Beef for shish kebabs most often comes from a tender cut of meat, but a leaner, tougher cut like beef bottom round can work if it's properly tenderized to make it less chewy. Mostly, that means slicing it to take advantage of its leanness and fine-grained texture. Instead of purchasing pre-cut shish kebab meat -- and paying the butcher for cutting it -- you can save money by purchasing a beef bottom round roast and cutting it yourself.
Preparing the Beef
Lay the beef bottom round roast on a cutting board and trim any excess fat from the exterior, particularly hard fat that makes the meat chewy and offers no flavor.
Slice the roast along the grain, or along its length, into 1- to 1 1/2-inch-wide strips. If the roast is taller than 1 to 1 1/2 inches, turn the strips on their sides and cut them lengthwise. For example, cut each strip from a 3-inch-tall roast into one or two more strips, or cut a strips from a 4 1/2-inch-tall roast into three strips.
Cut each long strip into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces, resulting in cubes 1- to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. These cuts are made across the meat grain.
Add the cubes to a plastic storage bag and cover them with an acidic marinade to help break down the tough meat fibers. Seal the bag and squeeze the sides to ensure the marinade fully coats all sides of the meat. You can use a store-bought marinade or make your own, using an acidic liquid such as apple cider vinegar or orange juice. Homemade marinades should also include a fat such as olive oil, plus your choice of spices or additional liquids, such as salt, pepper, garlic, ginger, wine, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Set the bag in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Soak bamboo skewers in warm water for at least 30 minutes so they won't burn while cooking. Metal skewers also work and don't require soaking.
Pierce the meat cubes and slide them down onto the skewers. You can make shish kebabs with meat only, or alternate the meat pieces with 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces of vegetables such as onions, peppers, mushrooms or grape tomatoes.
Grilling the Kebabs
Preheat your grill to medium to medium-high heat. Rub a light coat of oil on the grill grates to prevent the meat and vegetables from sticking.
Place the shish kebabs on the grill and cook, covered, for about 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the desired doneness for the meat. Turn the kebabs occasionally so all sides cook evenly. Exact cooking time varies depending on the size of the meat cubes and the exact temperature of the grill. For best results, insert a meat thermometer in the meat cubes and remove the kebabs from the grill when they reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare or 130 F for medium.
Transfer the kebabs to a serving plate and allow the meat to rest for at least 3 minutes so the juices redistribute throughout the meat.
Broiling the Kebabs
Place a baking rack inside a large baking pan. The rack is optional, but elevates the kabobs so air circulates under them and they cook more evenly. Preheat your oven's broiler and adjust the rack so the pan is about 5 inches below the heating element.
Arrange the shish kabobs on the oven rack with at least 1 inch of space between them.
Place the pan under the broiler and cook them for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on if you prefer medium-rare, medium or well done meat. Turn the meat at least once every 5 minutes so all sides develop a crust from the broiler's heating element. Check the meat with an oven thermometer.
Rest the kebabs on a serving plate for 3 minutes before serving.
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- It's sometimes difficult to get everything to cook through at the same time, especially given the odd shapes of vegetables. To ensure the meat gets a good char, don't use vegetables that stick out farther than the meat, preventing it from making contact with the grill. You can cut the vegetables slightly smaller than the meat cubes. If you prefer softer vegetables, it helps to saute them a bit before adding them to the skewers.
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.