Do you struggle to prevent your skewers from burning to ash when grilling kebabs? You aren't alone. This is a common problem encountered by countless home chefs. As your charcoal or cooking wood burns, it may ignite your skewers. When this occurs, you may discover some of your food falling through the grate and onto your charcoal or wood. With a little planning, however, you can prevent your skewers from burning.
Use Bamboo, Not Wood Skewers
Rather than using wood skewers, use bamboo skewers. Based on their appearance alone, you may assume wood skewers are the same as bamboo, but this isn't the case. Bamboo is a type of plant, and it's actually more resistant to fire than most types of wood. Bamboo skewers can still ignite and burn when exposed to enough heat, but they are less likely to burn on a grill than their wood counterparts.
Choose Thicker Skewers
The thickness of your skewers can affect their risk of burning. Conventional wisdom should lead you to believe that thicker skewers are less likely to burn than thinner skewers. With their thicker composition, they require hotter temperatures than burn than thinner skewers. You can expect to pay more for thick, heavy-duty bamboo skewers, but it's a smart investment that will help you create delicious grilled kebabs.
Cover the Entire Skewers With Food
When preparing your kebabs, try to cover the entire skewers with food. In other words, don't leave any of the skewers' bamboo material exposed. They should be completely covered with food to reduce the risk of burning. Whether you are grilling chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, veggies or any combination thereof, the food will act as insulation for your skewers. You may notice the very ends of the skewers burning and turning black, but the rest of the skewers should remain intact.
Use Less Cooking Wood or Charcoal
The more cooking wood or charcoal you use in your grill, the greater the risk that your skewers will burn. Cooking wood and charcoal burn to produce heat. While heat is essential for cooking food at a safe temperature, too much heat may ignite your skewers, causing them to burn to ash. Start with a small amount of cooking wood or charcoal and add more as needed. If your grill has a thermometer, you can monitor the internal temperature to determine when exactly to add more cooking wood or charcoal.
Soak Skewers Before Adding Food
You can make your bamboo skewers a little more resistant to burning by soaking them in water or fruit juice before adding your food. Just fill a large casserole dish with water or fruit juice and add your skewers. After allowing them to soak for at least an hour, remove the skewers from the dish and add your food to them. Neither bamboo nor wood skewers will hold a significant amount of moisture, but soaking them for an hour should create a moist exterior that protects them burning.
Use Caution When Flipping
When grilling kebabs, you'll need to flip them at least to ensure that both sides are evenly cooked. However, you should use caution when flipping your kebabs to avoid breaking the delicate, burnt sections of the skewers. Grabbing the ends of the skewers is never a good idea. Because the ends are exposed to the greatest heat, they are more likely to break than other, non-exposed parts of the skewers. Using a pair of tongs -- or two pairs of tongs -- carefully lift your skewers by the middle to flip them.
Use a Grill Basket
Another way to prevent your skewers from burning is to use a grill basket. Rather than placing your kebabs directly on the cooking grate, for example, place them in a grill basket. With the metal grill basket separating your kebabs from the scorching-hot cooking grate, your skewers shouldn't burn -- or not as quickly, at least. The only problem is that you'll need to choose a grill basket that's large enough to accommodate the length of your skewers.
What About Metal Skewers?
When all else fails, use metal skewers when grilling kebabs. Typically made of steel or aluminum, they are naturally protected against burning. Metal skewers are more expensive than both wood and bamboo skewers, but they could save you money in the long run. Unlike wood and bamboo skewers, metal skewers can be reused. After using them to grill kebabs, just clean them with warm water and dish soap, at which point you can use them again. With that said, some people prefer the added flavor or wood or bamboo skewers, which isn't found in metal skewers.
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