Outdoor Cooking: Kebab Tips

Originally posted at TheKitchenHotline.com:

Hailing from the mysterious sands of the Persian Empire comes a dish that is both stunning in presentation and simplistic in preparation.  It is also quite misunderstood.  Americans first became familiar with this food-on-a-stick under the name shish kebab and as time has worn on we have ditched half of the name.  Unfortunately we ditched the wrong half.  As it turns out shish means on-a-stick while kebab refers to seasoned meat cooked any number of ways most of which do not involve a stick.

Omaha Steaks Tenderloin KabobsBut like with Christopher Columbus misnaming chilies as peppers, the damage is already done.  For the rest of this post when I refer to kebabs I mean meat-on-a-stick.  Kebabs come in lots of variations including the original shish kebab, Italy’s spiedini and ultimately even the corn dog – a batter dipped, deep fried kebab although that is a pretty loose interpretation.

Now when most of us think of kebabs we think of a long sword like skewer with alternating bits of vegetable and protein.  That makes a striking display but it is not exactly sanitary, especially with poultry.  Cross contamination is a serious concern with kebabs.  You simply do not want raw chicken liquid getting on your vegetables.

That’s why food safety experts suggest cooking the protein all together and the vegetables on a separate skewer.  Sure it doesn’t look as nice but it also won’t have you reaching for the Imodium at 2 AM either.  If the presentation is that important to you then reassemble the skewers after everything has cooked.  Beef, lamb, duck and seafood do not carry nearly as much danger as chicken and turkey do.

Here are a few other tips for a successful kebab experience:

  • Be sure to marinate no less than 30 minutes and no longer than 24 hours.
  • Only marinate in the refrigerator to avoid food-borne bacteria.
  • Meats should be cut bite-sized (uniformly-sized 1 to 2-inch cubes) for quick and even cooking.
  • Fatty meats can be cooked at a higher temperature. Lean meats will need a longer time at a lower heat.
  • When using seafood, choose firm-textured fish (salmon, tuna, mahi mahi, swordfish, shark, etc.) and shellfish.
  • A light spray of cooking oil will help keep the kebabs from sticking. Turn the kebabs often for even cooking.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
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2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
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