marinades and kebabs (or kabobs!)

Kebabs (or kabobs if you are in America) are a great thing to make for a bbq (or grill in the US). They make a small amount of meat go a long way and often cook much faster than a big slab of meat. You also get a better ratio of crunchy outside to soft inside of the meat which is a win in my book.

I’m giving you a range of marinades to give you options. I’m using boneless skinless chicken thigh in my example as thigh is the best chicken to hold up to being grilled and also has the best flavour. You can also make kebabs with shrimp, salmon, sliced steak or lamb. These marinades work on whole pieces of meat or fish too.

I really don’t like to include veggies on my kebabs. I never find they cook well enough, so you get partly burnt veggies that are raw in the middle. If you are going to include veggies, use parboiled baby potatoes, red bell peppers or chunks of courgette [zucchini] – please never raw onion or green bell peppers! They are just what shops use to bulk out meat and keep their prices down. They never taste good.

Read all my grilling tips here.

How I serve kebabs

I like to serve kebabs stuffed into pitta or flat bread with tzatziki, houmus, pickles and salads. I also set some of the marinade aside (before it touches raw meat or fish) to use as a drizzle or dip with the cooked kebabs. That way the same flavours are continued through the finished dish.

I like to grill oil-brushed halves of lemon, lime or grapefruit at the same time to squeeze over the finished kebabs they have a lovely smokey flavour

I usually grill a few extra kebabs so that I have something yummy to toss into a salad or into pasta the next day.

Why marinate

I mainly use marinades for the flavour side of things but they also impart color and moisture into your meat or fish. They also change the texture of meat by breaking down cell fibers and cell walls allowing heat to penetrate the more open fibers and therefore reducing cooking time and giving more succulent, tender meat.

Prep ahead

Why not spend half an hour one weekend making a few batches of marinaded chicken? Buy fresh chicken (not previously frozen) and make up Ziploc bags or glass freezer containers of a range of marinades then freeze the protein in the bag with the marinade. That way the protein sucks up the flavor of the marinade as it freezes and again as it defrosts. And, even better, you have delicious dinners ready to go, with no mess.

Marinade options:

This range should cover you for most eventualities. I tend to do one or two marinades (one spicy, one less so) when I’m having people over. I much prefer plentiful piles of one or two options than small plates of a wide range of flavours. The quantities below should be enough to marinade 6-8 boneless skinless chicken thighs – enough for 4 people.

Californian

2 cloves garlic, crushed. 3-4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 stems rosemary (rolled together but left on the branch), zest of a grapefruit, pinch chili flakes

French

1 cup red wine, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 4 sprigs thyme, black pepper, 2 cloves flattened garlic

Moroccan

Quarter a cup olive oil blended or bashed together with 1 handful fresh mint, 3 cloves garlic, 1 shallot, 1 red chilli, zest and juice of 1 lemon, pinch sea salt, black pepper

Indian

Quarter a cup of olive oil mixed with a tablespoon Madras curry powder and an inch of fresh ginger, chopped or grated

Greek

Quarter a cup of olive oil mixed with 2 tablespoons dried oregano and 1 tablespoon fennel seeds

Yoghurt

1 cup yoghurt mixed with 1 teaspoon harissa or curry powder

To make:

  1. Mix your marinade ingredients together in a glass bowl or Ziploc large enough to hold the protein you are using
  2. Slice your chicken into 1.5 inch wide lengths (cut long ways rather than across, you want long pieces)
  3. Add the chicken to the marinade and stir to ensure it is coated well. If you are using a Ziploc, gently squish the bag
  4. At this stage the bag can be frozen until needed or placed in the fridge for up to 24 hours. 6 hours is ideal but, at least 2 hours is best
  5. Soak your skewers (if they are wooden) in water, I usually lay mine in a water-filled lasagna dish or washing up bowl for 30 minutes before I’m ready to thread my kebabs. This stops them from burning
  6. Start by getting 2 skewers side by side (one skewer tends to make chicken act like a drunken pole dancer when you try and turn it on the grill). Fold the length of chicken in half before threading it onto the two skewers (the first one can be a bit messy but you’ll get better and quicker as you work through them). Then straighten the chicken out a bit so that it will get the heat of the grill evenly
  7. Lay the finished skewers on a flat tray and keep in the fridge until you are ready to cook (this can be done ahead of time)

Cooking

  1. Heat your grill or bbq to medium. As you lift the kebabs off the tray, shake excess marinade off before placing your kebabs onto the bars. I usually put the lid of my bbq down at this stage so that the kebabs cook from all sides like an oven – this isn’t essential though
  2. Turn chicken after 5 minutes or so; shrimp, steak, lamb or fish after 4 minutes. Rather than using time, it is best to look to see if the side is turning opaque. It is best to wait until they are almost cooked before flipping. If they are sticking, leave them for another minute before turning. The longer they cook, the dryer the surface will be and the less it will stick. Slide a large metal spatula under the kebab to loosen before turning
  3. If at any stage you think the kebabs are cooking too quickly on the outside, move them to a cooler part of the grill or turn the heat down and keep the lid lifted
  4. Cook until you see the chicken is opaque all the way through and the juices are running clear
  5. Place on a serving platter and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving with a squeeze of grilled lemon.

Equipment

You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe through my shop. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools.

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