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How to Cook Meat Shish Kabobs on an Open Fire

by Amelia Allonsy

Shish kebobs, or kebabs, have their roots in ancient Turkey, where it is believed that Turkish soldiers used their sword blades as skewers for cooking chunks of lamb. While a traditional shish kebob is simply chunks of meat, common variations include placing a chunk of vegetable between each piece of meat. While modern kabobs are commonly cooked on a grill, open fire cooking is the same way they've been cooked for centuries -- without the meat ever touching a grate. Grill skewers are much too short to handle over an open fire, so use longer sticks.

Cut a thin, sturdy stick about 2 to 3 feet long. Use a pocketknife to carve one end to a sharp point and strip away the bark in the section where you will add meat. If you use dry wood, soak the cut ends of the skewers in water for about 30 minutes to keep them from burning. Try wood such as apple wood, hickory or pecan wood, which are commonly used for barbecue smoking -- to impart some flavor to the meat.

Cut your choice of meat into 1- to 1-1/2-inch cubes, choosing from meats such as lamb, pork, beef or chicken. Marinade the meat before cooking, if desired.

Poke the sharp end of the skewer stick through the meat cubes and slide them down to the end of the bark-stripped portion of the stick. Place a piece of onion, pepper or other vegetable between each piece of meat, if desired.

Stir the fire before cooking the shish kebobs. For best results, wait until the fire burns hot and throughout all pieces of wood before cooking.

Hold the meat about 12 to 18 inches above the fire, sometimes dropping it down into the flames if you want the meat charred slightly. If you don't feel like holding the stick the whole time, find a stick that is shaped like a "Y" and push it into the ground beside the fire. Rest the roasting stick in the angled center of the Y-shape. Alternatively, push two Y-shaped sticks on opposite sides of the fire, push the meat to the center of the stick and lay the stick across the fire with each end resting on a Y-shaped stick.

Turn the skewer 1/4 turn every 2 minutes to cook all sides evenly. Cook for about 10 minutes for 1-inch meat chunks or 15 minutes for 1-1/2-inch chunks.

Remove the meat from the fire when cooked through. You can eat the meat directly from the stick, if desired, or use tongs or a fork to slide the meat off onto a plate.

Items you will need
  • Lopping shears
  • Pocketknife
  • Knife
  • Marinade (optional)
  • Y-shaped sticks (optional)
  • Tongs (optional)
  • Fork (optional)
  • Plate (optional)

Tips

  • You can actually find long, metal skewers and racks specifically designed for suspending shish kebobs over an open fire, but it isn't necessary to purchase these items just to make this dish. Wear gloves when using metal skewers because the heat from the fire conducts through the metal and down to the handle. Gloves are not necessary if the metal skewers have a heat-proof handle.
  • Serve the roasted shish kebob meat inside an Italian bun to create a spiedie, a popular sandwich that originates from Binghamton, New York.

About the Author

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.

Photo Credits

  • Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images