Summertime Kebabs

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell
ground beef kebabs

Nashville has an expanding array of nice kebab restaurants. The big pita sandwich loaded with döner, shawarma, or gyro shaved from a vertical rotisserie is the quick, fresh, and affordable lunch of choice for many. But without that rotisserie, you have to go out for that.

Ground meat kebabs, however — the hamburger of the Mediterranean kebab corridor — are the style you can, and should, make at home. They’re a more interesting alternative to the usual grilled burger and most kids love “meat on a stick.” Ours did, anyway.

Instead of forming patties for burgers, form kebabs into logs on skewers. Use ground beef, lamb, or a combo of both, and simply season with garlic, cumin, and salt. Make a quick, cooling cucumber-yogurt sauce, slice up some Tennessee Cherokee tomatoes and quickly grill some pita bread. Plain old burgers may never be quite enough after this meal.

Kebab Skewers

A few important kebab tips:

Finely chop the garlic and use the flat side of a chef’s knife to mash it into a paste along with the salt. This helps spread the garlic and salt through the meat and prevents any big, raw garlic chunks in the kebabs.

As you can’t taste test the salt level in uncooked meat, our rule of thumb is a ½ teaspoon kosher salt per pound of meat. It’s spot on when salting ground mixtures like meatballs and meatloaf. Remember, you can always add more at the table, but once it’s added you have to live with it. 

Bamboo skewers work just fine, but we like the flat metal skewers (about ⅜” wide) more than the thiner style for ground meat kebabs. The meat holds to the skewer better, and the metal helps cook the kebab from the inside. Plus, turning kebabs on the grill is easy with a wider skewer.


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