Secrets to Making the Best Kabobs

Chicken and Vegetable Skewers
Chicken and Vegetable Skewers. Joy Skipper/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Kabobs, or kebabs, are simply pieces of meat, vegetables, or fruit threaded on skewers, then broiled or grilled until the food is slightly charred, but juicy and tender. These easy recipes are wonderful for summer entertaining. But there are tips and tricks to making the best kabobs. Read on to learn all about this classic summertime treat.

Kabob Secrets

  • Keep all ingredients about the same size so they cook evenly. That means vegetables and fruit should be cut to the same size as shrimp, or pieces of chicken, beef, or pork. It's most important that the meat cook properly, so choose the correct sizes.
  • If you're cooking foods with very different cooking times (like pork and cherry tomatoes), keep the same foods on one skewer. Make skewers with just pork cubes, and skewers with just cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes, which cook in about 2 minutes, will overcook in the time it takes to cook pork, which is about 10 minutes. Serve one skewer of each food to your guests; the can slip the food off the skewers and combine them on their plates.
  • Metal skewers are best for foods that take longer than 5 minutes to cook.
  • Bamboo skewers should be soaked in water for 30 minutes before adding the food so they don't burn in the intense heat. They are best for foods with only brief cooking times, such as fruits, pound cake, or shrimp. Discard these skewers after cooking.
  • Sturdy herb stems, such as rosemary, make good skewers for some foods. You may need to push a hole through the food with a metal skewer before threading the food on an herb stem. This type of skewer is best for foods that cook quickly.
  • If you're making shrimp kabobs, push the shrimp very close to one another so they're stacked up. The shrimp will stay moist and tender even on the extreme grill temperatures as they cook to perfection.
  • Watch kabobs carefully on the grill, and turn them frequently. Put the kabobs on the grill, then let stand for 2 minutes or until they release easily from the grate. 
  • Be sure the grill is clean, hot, and well oiled so the food will release easily.
  • If you brush the kabobs with a marinade while they cook, discard any unused marinade at the end of cooking time. And give the kabobs a chance to cook for 2-3 minutes after the last marinade application to kill any bacteria. This is called "cooking off" the marinade.
  • For foods that can twirl on the grill, like shrimp, use two skewers, parallel to each other, to pierce the food. 
  • Use tongs to move the skewers around on the grill. Or you can use a hot pad or a kitchen glove made to protect your hands from intense heat.
  • Make sure that meats are cooked to safe internal final temperatures: 140°F for beef, 145°F for pork, and 160°F for chicken.
  • Warn your guests to be careful of the metal skewers; they hold heat for a while after they are removed from the grill. Offer hot pads or napkins to your guests so they can hold the skewer and slide the food off with a fork or knife.