Kebabs Gone Wild!
I used to be such a kebab girl!
For years, I found a way to insert kebabs into almost every occasion. I go through such phases, and then poof, I’m on to the next like it never happened. 🤷🏽♀️
But I was thinking about a possible kebab comeback this summer. I did some this weekend for a few friends and they were such a hit! Also, I really do love them.
I’m all about any food that can be healthy, delicious AND attractive. They can be a little time consuming to prep, but it’s a monotonous, dreamy kind of exercise (as long as you are not too OCD about making them all look perfectly the same). And it is totally worth it. Of course, you can always buy them pre-skewered.
Saw this quote online and I kinda agree…
“Kebabs were created to help suburbanites feel comfortable with unknown foods.”
And the thing is, you can mix them up in unexpected ways. The challenge that people come across the most is flavoring them properly and/or cooking them properly.
I notice that a lot of kebab recipes suggest marinades, but I am really NOT a big marinade person. I am however, a big fan of seasoning meats in advance and/or doing a dry brine (which most times is just salting in advance with kosher salt) that will flavor and help break down proteins in meats, making them juicier.
Kebabs are best cooked over direct heat (which ensures a caramelized exterior and juicy interior), but need to be watched and turned. On my four burner grill, I always turn one burner off so that anything that is moving too fast can be placed there. I don’t like charred food so I need options if there are flare-ups or something is browning too quickly. If things take a really dark turn, you can always finish them in a 400° oven. 😩
Fatty meats and shrimp are my preferred choice for kebabs, protein-wise. Chicken thighs (please, no breasts), lamb leg and rib-eye are my first choice (rib-eye can be pricey so spacing these out is a good idea). 1” – 1½” is the sweet spot for food size. You can also fold meat and double skewer if it is not a perfect cube.
Vegetables that cook quickly (or around the same time as the meat) and will stay on the skewer (most importantly) are great options as well.
I am a big fan of meat kebabs that incorporate one or two veggies or a fruit, along with a vegetable combination kebab. You really want to think about foods that you like to eat together.
My combinations this weekend were:
Lamb, Eggplant & Onion – seasoned with The Middle Eastern, this was actually my fave and I can’t wait to make it again. I bought the lamb leg already cubed (also, sometimes I buy a mini roast and ask the butcher to cube it), drizzled with avocado oil and seasoned the night before. I seasoned again before threading onto the skewer the following day. I used a Japanese eggplant sliced thickly, which was perfect size wise. I also drizzled it with oil and The Herbed Turkey (but The Middle Eastern is great on eggplant too!).
Chicken, Onion & Pineapple – yes I am a pineapple on pizza person. There, I said it. You simply cannot go wrong with this kebab combination. And chicken thighs are hard to destroy so this is a perfect one if you’re grill shy. Be sure to season generously with UMAMI-Q and make sure it is fully cooked. I would estimate 5 – 7 minutes per side.
Shrimp – I bought these pre-skewered and seasoned with The Hot Mexican. Easiest kebabs ever! And quickest cooking too.
Sweet Peppers, Zucchini, Onion, and Mushroom – I cut these into similar size pieces and seasoned with The Herbed Turkey. When they were done I drizzled with a balsamic glaze. These are really good if you leave them a little crunchy.
Cantaloupe, Pineapple, Kiwi, Strawberry, Grape – I rarely do fruit skewers but I really enjoyed them. I seasoned half of them with UMAMI Jerk and grilled just long enough to get some grill marks on them.
Most Important Tips for the Perfect Kebabs
Use metal skewers. They might be a pain to wash after but they behave the best on the grill. Remember they hold heat so be careful. If using bamboo, soak for 30 minutes prior to threading. They will still be a burnt mess, but less so. 🤣 Having said that, I use both.
Season meat well. If marinating, don’t use any leftover meat marinade, without boiling first. Make sure chicken & pork are cooked through. And don’t forget to let your meat rest.
Try to ensure food is the same size so they cook evenly. When threading, keep shrimp close together so that they don’t dry out. Space meat out a bit so that it cooks evenly.
Either oil the food or oil the grill grate. This makes it easier for the kebab to release, especially if you are cooking anything delicate.
Use two skewers or square skewers, to prevent food spinning when rotating on the grill. It makes life a lot easier. I also find the square bamboo skewers to be a bit thicker so they do not burn as much.
A few kebabs I have never tried:
Sturdy herb stems (such as rosemary) as the skewer. This sounds beautiful! But also like a lot of work (especially since you will probably need to put holes into the food first) and you may run the risk of your food tasting like a strong herb. Let me know if you’ve tried it!
Fish. I cannot imagine a scenario where it does not fall off the skewer. Nuff said. (Also, I feel the same about wahoo as I do about lean meats.)
Shellfish (excl shrimp). In my mind this will be tough and rubbery. I could be wrong though.
Chicken breast (or any other lean meat). Just stop. I have seen these out in public and they are ALWAYS dry. Always.
That is all.
Serve with a side of Bermuda corn and coleslaw or a salad.
There are an abundance of dipping sauces for kebabs but (if you follow these tips) hopefully you won’t be needing them!