Sticky business | A guide to meat on sticks

By
Hannah Koelmeyer
Added
14 February, 2014

Skewers, kebabs, shaslicks, yakitori … Whatever you call them, meat just tastes better when cooked on a stick. We share our tips to help you ace the skewers at your next barbecue.

Choosing your skewers

  • Bamboo skewers are a great choice for barbecues as they’re inexpensive and disposable, so there’s no need to wash up afterwards. Remember to soak your bamboo skewers before cooking though, because the wood burns easily. The slight texture on the surface also helps food to stay in place when turning.
  • If disposable is not for you, stainless steel skewers are easy to clean, will never burn and also allow for more even cooking as the metal conducts heat. Just be careful picking them up, as they get very hot!
  • Hardy herbs like lemongrass or rosemary make great skewers and will impart an incredible flavour, especially if you’re cooking over coals. You may need to pierce the food with the tip on a knife in order to thread as the herbs lack the pointy end of a metal or bamboo skewer.
  • Especially when cooking crisp vegetables like onion and capsicum, opt for flat skewers rather than rounded ones, as this keeps the food in place and ensures it is evenly cooked. If you don’t have any, use two skewers instead of one.

Preparation

  • Always marinade for at least one hour – ideally overnight – so your meat is tender and tasty.
  • If you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them for at least 20 minutes before threading them. A quick spray of cooking oil will help to stop food from sticking.
  • When cutting your meat and vegetables aim for uniform, bite-sized pieces. This will help your kebabs to cook evenly.
  • Remember that cooking times differ, so choose your ingredients wisely or you might end up with undercooked beef paired with disintegrating tomato.
  • Thread each piece of food at the thickest part. For strips of meat, try weaving them back and forth on the stick.

Cooking technique

  • Kebabs are best cooked on the barbecue over coals, but if you don’t have one you can also use a grill or even a frying pan.
  • A medium or medium-low heat is best to ensure your kebabs are well cooked.
  • Leave the skewers hanging off the edge of your barbecue if possible, to prevent charring. This also makes them easier to pick up.
  • Turn your skewers so they cook evenly on all sides. Try not to turn them too much however, or your ingredients may fall off.
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