How to Grill Tender Beef Shish Kebabs

Shish Kebab
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Question: How can I make beef shish kebabs more tender on the grill?

Whenever I make shish kebabs on the grill, the beef turns out really tough and the vegetables are not cooked enough. I use sirloin cubes for the beef and the vegetables are usually just tomatoes, peppers, and onions. I do not have this problem usually if I use the broiler in the oven. I love using a grill, especially in the summer months, but hate chewy meat!

What am I doing wrong? How can I make my beef shish kebabs more tender?

Answer: Shish kebabs have become an American grill staple food. They are easy to make, relatively inexpensive to make and look delicious with the contrast of the different color vegetables and meat. Grilling is perhaps the most common way to cook shish kebabs, but the broiler is great in the winter months. Like you, many people face the same dilemma when making shish kebabs at home. Chewy, tough meat really defeats the purpose of making kebabs. So, what's a shish kebab connoisseur to do?

First, the cut of the meat really does matter. Tenderloin or filet mignon are the best cuts for making shish kebabs but are also the most expensive. They do not require a marinade in most cases, but for optimum flavor, should be served rare or medium rare. Not everyone likes a bloody or red piece of meat, so this is not ideal for everyone.

If you do like your meat rare or medium rare and can afford tenderloin, then go for it. Your kebabs will taste amazing and won't require strenuous chewing!

If you aren't using tenderloin or filet mignon, top sirloin is a good choice. It's economical and when prepared correctly, will cut like butter.

The trick is to marinate and allow the meat to absorb the marinade for up to 24 hours. Use an acidic based marinade that contains lemon juice or white vinegar; it will naturally tenderize the meat by breaking down the connective tissue.

Finally, the size of your beef cubes should not be huge. I have seen "chunks" of meat threaded onto a skewer and grilled. Bite-sized cubes of meat cook more evenly, faster, and do not require a fork and steak knife to cut. In my experience, you should never have to use a knife to cut beef from a kebab because it is too tough or too large.

To ensure even cooking of meat and vegetables, make sure the pieces are not too big or too thick. Always leave a little bit of space in between veggies and meat to allow heat to circulate, and rotate often on the grill, just as you would a regular steak or vegetables. Also, be sure you are not grilling at too high of a temperature.