5 Common Mistakes We've All Made When Grilling Kebabs

© JOHN KERNICK
Tired of burgers and hot dogs? It's kebabs time. 

When it comes to summer grilling, it's tough to match the popularity of a good burger. However, if you need a change of pace from the patty world, kebabs are a great alternative and they can get you your meat, fruit and, vegetable fixes all at once. However, kebabs present a few issues that many of us fall victim to when throwing them on the grill. Here are five common mistakes we can all make from time to time grilling kebabs and how to avoid them.

Don’t: Use dry wooden skewers.

In terms of cooking kebabs, this is rule number one. Wooden skewers are made of wood and wood is very flammable and flames are what we want to avoid. Soak your wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before using them to cook with. That way the skewers are water logged and won’t catch on fire while you’re cooking your soon-to-be delicious kebabs. Remember, only you can prevent kebab fires.

Don’t: Forget to marinate your meat and vegetables.

While ample amounts of salt and pepper go a long way with burgers, kebabs really call for a marinade. For example, garlic, rosemary and olive oil do wonders for pork tenderloin kebabs (wrapping the meat in bacon doesn’t hurt either). Or if you’re grilling seafood, a marinade of garlic, cilantro, basil, mint, cayenne, paprika, lime juice, honey, salt and olive oil is great for shrimp or scallops. The goal is to impart as much flavor as possible on your kebabs before they hit the grill so that you don’t have to rely on any sauces afterwards to enjoy them.

Don’t: Mix your meats and produce on the same skewer.

Okay hear us out. Yes, you’ve probably done this your entire life. However, it’s important to keep in mind that meat, vegetables and fruit do not all cook at the same speed. Even different types of produce require different cook times. A zucchini cooks differently than an onion cook, which cooks differently than a chicken thigh. To simplify things, just use individual skewers for individual kebabs, separating different meats, vegetables and fruits onto different skewers. That way the entire skewer will cook evenly and at the same speed.

Don’t: Lay the kebabs in the same direction as the grates.

If you’re looking for an example of how to not grill kebabs, here is a perfect one. There are a lot of issues with what’s going on in this photo, however, the biggest one is the direction in which the kebabs are laid out on the grill (also, where's the charcoal?). Ideally, you want to place each of your kebabs diagonally across the grates and then rotate them 180 degrees for optimal grill marks before flipping them. If you simply lay the kebabs between grates, your grill marks will suffer for it. Placing your kebabs perfectly perpendicular to the grates is fine tool, but diagonal is really the way to go.

Don’t: Always call your skewered and grilled meats kebabs.

Over time, all skewered meats, vegetables and fruits in the U.S. and U.K. have taken on the moniker of being “kebabs,” at least colloquially. However, dishes like satay, brochette and yakitori are not kebabs, they’re simply skewered meats from other cuisines that happen to be cooked in similar fashion. The shish kebab, which translates to “skewer grill,” consists of meat and vegetables that are skewered and then placed on the grill. Conversely, the doner kebab, which is one of the most popular street food on Earth, refers to the giant cone of rotisserie meat that is shaved off, a la the gyro.

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