Barbecue skewers and BBQ grill baskets are both essential pieces of equipment for easy handling of meat when grilling.
We can split the types of barbecue skewers into two fundamentals,
wooden (bamboo) skewers and metal ones. Metal ones however can then be
broken out into further varieties such as flexible "fire wires" vertical sets (Gaucho & Espetada), flat & dual pronged (Churrasco) and Seekh kebab skewers. You can even buy skewers specially designed for hot dogs and marshmallows.
It really isn't a question of "either / or", it's more "how and what" you plan to cook as each type has it's own place and it also depends on the type of grill that you have got.
For example, metal barbecue skewers are generally longer than bamboo skewers and have a "handle" of some sorts to them. This makes metal great if you're grilling "open top" but if you have a grill with a lid (or a kamado) then cooking with metal skewers isn't going to work. Shorter bamboo barbecue skewers that you can turn with a set of tongs are perfect.
Bamboo skewers certainly look the part and are generally suited to most applications but there are a couple of points to watch when using bamboo skewers:-
Because they are not very long, bamboo barbecue skewers are ideal for when you are planning to grill on a barbecue that has a lid. If you are grilling lid down you need the whole skewer to fit under the lid otherwise you won't get a good smoke seal and you'll negate the impact of the top draft vent (if on a charcoal grill or ceramic kamado).
Despite being thin, bamboo BBQ skewers have a “friction” with the food so generally the food stays well on the skewer provided you keep the pieces of meat or veg to no more than 1 inch cubes.
If you cook on a Big Green Egg (or similar kamado) then bamboo skewers are ideal although there are two notable exceptions to this:-
If you really don't want bamboo barbecue skewers and want to use a metal skewer one a grill with a lid then the "fire wire" is the answer.
Thread your food onto the skewer and when complete, loop the tip of the skewer through the other end to create what looks like a lasso. The loop with the food on it is laid on the cooking grate and the tips are left "hanging on the outside of the grill after the lid has been closed.
These skewers work well on a kamado and there's also a novelty factor in the presentation of your kebab, just make sure that your grill grate has been well oiled (or use a Teflon mat) before you start cooking otherwise your food can stick and if you lift the wire quickly to turn over your food stays stuck to the grate and the wire rips though.
Because these barbecue skewers are flexible it means that you can thread your whole kebab before marinading and that saves a whole lot of mess. If you thread long metal skewers before marinading, you then need a long marinade bowl, with flexible wire skewers you thread and then just use any shaped bowl.
Avoid buying cheap thin metal skewers, they are a waste of time and money. If your
skewer is thin and circular in cross section your skewer will rotate
inside the food making it impossible to turn and cook on the other side.
Key points when choosing metal skewers:-
If you already have a set of thin barbecue skewers, don't worry, it's not the end of the world. The other way to create the friction that allows your food to turn with the skewer is to make sure that your food is cooked through to the centre before making the first turn. When food cooks it contracts as it dehydrates and when it reaches this stage it will "fix" itself more readily to the skewer so the trick is just to be patient before making that first turn of your food. It does however mean that your kebab is always going to be well done.
TIP - If grilling vertically (eg. tandoori cooking) then place a slice of potato on the end of the skewer and this will eliminate the risk of your meat sliding off into the coals.
These guys are basically the ones to go for. There are two types
The critical features of this type of skewer are that it has a large flat blade. In other words it is basically designed to do the job that is was intended to do. Many of the well crafted examples feature a rotator ring close to the handle end and a tapered tip and these are designed to fit in a traditionally designed churrasqueira (the metal support for the skewers that sits over the coals.
You don't necessarily need to go for the "full monty", check out this set of 6 as an example.
For cooking larger hunks of meat, look no further than the churrasco skewer fork.
The Gaucho barbecue originates from the South of Brazil. Meat is arranged on the vertical gaucho BBQ skewers and set around the campfire, it's then a long cookout and the meat is cut and eaten as and when you like.
This style of barbecue would typically be a communal all day affair and a most relaxed way of cooking a serious hunk of beef.
A serious skewer or just one for the kids? Well we all need a bit of family fun every now and then right?
Indian skewers feature a square cross sectional spike rather than a
flat blade but the principle is the same in that this larger surface
area allows the meat to better grip the skewer as it cooks. Tandoori skewers typically have a looped handle similar to a shepherd's crook.
The last one to cover is the Portuguese Espetada and again this really isn't different from a technical point of view, it more refers to the style of serving. Typically an Espetada is cooked in the normal way over a charcoal grill but the difference is that it is served at the table suspended from a stand. Diners can then slice of pieces of meat at their leisure.
The best quality and most diverse range that I have found is made by a company called Super Skewer. Use the link to visit their Amazon store.
I think that the first barbecue grill tool I ever bought was a BBQ grill basket whilst on holiday in Portugal. Fish was the order of the day on that occasion.
The fishermen were bringing their catches back into port around about lunch time and on the deck there would be a small barbecue grill with a few coals in the bottom and lying on top in the BBQ grill basket were some of the freshest sardines you can imagine – fantastic.
BBQ grill baskets come in all shapes and sizes (the one above is designed for a fish) so I’m sure you’ll end up buying a few in your barbecuing life so to start you off here’s just a couple of pointers to get you going:-
The one negative to these baskets is clean up. Soak them for a while in soapy water to loosen any charred on food and than go at them with a wire pad. It's a small negative compared with loosing your fish into the coals!
TIP - If your basket has hinge rings (they don’t stand much pressure) strengthen the joint using a couple of key rings. This is essential when doing the spatchcock chicken, if you don’t the basket will just ping apart.
These veggie BBQ baskets make cooking vegetables really easy and put an end to using the hotplate. All you do is chop or slice your veggies and pop them in the basket, you can do all sorts even cauliflower & broccoli.
The basket is made of stainless steel and is perforated to let the juices out during cooking. Just a couple of tips for you on using this style of BBQ basket
Clean up is pretty simple, just warm soapy water, let it soak and then give it a scrub.