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What's at Stake? Kebabs

by Kendra Osburn ; Updated September 12, 2017

Overview

Lamb gets a lot of the limelight when it comes to kebabs, but it's only one of the many meats you can skewer and grill. You've also got beef, pork, poultry and seafood, each with its own kebabing "best practices." You can also grill vegetables -- peppers, zucchinis and onions brown beautifully on skewers -- and fruits like pineapple on a kebab. Whether you're grilling chicken and jicama or beef and button mushrooms, in only a few minutes you can have a perfect, portable meal on a stick.

Pick Your Protein: Poultry

Breast meat has a nasty habit of overcooking and drying out on the skewer. If you're cooking with chicken, go for the thigh. Mark Bittman, author of "How to Cook Everything," says that a "well-seasoned grilled or broiled kebab will make anyone a convert to dark-meat chicken." If you're cooking for four, 1.5 pounds of boneless chicken should be enough, along with veggies.

Pick Your Protein: Lamb and Pork

If you're making pork kebabs, buy the shoulder and pull it off the grill when it's still a little pink. If you're making lamb kebabs, buy either the shoulder or the leg. The shoulder is tender and fatty; the leg is lean and dry. If you choose the leg, increase your marinade time.

Pick Your Protein: Beef

Tenderloin is best for kebabs. It doesn't have a lot of flavor on its own, so it's ideal for spice rubs and marinades. However, it's expensive. If you're looking for something less pricey, sirloin or ground beef (made into meatballs) is a good second.

Pick Your Protein: Fish and Seafood

The sturdier fish -- tuna, swordfish, salmon -- do better on the barbie. Shrimp and scallops are also good skewered. Be sure to skewer your scallops right through their axis.

Pick Your Accompaniments: Vegetables

It might be tempting to alternate meats and vegetables on the skewer, but this can be difficult because meats and vegetables typically cook at different rates. Kebab-friendly vegetables include asparagus, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant (you can marinate this beforehand), jicama, zucchini, bell peppers and pearl onions.

Pick Your Accompaniments: Fruits

Pineapple is a popular fruit for kebabs, especially when they're Hawaiian inspired, complete with teriyaki. Plums also grill well, so if you're feeling like having kebabs for both dinner and dessert, throw a whole skewer of fresh fruit on the grill. Let the fruit heat up for a couple of seconds before adding it to a heaping mound of vanilla ice cream.

Get Saucy

Sometimes, a simple seasoning of salt and pepper is all your kebab really needs. But for times when you want a little extra flavor, kebabs are ideal for spice rubs and sauces. Most rubs and marinades are easy to make and use ingredients you probably already have on hand (teriyaki is essentially soy sauce, sugar and honey). Whether your sauce is a homemade spicy peanut sauce or just a simple mix of lemon, oil and oregano, all of your meats and vegetables need a little liquid drizzle (including some kind of fat -- usually oil) so they don't stick to the grill.

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References

  • How to Cook Everything; Mark Bittman

About the Author

Kendra Osburn recently graduated from the University of San Diego with a bachelor's degree in communication studies/media arts & culture. In addition to being the associate editor for her school newspaper, Osburn spent her time writing for local radio stations (KBPS, KPCC) and magazine publications, including "San Diego Magazine" and "USD Magazine."