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How to: chicken kebabs

Skewer some chicken, vegetables, and even fruit for a light and tasty meal.

  • When it’s Done:
    • 74°C

Skewers of tender marinated chicken and fresh vegetables cooked on a charcoal BBQ is a treat in cultures all over the world. The key to getting it right every time: a two-zone fire. For these chicken skewers, you can use the lighter white meat from the chicken breast or the more flavorful, juicy meat from the chicken thigh. Either works well—but it’s best not to combine the two different meats on a single skewer, as they cook at different rates. Here’s how to make the perfect chicken kebabs in just seven steps.

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    Soak your bamboo skewers in water.

    Bamboo skewers are cheap and readily available. But because they are made of thin pieces of bamboo, they are flammable and will catch fire during barbecuing. To prevent this, soak your skewers in water for at least one hour prior to assembling your kebabs.

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    Marinate the chicken and cut your vegetables.

    Whether using white chicken breast meat or dark meat from the thigh, it’s important to not cut the chicken into chunks that are too small, or else they will dry out quickly on the BBQ. Larger chunks of 1 to 1½ inches are ideal. Add them to a dish and pour on your favorite marinade. A marinade with a high oil content will not only flavor the chicken, it will also help keep the chicken from drying out on the BBQ. Then cut your vegetables into chunks that match the size of your chicken chunks, 1 to 1½ inches. You can go with classic vegetables like onions, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes, or add fruit like pineapple or peaches. If you want to marinate the vegetables, do so in a separate container from the chicken.


    Build the kebabs.

    Start threading the chicken chunks and vegetables on the kebabs. It’s important not to pack the skewers too tight or too loose. If the chicken and vegetables are too snug, the skewer will take too long to cook. If too loose, the chicken and vegetables may overcook. Ideally, the chicken and vegetables will touch each other but not be too crowded.

  4. KFD_2-ZONE_FIRE-0015

    Build a two-zone fire.

    Light your coals and configure your BBQ for a two-zone fire. Pile all the lit coals onto one side of the BBQ, and keep the other side empty. This way you can sear the skewers over high heat, and move to the cooler side in case of a flare-up.

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    Sear the kebabs and rotate.

    Place a few of your chicken kebabs directly over the coals. Let the chicken and vegetables sear and get some color. Rotate the skewers to brown all of the sides. You’ll find this requires some attention and time, so don’t try to cook too many at once—work in batches. If the fire flares up or the skewers catch fire, move them to the cool side of the BBQ.


    Finish on the cool side.

    When the chicken and vegetables have browned on all sides, move to the cooler side to finish cooking through. It will take about eight minutes total if you’re using white meat, about nine minutes if using dark meat. Chicken is done at 74°F. A good instant-read digital thermometer will make it easier to check for doneness.


    Serve immediately.

    Your chicken kebabs are ready to serve hot off the BBQ, no need to rest before serving. They pair nicely with just about anything.

Turkey is also excellent meat for kebabs. You can easily substitute turkey for your favorite chicken kebab recipe—just make sure the turkey is cooked to the minimum 165ºF.