Still, without proper attention to detail, your skewering session can quickly become kebab chaos. That’s why we’ve taken the time to gather our best hacks - to help you prep the perfect skewers at any event!
Choose the right cut of meat.
Kebab meats should be cut into 1 to 1 ½ inch chunks, which means not all cuts of meat are ideal. The higher the fat content, the better - as it will keep your meats from drying out. Here are our best suggestions:
- Lamb. The original kebab choice, lamb’s tender texture and high fat content make for a delicious combo. Leg of lamb is the best cut (but make sure to trim any tough connective tissues, prior to cubing).
- Beef. Sirloin or sirloin tip are the best cuts for maintaining tenderness, and can be marinated* up to 12 hours in advance, to add juicy flavor.
- Pork. Pork shoulder and chops are the best cuts - but again, you’ll want to take care to remove any tough parts. Marinate* or brine as much as 12 hours in advance - the longer, the better - to ensure your kebabs don’t dry out.
- Chicken. Thighs are the preferred cut, as they contain enough fat to prevent overdrying. Breasts can also be used - but be sure to brine or marinate* at least two hours prior to grilling, to lock in flavor and moisture.
- Seafood. Jumbo shrimp, large scallops, and “steak” fishes such as tuna, swordfish, or salmon fare best on the grill. They cook quickly, so bigger is better.
- And, for vegetarians - Extra-firm Tofu and Halloumi Cheese are both easy to slice in the proper size, and hearty enough to survive the skewer.
Soak up the flavor. Marinating foods prior to grilling helps keep them moist and delicious. Try this simple EVOO marinade for a juicy flavor boost that pairs well with both meat and veggies:
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1/3 cup Bellucci Toscano PGI Organic extra virgin olive oil
Prep: In a medium bowl, combine soy sauce, cumin, oregano, lime juice, sugar, garlic, cayenne and parsley. Slowly whisk in the Bellucci EVOO. Add meats or veggies to a shallow baking dish or resealable plastic bag, and pour in marinade to cover. Seal, and let rest from 1 to 8 hours, turning occasionally.
Pick your sticks.
Skewer selection and proper prep is seriously half the battle. While metal skewers have the benefit of being reusable, they also get very hot on the grill - so you’ll need to remove food and transfer to a plate before serving. Flat skewers are a must, as the rounded ones allow food to turn on the spit when flipped, which prevents even cooking.
Bamboo skewers are the most grill-friendly option, and more sustainable than their wooden counterparts. Soak them in water for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling, to avoid charring. A light coating of Bellucci EVOO will also prevent food from sticking to the skewer after cooking.
Put some thought into pairings.
There’s more to a great kebab than “meat-onion-bell pepper-meat”. Consider the flavor profiles of your proteins, and then think outside the box. For instance, apples may not be your typical kebab go-to, but they both grill well and lend amazing flavor when paired with pork or chicken.
Full cloves of garlic are a versatile and heat-durable ingredient, as are summer fruits like pineapple, peach, pear, and even melon (trust us - watermelon halloumi skewers are simply to die for!) Try your best to call in the flavors of summer - the juicier, the better!
Whatever your pairing choices, make sure that each piece placed on the skewer is roughly the same size. Cubes or chunks 1 to 1 1/2 inches in size are ideal to ensure consistent and even cooking.
If you’ve chosen unconventional ingredients, or those which are more difficult to cube (think - mango, or shrimp) try cutting 1 inch thick strips, and stretching them between two skewers. Doubling up will enable convenient flipping, allowing you to maintain an even temperature, as well as preventing softer ingredients from slipping.
Regardless if you’re using one skewer or two - leave a bit of space between bites, so the heat can reach each piece on all sides.
Prep your grill.
Preheat your grill with the lid closed at least twenty minutes prior to placing kebabs, so it has the chance to reach the proper temperature. If you need more detailed notes on this, check out our guide to perfect grilling, every time.
Give it a healthy coat.
Brushing your finished kebabs with Bellucci EVOO just before placing them on the grill will help prevent drying, as well as keep ingredients from sticking to the grate.
Timing is everything.
You’ll want to cook your kebabs thoroughly - rotating them periodically to make sure they are evenly heated on all sides. For fruits and veggies, the timing is less critical - you can simply heat vegan skewers until they appear soft, or slightly charred, depending on preference. For proteins, here are some general guidelines:
- Seafood, Tofu, & Halloumi - 2-3 minutes per side
- Beef & Lamb - 4-6 minutes per side
- Chicken & Pork - 6-8 minutes per side
If you’re not sure whether your meats are fully done, use an instant read thermometer to gauge whether they’ve reached the proper temperature.
Now, you’re ready to get grilling!