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Tips & Tricks

Tips for Using Skewers on the Grill

By: Lodge Cast Iron / July 20, 2021

The term kabob, or kebab, refers to meat cooked on a skewer. This technique likely originated in Persia, but has been leveraged in culinary traditions across the world. The purpose behind skewering meat and veggies is to enhance the flavor profile. Marinating smaller pieces of meat allows more flavor to penetrate your food and more surface area to come into contact with the heat, producing a Maillard reaction that infuses food with flavor. You can grill almost anything on a skewer, from meat and seafood to veggies and fruit. Don’t know where to get started? Use these tips, tricks, and recipes as a guide and fire up your grill or grill pan.

Kickoff Grill
What are the best cuts of meat for skewers? 

Leaner cuts of meat tend to dry out faster than their more marbled counterparts. Choosing cuts that are already tender will yield the best results. 

  • Lamb: Lamb shank is fairly inexpensive and won't dry out as easily.
  • Beef: London broil is a great choice. It’s fairly tender and will take marinades well. Sirloin is also a good choice.
  • Chicken: Thighs are the way to go. They won't dry out and are packed with flavor. They're a little harder to cut uniformly, but worth the extra attention.
  • Pork: Pork shoulder is a good option because it’s fatty and won't dry out as easily. Pork loin also works well. Because it is a lean cut of meat, you’ll need to be mindful of the heat and cook time.
  • Fish: Mild fish that holds up on the grill is what you're looking for. Swordfish and sea bass are great options if you can find them sustainably sourced. Mahi-mahi, salmon, and tuna also grill well.
How do I cook food evenly on a skewer? 

Often, the biggest challenge of grilling with skewers is even cooking. The easiest way to achieve this is to cut the food into uniform pieces. A big slice of onion can leave your chicken hovering over the grill and cause uneven cooking. The veggies you’re using will dictate the size of the protein. Vegetables and smaller pieces of meat will cook faster than larger pieces of meat. Steak and red meat can be cooked to a much lower internal temperature than poultry. You’ll want to keep all of this in mind as you pair meat and veggies. Getting sizing, temperature, and cooking time right can be a game of trial and error—as you practice grilling skewers, you’ll start to work out these nuances.  

What kind of skewer should I use?

The two most common types of skewers are metal and bamboo.

Metal skewers are durable, reusable, and won't catch on fire. Metal skewers will get hot and stay hot, which means you must be careful when you serve them. It’s also possible for the metal skewers to become so hot that they begin to cook the food from the inside out, causing your food to overcook. This can be used to your advantage, but you may need to shorten cook times. 

Bamboo or wood skewers come in a variety of sizes, and they can also be trimmed to suit your specific needs. Before cooking, these types of skewers will need to soak to prevent them from catching on fire as they cook over open flames.

How do I prevent bamboo or wooden skewers from catching on fire? 

If the skewer will be exposed to an open flame, soak them for at least 15 minutes before threading food. For bamboo skewers, offsetting the portion of the skewer that could catch on fire can be easily done on open top grills, such as the Kickoff Grill or Sportsman’s Grill. Simply arrange the food where the base of the skewer hangs off the grill a bit. You can also use skewers directly on a cast iron grill pan where they won’t be exposed to open flames. 

Grilled Sea Bass Kebabs with Skordalia and Grilled Feta
Are there alternatives to wooden or metal skewers?

 
If you don’t have wooden or metal skewers, you can also use wooden chopsticks, rosemary stalks, and sugarcane stalks. Like bamboo or wooden skewers, you’ll want to soak your these alternatives if they come will into contact with open flames. Rosemary stalks will add herbal notes to your dish and lend themselves more to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern inspired flavors. Sugarcane stalks will add a slight sweetness to your food and work well with spicy shrimp or fruit. 

My food spins on the skewer and cooks unevenly. What can I do?

 
To prevent the frustration of food spinning on the skewer as you move them around the grill, we recommend double threading food to help it stay put and cook evenly. Our Peppadew Shrimp Skewers recipe recommends placing two skewers through the shrimp and provides a great visual of this technique.This approach also works well with larger pieces of meat and slippery foods, like fruit. 

How do I grill fruit on a skewer?

Fruits like peaches, pineapple, and strawberries grill very nicely. Remember, fruits contain natural sugars that can cause them to burn fairly easily. Watch closely as you grill and adjust cook times when necessary. Double skewers are a helpful way to keep fruit in place for even cooking. During the summer, we love to top vanilla ice cream with grilled strawberries and balsamic or homemade ricotta with grilled peaches.

Contributed By: Lodge Cast Iron

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