Healthy Kabobs! @weightwatchers @loselikeaman

Posted: August 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Spits, Skewers and Kebabs

Spear your way to culinary succulence
Article By: Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough
Spits Skewers and Kebabs

Cultures all over the world have used spits, skewers and kebabs to cook over an open fire. Brazilians have their churraco; the French, their brochettes; the Lebanese, their shawarma. By spearing food over the heat, they can grill it evenly, keep it moist and get the most flavor per bite. So let’s start spearing.

Hand Cranking

There are old-fashioned hand-cranked rotisseries for open fire pits, campfires and even fireplaces. These require patience and forbearance — you’ve got to sit to the side of a hot fire, turning the meat slowly over the flames. These yesteryear gadgets are best for enormous cuts: baby goats, boars, pigs and the like. Look for solid construction: no wobbly legs! And one thing’s for sure: Even the best of these devices are not for the novice.

Spits
Don’t think Robinson Crusoe. Basically, we’re talking about the rotisserie attachment for your grill, an electric motor that slowly turns a steel rod over the grate.

In essence, the meat is self-basting. As juices come to the surface, they spill over the rotating cut, bathing it in what will become crispy goodness.

Which is why the primary meat for a rotisserie is anything fowl: chickens, turkeys, pheasants and game hens. They’re full of subcutaneous fat that melts and bastes the beast on the spit.

But the fat’s not the only reason birds are the first choice for spits. They’re also hollow — which means you don’t have to puncture the meat to get a bird on the spit. And even more important, they’re equally balanced around the spit: one wing on one side, one wing on the other.

A leg of lamb or a prime-rib roast can be poor choices for the spit because neither are balanced. A leg of lamb has a thicker, meatier side — which will cause it to turn unevenly. A prime rib has all those heavy bones.

What’s more, you don’t want to skewer the meat itself.

So what to do with these “uneven” cuts? Roast two side by side and back to front. Secure the two cuts tightly to either side of the spit with butchers’ twine, then use the prongs to hold them in place. This two-for-one technique works for pork loin, beef tenderloin or whole fish.

In short, on a spit, you need to think about:

    1. Balance. Make sure the cut is evenly balanced side to side.
    2. Security. Tie cuts tightly with butchers’ twine. In general, more twine is better. Yes, the rotisserie will come with clamps to secure items to the spit, but you still need to secure wings to birds and cuts to each other.

You’re almost ready. Now for a few last tips:

  1. Indirect heat works best. In other words, the rotating spit should not be directly over the heat of the grill.
  2. Make sure the fire is low, around 325°F. “Low and slow” are the rules of the rotisserie.
  3. Make sure there’s a drip pan directly under the turning meat to prevent flare-ups and save you a big cleanup.
  4. Want more flavor? Wrap long spears of rosemary or branches of bay leaves around the meat once it’s secured onto the rotisserie spit.
  5. Salt draws moisture to the surface. Add a little to the outside of the cuts before they go on the spit to get the most juice bathing the meat as it turns.

 

Skewers and Kebabs
When you shrink those metal spits down to size, you end up with bamboo and metal skewers.

Unlike spits, skewers and kebabs go right over the heat, preferably high heat. If spits are “low and slow,” skewers and kebabs are “hot and fast.” You want these babies to singe — mostly to get good flavor on the outsides of the smaller bits of meat or veggies before they dry out inside.

And keep this in mind: It’s easier to marinate or spice things up before you skewer. Toss everything in a bowl, add the marinade or rub and stir well. Then refrigerate for a couple hours, stirring repeatedly. Once skewered, nooks and crannies can be difficult to reach with that added flavor.

First, meat and fish.

  1. Put only a single kind of protein on a single skewer. Don’t mix tuna cubes and pork loin, for example. Proteins cook at different rates.
  2. Choose firm-fleshed, thick-fleshed fish. Think tuna, swordfish or mahi mahi. Think about fish that can be cut into “steaks.”
  3. In general, consider 1-inch cubes the rule. (Boneless, of course.) Practice good knife technique, making sure meat cubes are evenly sized for even cooking. (Our one exception: shrimp. Leave themwhole and thread them in two places on the skewer.)
  4. Don’t forget fruit. It grills great with beef, pork, chicken or turkey. Use pineapple cubes, apple wedges or halved apricots on those skewers!
  5. Finally, for mixed meat-and-veggie skewers, cook them until the meat is done, not the veggies. To know for sure, take the internal temperature of the meat with an instant-read meat thermometer.

 

Now the veggies

  1. Tomatoes and mushrooms should go on their own skewers. They cook quickly and turn soft fast, soon becoming a mess on the beef-and-veggie skewer.
  2. Firmer vegetable chunks — zucchini, peppers, yellow squash, fennel and onions — can be interspersed among chunks of meat, fish steaks or shellfish.
  3. If you’re making mixed meat-and-veggie kebabs, put chunks of meat rather than vegetable chunks at each end of the skewer — vegetables can turn soft and fall off.
  4. Forget roots and hard winter vegetables. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes will never get tender on a skewer.

That’s about all you need to know. With a little advance planning and some good technique, you’ll soon be a pro, cooking meat in one of the oldest ways imaginable.

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