The BBQ Hack That Will Change The Way You Grill Kebabs

One of the most inspiring fragrances in the world is that of marinated, smoking-hot skewers of meat. But don't take our word for it: just try walking down any bustling street in most parts of the world and see if you don't run into the tantalizing aroma of alambres, yakitori, satay, or other kebabs.

While grilling is proving ever-more popular and accessible, generating more and more recipe ideas – some of which you may have never thought of – grilling is a deceptively difficult form of cooking to master, and many of us use our grills wrong. The additional tragedy for skewered-meat lovers is that the conventional grill setup is far from ideal for the smaller pieces of meat featured on skewers. 

As Serious Eats notes, the best arrangement for preparing meat on a stick is to grill them close to the charcoal, allowing for high, consistent heat and frequent, quick turning to avoid flare-ups and fires, which is the standard for street vendors. But most grills are arranged for larger pieces of meat and lower, slower cook times. Those lower heats and longer times tend to overcook kebabs — or leave them wanting in the charring department. Cooking kebabs with proficiency requires some extra effort — and creativity.

A professional-style grill setup for a fraction of the cost

Serious Eats has a solution and it's one that claims to rival the far costlier arrangement of a professional yakitori burner. Even better, this fix doesn't require any special skills, and the supplies are easy to find (even in the midst of a supply-chain crisis). All you need are a kettle grill, some charcoal, a few bricks, and aluminum foil (heavy-duty is best). The setup works perfectly for all types of skewers, but Hungry Huy points out that for real yakitori grilling, binchotan ("white charcoal" derived from Japanese oak) is best, since it burns longer and hotter than regular briquettes. 

The idea is to have the skewers suspended inside the grill, over the lit charcoal, with both ends resting on aluminum foil-wrapped bricks (you can add crumpled foil underneath to stabilize the bricks if necessary). Then, Serious Eats explains, you "pour lit coals into the channel between the bricks, creating a focused grilling area over which you can cook your skewers." That focused grilling area means easy-to-turn skewers that will stay juicy while still getting charred on the outside. Once your setup is complete, you can add a wire net or basket if you like — just give it a little time to heat up before starting your kebabs.  

An added bonus to this hack? It won't burn up the ends of the wooden stick you cooked on, so you can actually eat your skewers with your hands, the way nature intended.