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Sara Hansen

Top Tips On How To Grill Kebabs That Are Sure To Impress

Kebabs (also sometimes spelled “kabobs” interchangeably) are a delicious, easy to make, and easy to eat item you can cook on the grill in large quantities if needed. Because of this, they make a great choice for tailgate parties and backyard get-togethers. You can do vegetable, beef, fruit, seafood, or chicken kebabs on the grill, or even a variety of all of the above. 

But, there are some tips you should follow to ensure you end with tasty kebabs and not burnt sticks of food.

If you are looking for insider tips on how to grill kebabs, you have come to the right place. In this article, we’ll break down some of the dos and don’ts when it comes to grilling kebabs so you’ll be confident when it’s time to fire up the grill. Let’s take a look:


#1 - Cut Everything Into Even Pieces 

Another important key to grilled kebabs cooking evenly is the size of each individual piece. If everything is cut inconsistently, the smaller pieces will overcook and dry out or turn to mush (depending on the type of food item) by the time the larger items are done.

So, it is best to cut square, uniform chunks of about 1½ inches to 2 inches for optimal results and even cooking.


#2 - Give The Items Some Space


how to grill kebabs | how to grill kabobs | how to cook kabobs on the grillSource: ThermoBlog


One of the most important things you should do to ensure the items on your skewers cook evenly is to leave a bit of space between each item. This will allow even heat circulation all around each piece individually. A good rule of thumb is to leave a ½ inch ( 1-1/4 cm) between each piece of your kebab.

If everything is packed tightly together, the heat will circulate around the food as if it is one long piece rather than multiple individual pieces. The pieces in the center of the skewer will take longer to cook than the pieces towards the ends. Then the end pieces will be overcooked by the time the pieces in the center are done. 


#3 - Keep Differing Items Separate

While kebabs with a combination of meat and different vegetables or fruit on one skewer look great, they are extremely difficult to cook properly that way. By the time the meat on the skewer is done, the vegetables will be far overcooked. Things will go much smoother if you keep differing items separate from each other on the skewers. This is because different meats, vegetables, and fruit all cook at different rates.

Beef, chicken, and seafood all have different desired temperatures and doneness.  Softer vegetables, like tomatoes and mushrooms, cook at very similar rates and can be paired together. Likewise, firmer vegetables, like onions and peppers, cook at the same rate and can be paired together. Finally, firmer fruits should be kept together and softer fruits should be separate.


#4 - Be Mindful Of The Meat You Are Selecting

As you know, grilling involves very high cooking temperatures. So, certain meats are better for kebabs compared to others. Your best bet when it comes to meats are ones that are tender with not much exterior fat or connective tissue, like sirloin, tri-tip, or chicken. When grilling kebabs, there won’t be enough time for high volumes of fat to render or a high amount of connective tissue to properly dissolve. Alternatively, tough meats, like brisket or pork shoulder, will often become fairly rubbery when grilled quickly on a skewer. 

When preparing the meat, trim away excess chunks of fat, connective tissue, or gristle before cutting it into cubes.

For seafood, go for denser, meatier options that you won’t have to worry about falling apart. Some good choices include shrimp, salmon, striped bass, swordfish, ahi tuna, and scallops.


#5 - Use Quality Oil When Grilling


how to grill kebabs | grilling kebabs | grilled kebabsSource: California Olive Ranch


Using oil when you are prepping your kebabs for the grill is extremely beneficial for several reasons. The first being the fact that a thin coat of oil helps prevent the food from sticking to the hot grill grates and burning. The oil will also help the heat to transfer more evenly as your kebabs cook, keeps the meat moist, will help seasonings stick better, and will help the exterior of meat (and certain seafood) to caramelize and form a delicious crust.

When using oil for the grill, you want to go for a good oil that will not only help your kebabs cook easier but can also enhance the flavor of your food. Extra virgin olive oil will enhance the flavor of virtually any meat, seafood, or vegetable. For fruits, a neutral oil, like saffron oil, will hold up to the high heat without competing with the fruit’s flavor.

Before putting your skewers on the grill, brush just enough oil on the pieces to thoroughly coat each side. Don’t use so much that the oil is dripping off or else you can quickly end up with a grill flare-up.


#6 - Presoak Wood Skewers

For grilled kebabs, one of the most common choices for skewers is bamboo wood skewers. If you’re using wood skewers, it is critical that you pre-soak them for two hours before grilling. This will keep them from burning shortly after they go on the grill and will also help prevent the occurrence of splinters. 

If you are going to be grilling kebabs frequently, another good option for skewers is stainless steel. These are great because they’re extremely durable, don’t need to be pre-soaked, and you never have to worry about the skewers splintering.


#7 - Don’t Rely On Cooking Times To Determine “Doneness”


chicken kabobs on the grill | how to grill kebabs | how long to grill kabobsSource: OSU Chow Line


A common question is how long to grill kebabs for. Because each different type of food item cooks differently, you should not rely just on cooking times to determine when they are done. Also, keep in mind that smaller pieces will cook more quickly and different meats will need to be cooked to different temperatures. So, you should always gauge “doneness” by internal temperatures in meat or firmness in vegetables and fruit.

For example, beef should be grilled to about 125-130°F (52-54°C), chicken to 155-160°F (68-71°C), and seafood to around 125-140°F (52-60°C). Make sure to have a good quality instant-read thermometer on hand to check internal temperatures as you are cooking.

For vegetables and fruit, it is usually good to cook firm types to midway between crisp and tender. Of course, you can grill the pieces for a few minutes longer if you want them to be more tender. More tender pieces of vegetables and fruit won’t need to cook nearly as long before they start to caramelize and get softer.


#8 - Use A Two-Zone Grill Setup

Using a two-zone grill setup is very advantageous when it comes to grilled kebabs. When you have one side of your grill as the high, direct heat side and the other as indirect heat, you have the flexibility to move the skewers around as necessary while they’re cooking. Then you can have everything finish at the same time if you are cooking different types of items and still get a great sear on everything. A two-zone setup will also give you an open safety zone space to move the kebabs to in case of a grill flare-up.


Grilled Kebabs For The Win

If you are looking for a delicious, easy-to-cook, fan-favorite for your grill, grilled kebabs are a great choice. By following the tips we’ve covered above, which apply to any type of kebab, you can ensure your grilling is a success.  

Are you a fan of kebabs? Do you have a favorite type? Have you mastered how to cook kebabs on a grill? Let us know! We want to hear all about it.

Do you want more insider info straight from the pros? Learn competition cooking secrets and master your grill with the pros here at BBQ Champs Academy. The Champion Grillmasters will show you, step-by-step, how to take your outdoor cooking game to a whole new level. 

Check out the All-Access pass now for the full inside look with our Grillmasters and Pitmasters!

Sara Hansen

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2 comments on “Top Tips On How To Grill Kebabs That Are Sure To Impress”

  1. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and the rest of the website is extremely good.

    1. Nolana thank you! Make sure you follow us on Facebook @bbqchampsacademy. We do a LIVE weekly podcast every Tuesday at 7:00pm CST. Lot of great information and you can ask questions while we are live on the podcast!!

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