How to Grill With Skewers Like a Pro
We’ll be the first to say that few things are as satisfying as throwing a huge cut of meat on the grill, listening to the sizzle’s siren song, and feasting on every ounce like royalty. It makes slicing meat into little cubes and threading them on a skewer for grilling seem like child’s play, but the reality couldn’t be any further from the truth. Grilling with BBQ skewers can change a dish’s look and taste, enhance your entertainment factor, and remove some of the hassle from cooking more delicate items over roaring flames. Just picture it: no small items falling through the grates, and only a few flips instead of a couple dozen! From BBQ shrimp skewers to beef and veggie (or even fruit!) kebabs, there’s no shortage of dishes that benefit from a sizzling skewer. It’s a skill worth adding to your arsenal, so let’s look at how it’s done so you can sharpen your skewering smarts.
Preparing Skewers for Grilling
If you plan to grill with steel skewers, then you can skip this section. If you’re using wood or bamboo rods, on the other hand, you should stick around — unless you enjoy skewers that burst into flames mere minutes after hitting the grill. (It’s like magic, except terrible.) We strongly recommend soaking wood and bamboo skewers in water for at least a few hours before grilling, but preferably overnight; the skewer can’t catch fire until all its moisture has been converted into steam, giving you a window of opportunity to grill its contents to completion. The easiest way to soak skewers is to place them in a jar, fill it with water, and screw the top on to keep them submerged.
Pro tip: in the event you grill with skewers often, you might not want to put in the time of soaking your wooden rods every time kebabs are on the menu. Fortunately, you can soak literally hundreds of skewers in advance with this helpful hack from Chef Tony! Soak as many wooden skewers as you’ll anticipate needing for, say, the whole year, then set aside the ones you need immediately. Remove the rest from the water, place them in a resealable bag, squeeze out all the air as if you were trying to flatten the bag, then store in the freezer until you need more skewers. As long as they’re frozen, the skewers will retain all the moisture they need to prevent igniting on the grill.
Preparing Food for Skewering
Call to mind any BBQ kebab dish, and you’ll almost certainly envision small cubes of food threaded along the skewer. That’s the goal for most BBQ skewer recipes, though how small you cut your meat or veggies depends on their use in the overall dish and your intended portions. Whatever size you choose, be sure to cut food for skewers into the same proportions so they can cook at the same rate. Of course, you can always slice your food into strips if a dish (say, fajitas) calls for it, and whole shrimp fit perfectly onto skewering rods as they are.
When it comes to seasoning, be sure to impart flavor to your food before placing it on skewers. It’s common to marinate meat for skewers — smaller cuts need much less time to soak up those wonderful flavors — but you can just as easily use a BBQ rub for grilled kebabs. Seasoning type is obviously preferential, but one best practice you should also follow is leaving a bit of space between each piece of food on the skewering rod so they can receive heat on all sides.
Grilling with Skewers
While this technique is admittedly simple — it’s meat on a stick over fire; humanity has been at this for a while — there are a few best practices to keep in mind when you’re grilling with skewers. The first is to grill over medium-high heat; any higher, and you run the risk of overcooking or even burning your small-cut food. When it comes time to flip make sure to turn from the center of the skewer so the meat or veggies stay balanced and in place. Using flat rods will generally prevent food from flopping when flipped regardless.
Most kebabs take just 5–10 minutes to grill, with only one flip while cooking. The temperature and size of your food may dictate longer or shorter cook times, but it’ll always be a quick process. It’s also possible to smoke large cuts of meat on skewers, in which case you should be mindful of internal temperature throughout the low-and-slow cook.
Easy BBQ Skewer Recipes
Ready to put your skewering skills to use? Instead of throwing you into the (literal) fire to fend for yourself, we’ve compiled our most popular BBQ recipes that use skewering rods so you can practice everything you’ve learned today. Try one, try a couple, try them all; as long as you’ve got a newfound appreciation for skewering — and a few more recipes in your repertoire — we consider our job done.