grilled steak and vegetable kebab skewers

Consider carefully before combining ingredients for grilling skewers

Grilled skewers are a straightforward concept: Various ingredients are threaded onto a stick, usually metal or wooden, and cooked over an open flame. The appeal is obvious ─ they’re fun to make, easy to eat, and infinitely customizable. This customization, though, is where the potential pitfalls lie. The key lies in understanding how different ingredients interact under the heat of the grill. A common mistake many make is mixing ingredients with varying cooking times on the same skewer.

It’s easy to be tempted by the thought of a colorful array of meats, vegetables, and fruits on a single stick. However, this picturesque vision can lead to practical cooking challenges. Take, for example, a combination of chicken, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Chicken needs a longer grilling time to ensure it’s thoroughly cooked and safe to eat. According to the FDA, it should only be removed from the grill when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Vegetables like bell peppers can withstand longer cooking, but tomatoes will likely overcook and turn mushy before the chicken is properly done. This not only affects the texture but can also lead to unevenly cooked food, which is a health hazard, particularly with meats.

Do this to ensure more even cooking on skewers

Vegan skewers on barbecue grill

Achieving evenly cooked skewers is not just about choosing the right ingredients, but also how you prepare and assemble them. First, cutting ingredients into uniform sizes is critical. This ensures that each piece cooks at the same rate, preventing the scenario where some pieces are charred while others are undercooked. It’s especially important when grilling meats on skewers, as uneven pieces can lead to some being overdone and dry, while others aren’t cooked enough. The same principle applies to vegetables and fruits ─ uniform cuts result in a pleasant texture and even grilling.

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Another aspect to consider is the spacing of ingredients on the skewer. Loading the skewer with as many pieces as possible might be tempting, but this can hinder optimal cooking. Crowding the skewer prevents heat from circulating evenly around each piece, leading to uneven cooking. By giving each piece a bit of space, you allow heat to surround and cook each item thoroughly. Celebrity chef Alton Brown recommends leaving about a ½ inch of space between pieces, especially for beef skewers, to ensure they cook evenly and thoroughly. With these factors in check, you not only enhance the cooking process but also improve your grilled skewers’ overall flavor and safety.

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