The Secret to Perfect Shish Kabobs

~ Grilled kabobs are so much better with this easy trick! Whether you grill steak, chicken, veggies, or any other kabobs … here’s all you need to know! ~

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Ok, all you backyard cookout masters … we hope you won’t hate us for what we’re about to say. But it’s true …

You know the classic grilled combo – steak or chicken with peppers, onions, mushrooms, summer squash and tomatoes? Yeah, well it just never should’ve been shoved all together onto a skewer. *Gasp!*

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But wait. Let us explain.

Sure, those flavors are delicious together. And a kabob with grill-marked meat and colorful veggies is picnic eye candy. We get all that.

But, attempting to thread so many different foods onto one skewer – all with entirely different cook times – it’s just not a great plan. What do you end up with? Perfectly done meat (hopefully!). But also undercooked peppers, nearly raw onions, rubbery mushrooms, and utterly overcooked tomatoes that burst into a pile of mush as soon as they hit the plate. Yum? No, not so much.

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So the meat is cooked perfectly, but nothing else is quite right. Does one victory and three failures sound like a successful dinner? No? We didn’t think so either.

We finally gave up on the dream of multi-ingredient shish kabobs. There just had to be a better way.

And there is!

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So, here’s the secret: Simply thread each skewer with all the same type of ingredient! Some skewers have only meat, some have only peppers, others have only squash … you get the idea. You can grill each skewer for exactly the amount of time it needs. Brilliant!

Just picture it: your beef and chicken are seared and juicy, your onions are cooked to the point of sweetness yet are still a little firm, your peppers have some great grill marks and just a bit of crunch, and those pesky tomatoes are gently warmed without turning mushy. Mmmmmmm … now that’s what you really wanted to eat when you decided to grill shish kabobs, right?

We know – you’ve probably got mixed emotions about this idea. It sounds so delicious, yet you love the way traditional shish kabobs look – each skewer with its pretty variety of colors. But dinner should be delicious … and everything should be cooked just the right way!

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For parties and cookouts, try a new vision for presenting impressive, perfectly cooked kabobs. Remove everything from the skewers and mound them onto a serving platter so guests can choose the meat and veggies they’d like.

And really, if you’re just cooking a casual meal for your family – make life easier and simply take the skewers to the table. Everyone can remove what they want from the kabobs. It’s not as showy as a bountiful serving platter, but it’s quick and easy and still tastes fantastic!

Bonus: pickier eaters won’t waste food because they’re not stuck with skewers that include stuff they don’t like. (No, your three-year-old doesn’t have to eat a mushroom today!) Everyone can select exactly the meal they really want to eat. Now that’s a beautiful dinner!

Here are a few more tips to ensure the most miraculous shish kabobs ever:

  • Make sure you cut your ingredients to consistent sizes so they cook uniformly. Have you ever seen kabobs (like the disappointing example below, from a local grocery store) that are threaded with completely uneven sizes? Some of the chunks are huge enough to feed a dinosaur, and others are so small they’ll be incinerated in a flash. What was the plan here?
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This is from our local store. Everything is cut to different sizes, and there is no breathing room between the food!
Needless to say, it didn’t turn out well.

  • Leave a little space between each piece on the skewer. Don’t jam them too tightly together or they won’t cook in the middle. They need some room!

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  • You know how some foods twirl loosely on the skewer when you try to flip them while grilling? No problem! Just thread them onto two skewers!

So, how long should you cook everything? Well, that depends on how powerful your grill is, how done you like your meat, and how crunchy you like your peppers and onions. The whole point is – you’re in charge of your own shish kabob destiny! In general, though:

  • Mushrooms require a surprisingly long cook time, and you’ll probably want to put them on the grill even before you add the meat.
  • Unless you like raw onions, they need to cook longer, too, but avoid really high heat or they will char before they start to turn soft and sweet.
  • Tomatoes need just a minute or two. Turn the skewers a couple of times to snag a few grill marks and allow the tomatoes to get a tiny bit warm. Take them off long before the dreaded mush stage!

And there you have it! The secret (plus lots of bonus tips – yay!) for grilling perfect shish kabobs! Happy Labor Day, friends! Be safe and eat REALLY well this holiday weekend!

THK Signature Gretchen & Shelley cropped

We’d Love to Hear From You!

Labor Day is kinda the unofficial end of summer (boooooo!!!!). We have both had a fantastic summer of family vacations, swimming, backyard bonfires, cookouts, and games of night tag (well … that would be our kids, not us – can you just picture us running around in a firefly-filled yard playing tag with our friends!?!?). So this week’s question: What was your A-number-one, favorite moment of this summer?

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Looking for More Easy Grilling Ideas? Check Out Our:

The Secret to Perfect Shish Kabobs

Preparation varies 2017-08-17T00:00:00+00:00 Cook Time varies 2017-08-17T00:00:00+00:00


  • Canola oil for prepping grill

Your choice of

  • Marinades or seasonings
  • Meats like chicken and beef
  • Veggies like peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, and grape or cherry tomatoes


  1. Cut your meat and vegetables to uniform sizes and marinate ahead of time, if desired.
  2. Clean your grill if needed. Oil the grates (preferably using a canola-soaked, wadded paper towel).
  3. Preheat the grill on medium to medium-high.
  4. Meanwhile, season meat and vegetables as desired and thread them onto skewers, making sure to leave a little room between each item and not crowd them too closely together. Remember to thread all the same type of ingredient onto each skewer, keeping ingredients separate so you can control their cooking.
  5. Add kabobs to the grill and turn them or move them to cooler/hotter parts of the grill as needed until each item reaches the desired doneness. Remember that tomatoes need just a brief couple of minutes, so you'll want to reserve them until the end of cooking.
  6. If any kabobs are done before others, keep them warm on a plate, covered with foil, until all skewers are done cooking.
  7. To serve, take finished kabobs to the table and let everyone un-skewer the food they would like. Alternately, for a nice presentation, un-skewer all of the cooked items onto a large serving platter and present that at the table for guests to pass and serve themselves as desired.


Recipe Notes

For foods that tend to rotate on the skewers, which can make turning the kabobs difficult, simply run two skewers (rather than just one) through the chunks of food prior to grilling.

We'd love to see your photos of this recipe! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and tag @TwoHealthyKitchens!


Our The Secret to Perfect Shish Kabobs recipe has been mentioned or featured in:
Everything on a Stick at Palmetto Outdoor Kitchens
The Secret to Perfect Shish Kabobs at Eat and Exercise
Healthy Kitchen Hacks #16 – Grilling Edition at Teaspoon of Spice
March is National Nutrition Month: Tips for Eating & Living Healthy at Healthy Indian River
End Of Summer Feast at Not In Brooklyn
Weeknight Entertaining Made Easy (aka the Not-So-Formal Summer Dinner Party) at The Blue Plate and Cobalt Platter


The Secret to Perfect Shish Kabobs — 30 Comments

  1. I am having Easter for 8 adults. I am wanting to have my butcher
    cut Angus boneless sirloin tip for beef kebobs. If I marinate over night, will it be tender? I am grilling it on a gas grill?

    • Mmmmmm … sounds like a delicious Easter dinner! My initial thought is that your plan should work well – as long as you don’t grill the sirloin too long so that the meat becomes tough simply from overcooking. Sirloin is often considered to be a good choice for grilling. But, I definitely don’t feel like I’m as qualified as your butcher would be to suggest which cuts would be best for the kabob recipe you’re making (plus, they might have a special that would save you some cash). So, while you’re there and before you have them cut the sirloin, I would ask the butcher and have the staff at your meat store help you decide for sure. Good luck, and Happy Easter! ~Shelley

    • Thanks for sharing your technique, too, David! And definitely – if it works well for you, that’s exactly how you should keep right on doing it! Mmmmmm … pineapple kabobs sound delish right about now, as I’m craving grilled foods and wishing spring would hurry and arrive! ~Shelley

      • Extremely important: have handy some melted REAL BUTTER (NOT MARGARINE), and a natural bristles brush 2inch or even 2-1/2 inch (buy a good quality one from Home Depot, don’t worry it’s new and good for foods just wash it good before use)
        And as your food grills gently brush it with the melted butter, trust me you will never go back to regular dry grilling. ENJOY.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this great information.. I found these results just in time to make my 1st attempt a successful one.

  3. Loved your ideas about the shish ka bob. One question. What is the best cut of beef to use for the tenderest shish ka bobs? We have tried several and have never really found one that is consistent.

    • Hi Rick! Because the beef will cook for only a short period of time, you want to begin with a cut that’s already pretty tender (not a tough cut that would benefit from long, slow cooking). Maybe try a tenderloin or top sirloin. Some people even like using filet mignon if you can snag a really good price. I’d recommend asking your butcher what he or she recommends that day – what’s best at the counter and most tender for shish kabobs. Also, if you’re having trouble finding consistently good, successful choices, you might want to chat with your butcher about that, too – a good butcher should have pretty consistent quality and should be able to recommend solutions if you’re having trouble getting consistently good results. Marinading can help, and be sure not to overcook the beef. Even great, tender beef can turn into shoe leather if it’s overcooked. I poked around on the Internet for you, and found a couple more brief articles if you’d like to do some further reading: here and here.

      I hope all of that helps a bit! Good luck, and have a wonderful Fourth of July! 😀 ~ Shelley

  4. I found your blog after making “traditional” kabobs last night. While we were eating them, I came to the realization that all of that different stuff DOES NOT belong on the same skewer! I googled “the problem with shish-kabobs” hoping to find someone with the same theory, and it brought me directly to you. I will never make mixed kabobs again …I only wish I had seen you blog before last night!

    • Hi Corrie! Aaaahhhhh – we wish you had found us before your dinner, too! Everything cooks at different times … so while those mixed kabobs look kinda pretty, they don’t usually turn out so well. The next time you make kabobs (since you know the secret now! 🙂 ), be sure to let us know how they turn out! Oh! And don’t forget the double skewer trick for mushrooms – so they won’t roll around! Thanks for stopping by and we hope to hear from you again soon! Have a great day!! 😀 ~G&S

    • lol. i totally agree. i made kabobs for the first time two weeks ago and they looked exactly like the bad picture thats posted! and during the time i was putting them together i was thinking..this just isnt right for the exact reasons you posted! honestly though, i think i am just going to stick w/my home made foil pockets….i know ..foil. oh well. works better for me because my husband likes to char everything and i dont. 🙂

    • Hi, Kathy! Thanks for your question! This technique is designed to work with whatever marinade or spice rub you regularly use or whatever specific recipe you might want to try. We personally use this anytime we’re making any sort of shish kabob. So, yes – you can absolutely use a marinade. The main goal here is simply to separate the ingredients (whether marinated, seasoned with a spice rub, etc.) so that each ingredient cooks perfectly! Hope that helps! 😀 ~G&S

  5. Hey Gretchen – I found your blog!! After seeing all your super nice and hilarious comments on Hangry Tales, I knew I had to find the source. And omg I’m glad I did – you ladies are so fun and talented! I love the story of meeting at back to school night and then ending up friends and co-bloggers. I love that you have families and you still manage to cook such awesome-looking, healthy meals!! It’s very inspiring to me since I got married last year and always have these kinds of things on the brain! 😉 I’m so excited to follow your blog!

    • Hi Kristin!! Yay! So glad you found your way here! 😀
      You are so, so sweet – thank you for the kind words!! Shelley and I have so much fun together – it makes this adventure even more awesome! Congratulations on getting married!! Our husbands and families are our biggest supporters (hmmm … I think it helps that we are always having them taste test our foods)!
      We’re excited you stopped by! 🙂

  6. Each different ingredient on a different skewer??? Now that’s just crazy talk! No, it is. It’s brilliant!!! Let me ask you…where have you been all my life? A definite must try. p.s. can you tell me why my head doesn’t think like that? Grrr! So smart and it went right past me.

    • Hi, Kristi! You’re totally hilarious! Oh – and your head DOES think like that – it’s just so busy coming up with all the awesome ideas for your own blog (which we totally love, BTW!). That poor little noggin can’t think of everything! 😀 So glad our noggins could help you out! ~G&S

  7. Fabulous tips and explanation! So, so glad you mentioned the whole shish kabob conundrum–it is SO true. Unfortunately, as pretty as they look all together, it just simply does not work. Whenever I see them all pre-made at a grocery store, I can’t help but cringe at the thought of people making them at home and ended up with either raw/or completely overcooked components.

    • Laura, you are so right! When I was shopping at one of our local grocery stores the other day, I noticed their shish kabobs and it was almost as though the store had tried to make them as haphazard and random as possible! All different sized pieces, jammed too tightly together – no matter how yummy the marinade, no way were those going to cook up beautifully! Such a disappointment for someone, and at a ridiculously high price tag. Bummer, right!?!? ~ Shelley

  8. This is definitely dinner tonight! Shish kabobs are my favorite. They make my meat eaters happy and I get all the veggies I want 😀 I totally agree kabobs look very pretty with the meats and veggies mixed together, but they just don’t cook well. A squishy veggie ruins it for me. I skewer separately and serve a on platter like you 😀 My kids think they can be sneaky and skip the mushrooms and peppers. Silly guys don’t realize a Mommy can see everything 😀

    • Ah, yes! A mommy can see everything! I used to tell my kiddos that when they were born, my eyes got much stronger, and I even have eyes in the back of my head! My youngest looked (more than once!) through all my hair trying to find my ‘extra eyes!’ And I’m sure you’ve heard – “Silence is golden, until you have kids. Then it means trouble!” Those extra mommy eyes (and ears!) sure do come in handy …
      Pretty sure squishy vegetables would ruin everyone’s dinner! We love that everything gets cooked to perfection! Bonus – it actually tastes better when it’s done just right! ~Gretchen

  9. I think your tips are outstanding, as is your photography! Great job Shelley (and Gretchen). You have proved that you CAN teach an ole dawg new tricks!!!!
    love, Sandy

    • Ha! Well, Gretchen isn’t so much of a dog person, but I surely am! When it comes to teaching new tricks, I’ll bet you’re waaaaay easier than a strong-willed, feisty terrier (and I won that battle, too!). Seriously, though – so glad you’re enjoying our posts! Thanks a million for stopping by to comment! ~Shelley

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