Meat Grinders and Kebab Skewers, Oh My!
My husband Will is just like a kid with a new toy when it comes to gadgets—especially those associated with grilling. A few weeks ago, we used our Discover Card reward points with Amazon to get a Food Grinder Attachment for our Kitchenaid. We almost immediately started grinding beef for hamburgers, conveniently forgetting our new-found commitment to vegetarian cooking.
Then, once the initial enthusiasm of home-ground burgers wore off, Will started shopping online for kebab skewers. The fact is, we frequent an Afghan restaurant where we enjoy excellent Mantoo and heavenly Bulani and hearty lentil soup, but Will is never quite satisfied with their kebabs. There is something primally satisfying about the smell of the kebabs, but he is invariably disappointed because the actual kebabs don’t really have “char marks,” the sure sign for him that meat is grilled.
The last time we visited the restaurant, we asked for the Murgh Kubideh (ground chicken kebabs) to be “charred.” The server said that indeed they can make sure the kebabs were “well done.” They were well done—and tasty—but they were, alas, not charred. We asked an Iranian friend of ours about this, and she told us that the meat is molded on to flat wide skewers and cooked OVER (not ON) the grill and thus are more rotisserie-like. Indeed, when we actually consulted Steven Raichlen’s How To Grill, we discovered the same thing. Luckily, a quick search online yielded Steven Raichlen’s “extra-wide” kebab skewers. One click, and we were soon on our way to making our own kebabs!
A nice thing about having our own grinder is that we can now purchase those 6-pound chuck roasts from Costco without being concerned that they would never get consumed. So, you could get a large pack and use half for a Boeuf Bourgignone, and then freeze the rest in packs for grinding later since the grinding works just as well with defrosted meat as with fresh. In fact, that was one strong advantage of grinding your own meat. I’m always slightly dismayed to see how pale brown—and not appetizingly blood red!—defrosted ground beef gets. Somehow, even the defrosted meat looked better once the pieces went through the grinder.
Just make sure that you cut out all the visible gristle and as much (or as little) fat as you desire for your ground meat. Then you push through a food mill with a stick they provide. There are two disks—one for coarser and one for finer grinding—and you typically use both (coarse first, and then fine) for your meat.
TIP: I would definitely suggest that you invest the little bit of time to stop and remove and clean the disk if it starts getting too congested with gristle. It’s faster in the long run to clean and replace than to continue to push through tiny unclogged remnants of holes.
Then, you mix the ground meat (beef, lamb, or mixture of both) with onion, parsley, mint, salt and pepper, and a little cinnamon—for the recipe we used—and then carefully mold them onto wide flat skewers. Ours are 3/8 of an inch wide, and you might even want to go wider. The kebabs are then placed OVER racks placed on top of the grill such that the delicate meat doesn’t directly touch the grill (and possibly stick to the grill or fall off the skewers). Then, as the meat gets cooked, you rotate the skewers—like a manual rotisserie.
And, yes, I could tell by Will’s satisfied face as we dug into our kebabs: He took the skewers off the racks for the final minutes of cooking so that they could get some direct “char marks” from the grill.