It’s Grillin’ Season – Shish Kebab Time!
Tonight we had grilled chicken and veggie kebabs and they were delicious. It’s grillin’ season here in the North Maine Woods. For a while we thought the grilling season never would arrive as we had a long cold spring but finally we’ve been able to fire up the gas grill. I love cooking on our Weber gas grill. It’s convenient, quick, and it doesn’t require heating up the kitchen on a warm summer night. My gas grill and my slow cooker are my “go to” appliances for the warm summer season.
Shish Kebabs – Tricks of the Trade
One of my favorite grilling foods is kebabs. Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks on how to make great kebabs that I’m going to share with you now.
- Marinate, marinate, marinate – one trick to getting shish kebab good results is to marinate your meat. There are a few reasons for this. First, marinade adds a delicious flavor to the meat. Secondly, it helps add moisture to the meat so that its nice and juicy when served. And thirdly, it helps to tenderize the meat by breaking down the fiber. I put my marinade ingredients in a Ziploc bag with the meat and let it marinate all day in the fridge. Keeping your meat cool in the fridge during the marinade process will keep food-borne bacteria at a minimum. Take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature on the counter while still in the marinade. Meanwhile you have time to set your table, fire up the grill and get the veggies ready. Resting 30 minutes at room temperature will help the meat cook more evenly. Discard the marinade – don’t ever reuse it.
- Size matters – Cut the meat in uniform size pieces – 1 inch to 2 inches is a good size. Use meats that have a firm texture. Fatty meats can cook quickly at a high temperature but leaner cuts should be cooked more slowly at a lower temperature. If using fish be sure to use a firm textured fish such as salmon, tuna or swordfish. Light, flaky fish like haddock or flounder can fall apart during the cooking process when placed on a skewer.
- Gas or charcoal – I use a gas grill for convenience and quickness. Just turn it on and you have heat, rather than having to wait for all the briquettes to turn to nice hot coals. But I am the first one to admit that there is nothing like the smoky flavor that you get with charcoal. My solution to that problem is that I keep hardwood chips, made from apple tree trimmings or firewood processing, in a square foil pan set on the grate that protects the gas burner. I set the pan off to the side and toward the back of the cooking area so that it doesn’t block the heat. As the cooking process continues the wood begins to scorch and gives off smoke that makes for a nice smoky flavor in my end product. Be sure to use hardwood chips, not resinous conifer chips, as the conifer chips would at a turpentine flavor to the meat.
- Soak your skewers – If you are using wooden skewers be sure to soak them in water so that they don’t burn as quickly. I soak the wooden skewers all day in dish on the kitchen counter, but if you’re in a rush a soak for 30 minutes is the minimum to be effective. I use the wooden skewers for the vegetables but usually use metal skewers for meat. Veggies cook fairly quickly so the wooden skewers work fine but I use metal skewers on the meat because the meat takes longer to cook. The metal skewers won’t dry out and burn like the wooden ones, and also the metal transfers heat to the inside of the meat chunks so the meat is cooking from both the outside and the inside at the same time. It helps cut down on cooking time for the meat and make sure the meat cooks all the way through particularly important when you’re cooking poultry.
- Segregation is okay – when it comes to making shish kebabs segregation is okay, meaning you want to keep your meats and your vegetables separate. Cooking meat on one skewer and your veggies on another allows you to get the timing perfect. Meats and vegetables cook at different temps and times so putting them on separate skewers is the only way to go. Start your meat skewers cooking first as they will take longer and then put the veggie skewers on when the meat is about halfway through its cooking time. I lightly parboil my denser vegetables like carrots or whole pearl onions before placing them on the skewers. That way they will cook all the way through when grilling with less dense vegetables like button mushrooms or cherry tomatoes. I do not marinate my veggies but instead use a pastry brush to brush them with oil during the cooking process. I love the pure roasted flavor of the veggies with the savory meat, rather than having the entire meal have the same flavor notes.
Basic Kebab Marinade
You can take a basic marinade and add different notes to enhance the particular meat that you are using.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Total Time: 10 mins
- Category: Marinade
- Cuisine: American
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
- Add all the ingredients together in a bowl and whisk to combine.
- Pour marinade into a quart zip-lock bag and add meat chunks.
- Gently knead bag making sure to coat all meat pieces with marinade.
- Place bag in refrigerator, allowing to lie flat for a minimum of 1 hour but better if done overnight or all day (approx.8 hours).
- Dependent on the meat being used, complimentary spices and herbs such as ginger, paprika, thyme, basil, rosemary, etc. can be added.