What Kind of Meat Do You Use for Kabobs?

by Charlie
Grilled beef kabobs

If you’d like to make kabobs, you might be wondering what kind of meat you need, and whether you can swap one meat for another in order to make this delicious meal. Kabobs are a very popular part of a barbecue, and many people enjoy making them because they are versatile and filling, and also fun!

You can make kabobs with many different types of meat, and there are even vegetarian kabobs, although they were traditionally grilled meat dishes. You can also make fish kabobs. The process involves skewering meat and/or vegetables on a thin wooden skewer, and then cooking them over a fire or grill. Some kabobs are also cooked in the oven.

What kind of meat do you use for kabobs? Most kabobs in America use beef, and if you buy something labeled kabob meat, it will almost always be cuts of beef. This meat is often taken from the cow’s primal cuts, such as the sirloin, but this isn’t a fixed definition so you may find other cuts. Usually, the trimmings that are left when companies manufacture steaks are used as kabob meat.

Where Do Kabobs Come From and Are They Always Beef?

The phrase kabob does not really refer to one traditional meal, but to a style of Middle Eastern cooking. That means you can make kabobs with any kind of meat, and in many English-speaking countries, it simply refers to a dish that uses marinated meat or seafood coupled with onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes, all threaded onto a skewer. These are also called shish kebabs.

Doner kabobs are also popular in the west. They involve stacking layers of meat onto a vertical spit that rotates, and scraping off the cooked outer surface, which can then be mixed with vegetables and sauces into a flatbread sandwich.

That means that you don’t always have to use beef for kabobs, even if that’s the standard. Almost any kind of meat can be used to create kabobs, and many people also incorporate fish and vegetables to make alternative recipes and different flavors to suit their tastes.

Fish kabobs are popular, and with the recent rise in vegetarianism, vegetable or even vegan kabobs are becoming more common. Some vegetarian options will include cheeses such as halloumi, and vegetables like zucchini and red pepper.

Even if you would like to stick to meat kabobs, you don’t have to just use beef; you can use almost any kind of meat, provided it has enough texture to stay on a skewer and it can be grilled. Chicken is a popular alternative, and in some parts of the world, lamb is also a common ingredient.

How Do You Choose the Best Beef for Kabobs?

Since kabobs are usually made from beef, you might be wondering how to tell what sort of beef is good for a kabob.

Good beef cuts are key to a nice kabob. Sirloin is tender, doesn’t need too much marinating to be soft, and is a lean, inexpensive meat. Other tender beef cuts will work as well, so don’t worry if you can’t get sirloin. Beef tenderloin and ribeye are good options.

You should avoid using beef chuck or beef stew meat, as these need to be cooked for longer and may prove chewy and fibrous when added to the skewer. Don’t skimp too much on the meat, as the kabobs won’t be enjoyable if they are tough.

Stew meat also tends to be cut into smaller pieces than kabob meat, which can make it harder to get it to stay on the skewer, and may result in overcooking, especially if you have used a mix of kabob meat and stew meat.

Since stew meat is taken from the cow’s shoulder or hind legs/rump, it tends to be muscly and tougher than kabob meat. If you can’t get kabob meat, consider making your own by cutting up a tender steak.

What Other Options Do You Have for Making Great Kabobs?

As mentioned, there are many other options for kabobs. You can use chicken, shrimp, bacon, sausage, meatballs, tuna, pork, calamari, salmon, and many other things. Almost anything that can be skewered and cooked safely in this way can be used to make a kabob, and there are thousands of inventive recipes out there.

If you would like to go for a vegetarian option, you could consider tofu, grilled cheese like halloumi, or just vegetables.

Most great kabobs incorporate at least some vegetables as a complement to the meat, so consider things such as bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and even a touch of fresh basil to make your kabob amazing.

Some people even include fruit, such as pineapple. It’s not clear whether this raises such strong feelings as pineapple on pizza yet, but certainly there are many people who enjoy grilled pineapple on their kabob.

If the fruit is too soft to be skewered on a kabob, the meat’s marinade may include fruit, or some recipes will guide you on how to make a fruit glaze for your kabob.

Often, the marinade is key to a kabob’s flavor and the whole experience, so don’t forget this part. While kabobs themselves can be very quick to cook, you do need to make sure you marinate them in advance to make the most of the flavor, especially if your meat is likely to be a little dry or tough.

You can get as inventive as you like with kabobs, and you may choose to exclude meat entirely from your offering, or just switch up the fruits and vegetables that you pair it with. Really, there is no limit with this kind of food, as long as it will stay on the skewer!

Final Thoughts

Kabob meat is almost always beef in US culture, and you will even find beef labeled as such in stores. It is usually the result of off-cuts from tender, fat-marbled steaks, and will get a lovely sear when cooked on a kabob.

However, bear in mind that you don’t have to limit yourself to this kind of meat, and you can make kabobs with almost anything else if you choose to!

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