simply means “roasted,” and usually refers to lamb roasted in some form, but may refer to chicken—or even (roasted) chestnuts—as well.
The most familiar Turkish kebap is şiş kebap (SHEESH keh-bahp, “shish kabob”), chunks of lamb roasted on a skewer. It sounds simple enough, but to make it best you need Turkish free-range lamb, a true charcoal grill, and the knack for getting the outside singed while the inside of each chunk remains soft and succulent. (If you’re allergic to lamb, read this.)
Döner Kebap (dur-NEHR keh-bahp) is lamb roasted on a vertical spit and sliced off when done. When laid on a bed of chopped flat bread and topped with savory tomato sauce and brown butter, it becomes İskender (or Bursa) Kebap. More…
Izgara Köfte (uhz-GAH-rah KURF-teh) is ground lamb mixed with egg, rice or bread crumbs and spices, formed into longish meatballs and grilled. If you squoosh the meat onto a long flat skewer and grill it you have shish köfte. (Shish köfte may take on the name kebap if the chef adds his own touches to it.)
Çöp Şiş (CHURP sheesh) is three or four little chunks of lamb, and a chunk of fat, grilled on a small wooden skewer: a specialty of the Aegean region, especially south of Izmir. More…
Şaşlık (SHASH-luhk) is chunks of lamb interspersed with tomatoes, onions and peppers/pimientos (although any good Turkish chef will cook the lamb and vegetables on separate skewers because their cooking times are quite different).
There are many regional kebaps: spicy-hot Adana kebap; savory Urfa kebap with sliced onions, parsley and spices; Halep işi kebap with chopped peppers, parsley and tomatoes.
For Büryan kebap, from the southeast, an entire lamb is steamed in a pit. More…
Actually, some “kebaps” are not roasted at all. Tas kebap, testi kebap and çömlek kebap are meat-and-vegetable stews named for the pots in which they are cooked.