The Kinds Of Meat You Should Avoid At All Cost When Making Kebabs

Kebabs are delicious — even though you might mean two totally different things when using the term. Just to be clear, there are the kinds of kebabs that go on sticks and the (equally delicious) sort you find in a pita pocket with tzatziki sauce. It's an important distinction because while meat for the sandwich-like kebab often gets cooked on a rotisserie (similar to a gyro), kebabs-on-sticks are cooked on a grill — and anyone who's ever worked with a grill can tell you certain kinds of meat or other proteins are just better suited to the cooking technique.

So, which meats should never go near a kebab skewer? It turns out there are several, and while there's some overlap, there are actually a couple of very different reasons you might want to avoid various options. Some are proteins that dry out when you grill them, and others are meats that are so sensitive they literally fall apart. The key is to know what to look for and how to cook them.

Seek out sturdier cuts

The first issue is a structural problem: You're dealing with cutting up meat and putting pieces of it on a stick, so it has to be able to hold together. The worst possible choice for this scenario is flaky fish, which, by definition, practically disintegrates when you look at it wrong. That's not so much of a problem when you cook it in a pan, but on a skewer, it can easily turn into a mess; that's why you rarely see a flounder kebab. Even a fish like salmon is trickier to cook on a skewer than something meatier.

The second issue is more based on a meat's internal qualities. You want a protein that has both a relatively high fat content and one that can be sold or prepared in easy cube form. This means thinner and leaner cuts of steak like skirt, flank, or hanger are bad ideas because they won't hold up well under the intense yet uneven heat from a grill — and they're so thin you can't get those nice thick chunks necessary to skewer effectively.

What proteins work best for kebabs?

So, what kinds of foods work well as kebabs? It turns out there are plenty of options. If you really want seafood, shrimp is always an excellent choice. Swordfish works well, too, as a meatier fish that takes to grilling very well in whole form. It's possible to achieve the perfect grilled scallops, though they will definitely require a little more care than some other options.

If you're dealing with beef or other land-based proteins, you wind up with a lot more choices. Fattier cuts are perfect because they won't dry out; it's why dark meat chicken works much better for this technique than light meat. For vegetarians, mushrooms are an obvious choice; their meatiness makes them a natural fit. And kebabs actually make it far easier to grill onions than just trying to put slices on there, which will tend to slip through the cracks.

Grilling is all about knowing what works and what needs to be rethought. As long as you follow the rules, your BBQ will turn out delicious.