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Cooking on the BBQ: Meats on sticks

Updated on July 16, 2011

Barbecuing is a great way to cook all kinds of foods, but is especially good for cooking many types of meat, poultry and seafood. Using the barbecue can be a great way to cook meat without adding a lot of oil or fat while still adding wonderful flavour. To quote the film There's Something About Mary, "I don't think that they have enough meats on sticks", and I certainly agree with this sentiment. The use of metal or wooden skewers to cook meat can make barbecuing much easier and more interesting, with the added bonus that it can be easily prepared in advance.

Cooking meat on skewers is a great way to barbecue. (Photo by Jon Sullivan courtesy of
Cooking meat on skewers is a great way to barbecue. (Photo by Jon Sullivan courtesy of
Beef kebabs cooked on the grill. (Photo by Jon Sullivan
Beef kebabs cooked on the grill. (Photo by Jon Sullivan

Meat can be cooked on metal or wooden skewers. Metal skewers are reusable and easy to clean, but the meat can often slip around on them during the cooking process. Wooden skewers, often made of bamboo, are inexpensive and are usually a better option when barbecuing meats on sticks. For the best results with wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes in water to prevent them from burning on the BBQ.

One of the most common types of meats on sticks is the shish kebab, of which a version exists in many different cultures around the world. Using the kebab technique, meat is cut into 1-2 inch chunks and then marinated (or simply seasoned) and threaded onto skewers and cooked on the BBQ. Adding vegetables to your skewers can add a great deal of flavour to the meat. However, you may want to consider parcooking your vegetables or cooking them separately on their own skewers, especially if you're particular about how much they're cooked. My favourite way to do kebabs is using cubes of beef or chicken (with a great marinade or rub, of course) threaded onto wooden skewers alternating with green peppers, onions and cherry tomatoes.

Ground meat is quite popular on the BBQ but, at least in North America, is usually found in the form of a burger. Ground meat is also excellent when cooked on a skewer, in the form of a kofta. Simply mix up ground meat with herbs and spices and then shape the mixture into a long sausage shape around a wooden skewer then cook as you would a burger. This works wonderfully with ground lamb because of its fat content, but any ground meat can be used. Lamb koftas, made with fresh mint or cilantro (coriander) are delicious served with a grated cucumber and mint yogourt and some pita bread.

Prawns can be easily cooked on skewers. (Photo courtesy of
Prawns can be easily cooked on skewers. (Photo courtesy of

Fish and seafood can be more difficult than meat and poultry to cook on the BBQ, so the use of skewers can be extremely helpful. For instance, when cooking prawns (shrimp) or scallops on the BBQ, several can be easily threaded onto one or two skewers to make them easier to turn and prevent them from falling through the grill. Some types of fish are too flaky for cooking with skewers, but if you select a meatier fish like monkfish or swordfish then you can easily thread them onto a skewer for easy cooking.

Barbecuing is a great way to cook delicious meals and is a fun and casual way to feed your family and friends. Cooking with skewers is easy and can add a great deal of diversity to your menus. Try it out with your favourite meats and vegetables and see how you can make cooking with skewers work for you.

General tips for cooking skewered meat

  • Make sure you have the right tools: a set of long-handled tongs and a metal spatula will be required. A BBQ brush to brush your meat with oil or sauce may also come in handy. 
  • Don’t pack your meat too tightly onto the skewers as this will prevent it from cooking evenly.
  • Brush your food with oil to prevent sticking rather than brushing the grill with oil.
  • Get your BBQ to the right temperature before attempting to cook your food. Wait until the grill cools down enough, sear your meat and then turn down the flames or move your food to the cooler side of the grill until cooked through.
  • If in doubt whether your meat is cooked, use a meat thermometer or check if the juices run clear.


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    • chirls profile image

      chirls 7 years ago from Indiana (for now)

      Rice dishes are great with skewered meat. I tend to serve salads with barbecued food, but my husband makes a great rice salad. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • nifty@50 profile image

      nifty@50 7 years ago

      You did a great job on this hub! I don't know how you feel but my favorite side for these is usually a rice dish! Like fried rice.