How to Make Your Kabobs Sizzle

With sizzle comes flavor.

It’s easy to guarantee success with kabobs if the meat is cooked on its own skewers and vegetables of similar texture are cooked separately on theirs. Learn which meats are best for kabobs, basic marinade tips, cooking time, how to broil kabobs, and tips for creating perfect vegetable kabobs.

The Best Meats for Kabobs
Leg of lamb cut in 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes is tender and full flavored. So are rib-eye or sirloin roasts or steaks. Very tender meat such as tenderloin lacks sufficient character and will only toughen on the grill.

Precut kabob beef sold at many supermarkets is usually top or bottom round or chuck. Though it may seem well priced, it is apt to be tougher than you want.

Making a Marinade
Kabobs are traditionally marinated before cooking. Marinades can also be used to baste the meat as it cooks. They are usually made with an acid base — wine, vinegar, citrus juice — and are often blended with oil and aromatics such as herbs and onions.

Some of the best marinades are the simplest — red wine blended with a little oil and a handful of finely minced Italian parsley, for instance.

A good low-fat marinade can be mixed up from 1 cup of beef broth, 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup of red wine, 1 minced clove of garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of hot red pepper sauce (or more to taste), 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon or more of freshly ground black pepper.

Marinades are mainly for flavor, but to some extent they also tenderize. Acids in marinades soften connective tissue. Enzymes in papaya juice also help by breaking down protein. Since raw meat does not readily absorb liquid, however, marinating for a couple of hours will only affect the meat’s surface. For the best results, give yourself plenty of time and marinate in a self-sealing plastic bag so that the meat can easily be turned and coated.

Timing Is Everything
Experts at kabob cooking often thread vegetables on skewers separate from meat and place the vegetables on the grill after the meat has started. It’s good practice because vegetables cook faster than meat.

If you want to grill both meat and vegetables on the same skewer, you can equalize the cooking by threading vegetables at the outer ends of the skewers and the meat in the middle. That way the meat can cook over the center of the fire, where the heat is usually the most intense.

There are many choices for kabob skewers. Inexpensive bamboo skewers need to be soaked in water before use so they do not burn. For metal skewers, look for styles with handles that are easily grabbed and held with a fireproof mitt.

Broiling Kabobs
Kabobs are almost as good broiled in the oven as they are grilled. Place them on a rack in a broiler pan or support the skewer ends on the rim of a shallow pan. Brush lightly with a marinade or oil and broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat, turning once or twice to cook evenly, until done as desired. Cubes of beef or lamb cook medium-rare to medium in 10 to 15 minutes.

Vegetables for Kabobs
Choose firm but mature vegetables for kabobs and cut them in pieces that are large enough to thread without breaking. Peppers should be seeded first, but not tomatoes.

Yellow squash and zucchini should be washed, not peeled, then cut into 1-inch chunks. Skewer them through the skins so their seedy flesh is turned outward.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest