The Not-So Starving Student—Skewered Meats

One of the traditional foods I had growing up was skewers.  There are so many variations in different regions of the world.  The infamous Middle Eastern kebabs are a mouth-watering treat.  Satay skewered meats served with peanut sauce are a favorite in Asia.  Yakitori is a Japanese skewered meat dish that uses charcoal grills with various cuts of gizzard, liver, skin, and dark meat from chicken.  The Russians have a variation called Shashlik which is marinated pork, beef or lamb smothered in copious amounts of onion.  The Greek Souvlaki is a lamb skewer served with pita and tzatziki.  There are many more variations of skewered meat varieties, but the bottom line is that human civilization has enjoyed skewered meats for a long time.  There’s something comforting about grilling them over the fire and especially on a stick.

One of my fondest memories was munching on lamb skewers as a child.  I found the recipe my grandmother used and made these on my balcony using a griddle.

So why should you try making some skewered meats in the comfort of your home’s patio or porch?

  1. No irritating smells: despite my love for cooking, cooking at home can cause some smells and scents to linger in the kitchen for lengthy periods of time.  If you have an open style kitchen, like my apartment, you’ll also not appreciate the smells travelling to other rooms and the grease settling into the couch cushions or the bedroom closet.  The heavy smell of barbecues and grilled items can easily have strong smells as well so cooking outside can keep your indoors smelling fresh.
  2. Clean up is easy: I currently use an electric griddle outdoors despite owning a barbecue.  The electric griddle plugs into the outdoor outlet where it can be easily used and cleaned.  If you’re planning to use your barbecue outside, using tin foil can avoid a lot of unnecessary grease and cleaning.
  3. Food tastes better on a grill: Have you noticed that grilled meats or charred meats taste better than your regular stir-fried items on the stove top? The high heat breaks down proteins differently than on the stove top creating unique flavor compounds.  If you’re tired of eating the same stove-cooked food, try grilling or griddling items outdoors.

Thankfully, the snow has not hit Calgary just yet and I’ve had the opportunity to do some outdoor barbecues on my patio.

Using my griddle outside helped keep my indoors smelling fresh

Now that you’re convinced skewering meats are a great idea, here are some tips for making great skewered meats.

Cut Ingredients to the Same Size:

Cutting ingredients into the same size is pivotal when making good skewers.  I’ve made plenty of skewers in the past where the ingredients were of different thickness and sizes that make it difficult to cook evenly.

Metal Skewers are Better for Meats that take Longer to Cook

I used my metal skewers here as I was serving these for an appetizer.

If you’re cooking meat for more than 5 minutes on the grill, the best skewer material is metal.

Turn the Meats Frequently

To help the meat cook evenly outdoors, turn the meat frequently (once every few minutes for beef, pork and chicken and once every minute for shrimp is sufficient).

Marinade them but Also Brush Sauces while your Skewers Cook

The lamb skewers I recently made were pre-marinated overnight with onions, garlic, cumin and peppers that allowed the meat to have intense flavor after the griddling process.  I also brushed some honey garlic marinade over them about a minute before I took them off the griddle for extra flavor.  Brushing the sauce on before you take them off the grill or griddle will help the heat break down the sauce ingredients giving it an extra burst of flavor.

My lamb skewers were marinated with a variety of spices and herbs prior to cooking.  I used bamboo skewers that I cooked them for a medium-rare texture