Grilling small pieces of meat on a skewer has its advantages:
– The seasoning reaches all parts of every bite.
– Small pieces cook faster.
– Everything is bite-size, eliminating the need for excessive cutlery at the table.
– You can grill a whole meal (meat, vegetable, and starch) on a single skewer.
– Kebabs can be beautiful, juxtaposing vegetables, fruits, and meats of different colors, shapes, and textures.
It also has its disadvantages:
– Everything on a skewer has to cook at the same rate.
– Where pieces touch they will not brown.
– Turning skewers can be tricky.
As you can see, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and all of the potential pitfalls are avoidable (see “Troubleshooting Kebabs”). The big advantage of the skewer is speed; from the absorption of flavor, through cooking time, to plating and serving, everything is streamlined.
Use this basic recipe as a template. Add flavor with a brine or marinade, replace the salt and pepper in the recipe with a spice rub, brush the cooked kebab with glaze, and(or) serve them with a dipping sauce.
Prep: 10 minutes
Grill: 8 to 10 minutes
BBQ TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
– 4 long, flat skewers or two-pronged skewers
– Long-handled tongs
Trouble 1: Potato takes longer to cook through than steak, and a cherry tomato will turn to mush long before a wedge of onion loses its crunch. What’s a kebab maker to do? There are several strategies for lessening the disparities between skewer mates.
– Cut harder, longer-cooking ingredients into smaller pieces.
– Place faster-cooking ingredients near the ends of the skewers, where they are more likely to sit at the cooler perimeter of the fire.
– Precook tough ingredients so that they finish grilling at the same time as other ingredients on the skewer.
– Cook one type of ingredient per skewer. Obviously, the disadvantage of this is that you won’t be able to serve a skewer to each person.
Trouble 2: All food leaches moisture as it cooks. If there is not ample space for it to evaporate, as when two pieces of meat are packed together on a skewer, the moisture will get trapped, causing the meat to steam rather than grill. That is why there must be at least ¼ inch of space between the items on a skewer.
Trouble 3: As ingredients lose moisture during cooking, they shrink, causing them to pull away from the skewer and creating a gap. If your skewer is round, when you turn it, the ingredient will spin rather than turn with the skewer, making it cumbersome to get all of the ingredients to brown evenly. You can prevent this from happening by using flat skewers, two-pronged skewers, or twisted skewers, all of which grip the pieces in various ways.
Kebab baskets are long, narrow grilling baskets that allow you to line up precut ingredients as if they were on a skewer and cook them evenly by turning the basket as each side browns. Although they work well, to serve these “kebabs”, you have to empty the contents of the baskets before bringing the food to the table, which means you could have cooked everything on a large grill screen, gotten the same results, and dirtied far less equipment.
Gas: Direct heat, medium-high (425° to 450°F)
Clean, oiled grate
Direct heat, light ash
12-by-12-inch charcoal bed (about 3 dozen coals)
Clean, oiled grate on lowest setting
Direct heat, light ash
12-by-12-inch bed, 3 to 4 inches deep
Clean, oiled grate set 2 inches above the fire
INGREDIENTS (MAKES 4 SERVINGS)
1 pound trimmed sirloin steak, boneless chicken breasts, or pork loin, cut into 16 cubes
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
Oil for coating grill grate
1. Heat the grill as directed.
2. Toss the meat, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon oil in a large bowl until uniformly coated.
3. Arrange 4 pieces of meat on each skewer, leaving space between them.
4. Brush the grill grate and coat it with oil. Put the prepared skewers on the grill, cover, and cook until browned on both sides and the pieces feel firm, 8 to 10 minutes, turning them halfway through.
Serve 1 skewer per person.