Make Better Kebabs

Alison Roman

Kebabs are quick, use few ingredients, and are so versatile you’ll never get bored. Here’s how to make skewers right every time.

1. Give ‘em a soak. If you’re using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes before grilling. Frequent griller? Soak a big packet’s worth overnight, drain, wrap in plastic, and freeze. You’ll have presoaked skewers at the ready.

2. Choose your meat. Select cuts with a good amount of fat, like flatiron beef steaks, lamb shoulder, chicken thighs, or pork shoulder. If you thinly slice the meat before grilling, it’ll be cooked through and tender in minutes. (And that marbling keeps it moist.) Leave a little space as you thread the meat onto skewers to maximize crispy bits.

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3. Pick your veg. Choose quick-cooking vegetables: You don’t want your meat to suffer while you wait for chunks of carrot to soften. To speed things along, cut sturdy produce like onions and peppers into thin pieces or wedges. For flimsier things like scallions and lemon slices, weave them onto the skewer so they stay put.

4. Build the flavor. This summer, we’ve got spicy Sichuan salt on heavy repeat. To make, coarsely grind 1½ tsp. cumin seeds, 1½ tsp. Sichuan peppercorns (or ½ tsp. black peppercorns), 1 tsp. kosher salt, and ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes in a spice mill or mortar and pestle (leave some larger pieces of spice). Oh, and make extra to sprinkle on everything from chicken wings to slabs of eggplant.

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5. Get grilling. To cook, prepare your grill for medium-high heat. Brush skewers with oil and season with Sichuan Salt (or your preferred spice blend), then grill, turning often, until lightly charred and cooked to your liking. Most cuts will be done in about 5–7 minutes.

6. Serve! Serve on the skewer, alongside rice or summery greens. Combinations we love: pork shoulder & zucchini, lamb shoulder & red onion, chicken thigh & mushroom, flatiron steak & shishito pepper

This seasoned salt is equally good on other cuts of meat, like chicken thighs or breasts or pork chops. Make a big batch and use it as you like.


  • 1½ teaspoons cumin seeds

  • 1½ teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns or ½ tsp. black peppercorns

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1 pound flatiron steak, thinly sliced against the grain

  • 8 shishito peppers or Padrón chiles, halved crosswise if large

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • Lime wedges (for serving)

  • Spice mill or mortar and pestle; 8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes


Coarsely grind cumin seeds, Sichuan peppercorns, salt, and red pepper flakes in a spice mill or mortar and pestle (you still want some pieces of spice); set Sichuan salt aside.

Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Thread beef (fold over as needed to skewer) and peppers alternately onto skewers, starting and ending with beef. Brush with oil and season with reserved Sichuan salt. Grill, turning often, until lightly charred and beef is medium-rare, 5–7 minutes.

Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

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