What Is a Foukou?

M.C. Huguelet

A foukou is a type of charcoal grill that features centrally in the cuisines of Greece and the neighboring country of Cyprus. It usually consists of a steel pan that is set on legs, and which has slots in which skewers, a spit, or a grate can be placed during cooking. Traditionally, a foukou is used in the preparation of several meat dishes, such as souvlaki.

A foukou can be used to grill skewered souvlaki.
A foukou can be used to grill skewered souvlaki.

Essentially, a foukou is a charcoal grill, and in some ways, preparing food on a foukou is similar to cooking on a hibachi or other type of charcoal grill familiar to those in countries like the US and Canada. The charcoal used in this type of grill imbues dishes with a smoky flavor common to many barbecued foods. Further, as with most other grills, cooking on foukous is usually done outdoors. For cooks in the warm Mediterranean climate where this grill was developed, the fact that it can be used outdoors means that meals can be prepared without heating one’s house further, as an indoor oven tends to do.

Like most charcoal grills, a foukou consists of a steel pan into which charcoal is placed, and which is set on legs that hold it upright and raise it to approximately waist level. The main characteristic that sets this kind of grill apart from other charcoal grills is that the top rim of its pan features a number of slots that can be fitted with skewers, a spit, or a grate. These skewers can be threaded with small pieces of raw meat and vegetables, while a spit generally can accommodate large portions of meat, such as whole chickens or a leg of lamb. If cooking with a grate, food can simply be laid over the grate’s surface and turned as needed.

Many foukous are very basic in design, comprising just a slotted charcoal pan, legs, and cooking apparatuses like skewers. Some foukous boast more advanced features. For instance, some may have wheels and brakes that allow them to be moved around easily and secured in place. Others are fitted with small motors which automatically rotate their spit or skewers during cooking.

Theoretically, a foukou can be used to cook just about any type of meat, fish, or vegetable. In Greece and Cyprus, however, it is most commonly used to prepare lamb, pork, and chicken. Souvlaki, which consists of seasoned pieces of meat that are cooked on skewers and served with pita bread, salads, and dipping sauces, is perhaps the dish most widely associated with the foukou.

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