Ever wondered what the difference is between BBQ skewers and BBQ kabobs? Well, there is actually no difference at all. They both refer to meat grilled with vegetables.
A skewer is a long pin, normally made of metal or wood, used to secure food during cooking while kebab is a dish of pieces of meat, fish, or vegetables roasted on a skewer or spit. So basically, it’s meat on a stick over fire; humanity has been at this for centuries.
Grilling with BBQ skewers can upgrade your food entertainment factor and remove some of the hassle of cooking more delicate items over roaring flames. Plus, it keeps smaller pieces of food from falling through the grates. Kabobs are a great way to cook meat, seafood, veggies and even fruit. When grilled on skewers, meat cooks more evenly and with a juicer flavor.
There’s certainly no shortage of dishes that benefit from a sizzling skewer. So, let’s take a look at a few tips for grilling with BBQ skewers. This is definitely worth adding to your grilling arsenal.
Tips for Using Skewers
Soak wooden or bamboo skewers in room-temperature water for an hour before grilling. The skewers will not catch fire until all the moisture has been converted into steam. This allows the skewers to finish cooking and prevents them from igniting on the grill.
If using metal skewers, use square or twisted types. These will hold the food better than round ones. Leave a small amount of space between each ingredient (1/4-inch) to cook food more evenly.
With wooden or bamboo skewers, as you thread the food move the pieces close together, with no space showing.
To keep food from slipping off during cooking and turning, use two parallel skewers rather than a single skewer.
Prep Meat & Veggies
Beef, chicken, shrimp, and pork all work well with skewers. For beef, use sirloin (from top to tip). Tenderloin is also a great choice. For chicken, use boneless thighs which are juicier and fuller-flavored. When selecting vegetables, use softer veggies like peppers, onions, squash, and mushrooms. This ensures they’ll be ready when the meat is cooked.
Cut beef, chicken and pork into 1 1/2-inch cubes to keep them juicy and so they can cook at the same rate. If you’re combining proteins, such as beef and shrimp, do not cook them on the same skewer. They’ll have different cooking times. Just combine them later when serving.
Season or marinate meats and veggies before placing them on skewers. You can simply use your favorite BBQ rubs. If you plan to marinate meat, the smaller cuts need much less time to soak up the flavors.
Grilling with Skewers
To keep wood skewers from burning (and metal skewers from getting dangerously hot), lay down foil strips (double-thick) on the grill to protect their ends.
Set the grill for medium-high direct and indirect heat; any higher you run the risk of overcooking or burning your small-cut food. Lay skewers on the direct-heat side with the skewer ends overlapping the foil.
Space them out to let them cook evenly. Don’t move them until the bottoms look slightly charred and they release easily from the grill. 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.
Once the kabobs are seared, the meat may need a little extra cooking. Move to the indirect-heat side of the grill and cover. Beef takes 8 to 10 minutes (to medium-rare); chicken takes 10 to 12 minutes. Let the kebabs rest for a few minutes on the plate after removing them from the grill.
Let’s Wrap it Up
Time to upgrade your grilling repertoire and put your new skewering skills to use. We have provided a few recipes below, so you can test drive grilling with BBQ skewers. Amp up your next tailgate or backyard BBQ party and wow your guests with one of these new treats on the menu.
Steak Skewers with Scallion Dipping Sauce
Meat and marinade:
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nuoc nam or nam pla)
2 tablespoons palm sugar or (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
6 garlic cloves
4 red or green Thai chiles, stemmed
2 lemongrass stalks, bottom third only, tough outer layers removed
1 1 1/2″ piece ginger, peeled
2 pounds tri-tip, top sirloin cap steak, or rib eye, fat cap left on
Scallion dipping sauce:
15 scallions, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nuoc nam or nam pla)
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons chinkiang (black) vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
3 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nuoc nam or nam pla)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Special Equipment: Eight 8″ metal or bamboo skewers (soak bamboo skewers for 1 hour before using)
Ingredient Note: Chinkiang vinegar, also called black vinegar, an aged vinegar made from glutinous rice and malt, is available at Asian markets.
For meat and marinade: Purée all ingredients except steak in a blender or a food processor until smooth. Trim strip of fat (sometimes called a fat cap) from meat. Cut fat into 1/4″-1/2″ cubes; cut meat into approximately 1″ cubes. Place fat and meat in a large bowl. Add marinade and toss to coat, cover and chill overnight.
Remove fat and meat from marinade, brushing off excess. Thread onto skewers, alternating meat with fat, so that pieces are touching but not pressed tightly together (which would slow down cooking). Leave at least 1″ of space at the ends of skewers for easy turning. Discard marinade; save excess fat for basting liquid.
For scallion dipping sauce: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl just before you begin grilling; stir occasionally.
For basting sauce: Mince any reserved leftover fat. Transfer to a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until fat is heated through, about 3 minutes (fat will not melt completely). Add all ingredients and cook until just heated through; keep warm.
Build a medium fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Grill skewers, brushing with basting sauce and turning every 2 minutes, for 10 minutes. Stop basting and cook, turning every 2 minutes, until browned around edges and cooked through, about 6 minutes more. Serve with scallion dipping sauce on the side.
1 pound boneless pork loin roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup teriyaki marinade, divided
2 cups pineapple chunks, about 1-inch
1 red pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
4 green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup Thai peanut sauce
Place pork in self-sealing plastic bag and add ½ cup teriyaki marinade. Seal bag and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.
Prepare medium-hot fi re in charcoal or preheat gas grill to medium high.
Remove pork from marinade. Thread pork, pineapple, red peppers and green onions onto skewers. Grill kabobs directly over fi re, turning to brown evenly, for about 10 to 12 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145°F, brushing kabob with reserved marinade. Let rest 3 minutes before serving.
Serve kabobs with peanut sauce on a bed of steamed rice, if desired.
Grilled Chicken Kabobs with Mango Jalapeno BBQ Sauce
Makes 10-12 kabobs
1 pound chicken (cut into 1in cubes)
1 bell pepper (cut into 1in pieces)
½ red onion (cut into 1in pieces)
BBQ Sauce Ingredients:
2 ripe mangos (pitted and peeled)
2 garlic cloves
1 chopped jalapeno
2 tbsp chopped red onion
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp mustard (sub honey mustard marinade)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp smoked paprika
Place all ingredients for the sauce in a food processor and blend until pureed. Divide the sauce, reserving ½-1 cup for dipping.
Cut chicken and toss into the remaining BBQ sauce. Assemble kabobs, mixing chicken and veggies. Place on Smokin’ Ugly smoker griddle and cook until chicken is no longer pink and veggies are soft.
Note: Be sure to soak kabob sticks before placing on the smoker griddle!
Spicy Shrimp Skewers
Prep: About 30 minutesCook: About 30 minutes
1-2 pounds shrimp
1/2 cup chili garlic sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
Topping: sliced green onion, lemon slices and a drizzle of chili sauce
Light charcoal in many spots and let it burn down so most of the charcoal is lit.
For the shrimp marinade: In a small bowl add the chili garlic sauce, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir in the honey and grated ginger. Cover the shrimp with marinade and stir well.
You only want to marinate the shrimp for 15 minutes because of the lemon juice. It will cook the shrimp and have a ceviche texture if marinated too long.
Place shrimp on skewers and cook over direct heat at about 300℉. They will cook fast so keep a close eye on them.
Place the cooked shrimp over a bed of rice noodles. Top with lemon slices, sliced green onions and a drizzle of chile sauce.
Total time: 5 minutesServes: 6
1 Pound fresh pineapple chunks
6 bamboo skewers
1/2 cup Smucker’s Fat Free Caramel Topping
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Place 4 to 6 pineapple chunks on each skewer. Drizzle with caramel sauce; sprinkle with nuts. Serve.
Note: Before adding sauce, skewers may be grilled 1–2 minutes on each side or until warm.