Shish Kabob – The Ancient Art of Grilling

Shish Kabob

The words shish kabob come from the Turkish language where shish refers to a sword or skewer.

It is thought that the name originated from medieval soldier’s cooking habits. 

They were known to skewer meat on their swords, and then cook the meat over an open fire 

Popular right across the Mediterranean, shish kabob, also spelled shish kebab, is a regular meal for many in the Levant.

This shish kabob recipe is the traditional preparation with a marinade for this timeless meal.

What is Shish Kabob?

Shish Kabob

Simply put, a shish kabob is a skewer of meat chunks cooked over an open flame grill, or oven.

Beef kabobs are cut into squares often from top sirloin steak, marinated and put on wooden skewers.

Lamb is also another very popular choice of meat for this method of cooking over the grill.

Regardless of the cut of meat you choose, the cooking process applies to the same great recipe.

Marinated beef or lamb cubes are placed on skewers keeping as much marinade on them as possible.

The lamb or steak kabobs are then grilled over an open flame, charcoal, or in the oven. 

If cooking over charcoal wait until the heat dies down since it’s better not to cook these over high heat.

Look for a three second hand count over the charcoal for a temp of between 425-450ºF (220-230ºC)

How to Make Shish Kabob

Shish Kabob

The marinade I use is an unusual one outside the Middle East.

It is made up of parsley, onions, pepper, salt with a little bit of olive oil and vinegar.

Lemon juice is optional, and some people use soy sauce instead of adding salt.

Marinate the meat for at least two hours and up to 24 hours (in the fridge) to give it extra flavor. 

Traditionally the meat is cooked without any vegetables on the same skewer.

Plenty of vegetables are definitely cooked alongside the meat over the open grill.

However, it has become more common to see vegetables alongside beef shish kabob on the same skewer. 

Popular vegetables that go with the kabob are onions, bell pepper, mushroom and tomatoes.

I like using onions, and red bell peppers as the vegetables on my skewers.

If you choose to use wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes.

This will keep the skewers from bursting into flames, they may still get charred but they won’t fall apart.

After soaking the skewers begin to thread the chunks of meat, alternating with vegetables if you choose.

I like to make a mixture, some all meat, some mixed and some all vegetables.

Best Way to Cook Kabobs

Shish Kabob

I like to cook my skewered meats on a grill whenever I get the chance to.

It’s not always possible to grill out, and therefore the oven is probably your best alternative.

The oven will of course do a great job, but the smoky flavor will be missing.

Just pop the meat on the skewers then onto a tray, and put in the oven preheated to 400ºF (200ºC).

Turn once or twice, and cook to your preferred temperature.

In the Middle East, people tend to prefer meat to be cooked well done.

I tend to like to cook mine to a temperature of medium, to medium rare.

Cooking Temperatures

Internal temperatures are the guides chefs use when aiming for a particular doneness of meat.

There are typically five levels meat can be cooked to for the varying tastes of diners.

Rare – Internal temperature of 125-130ºF (52-54ºC). The outside will be seared, with a cool bright red center.

Medium-Rare – Internal temperature of 130-140ºF (54-60ºC). Outside is seared, slight red color, with a bit of a firmer texture.

Medium – Internal temperature of 140-150ºF (60-66ºC). Outside is seared, with a pink firm center.

Medium-Well – Internal temperature of 150-155ºF (66-68ºC) Outside slightly crusted with slight pink color. 

Well-Done – Internal temperature of 160ºF plus (71ºC plus) Crispy on the outside, no pink center. Meat has a firm texture. 

Best Cuts of Meat to Use for Kabob

I use either lamb on beef pretty interchangeably when it comes to using this recipe.

Both types of meat are perfectly appropriate to use on your grill (or in your oven) with this marinade.

The difference in flavor and tenderness of the meat will come down to what kind of cuts are used.

The tenderloin will probably be the most tender of cuts, but not necessarily the most flavorful. 

Another downside for tenderloin is the price tag, it is usually an expensive cut of meat.

Sirloin for both beef and lamb are also good choices too that will include a little more fat giving additional flavor.

And sirloin is also easier on the pocketbook, giving you good flavor, and texture. 

Shish Kabob

Shish Kabob Recipe

Popular right across the Mediterranean, this shish kabob recipe is the traditional preparation with a marinade for this timeless meal.
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern
Keyword: BBQ, Beef, Kebab, Lamb
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marinating time (optional): 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 267kcal


  • 1 lb Meat Chunks beef or lamb
  • 2 Red Bell Peppers cut into chunks
  • 1 Onion cut into chunks

For the Marinade

  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion minced
  • ½ bunch Parsley finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Vinegar


  • Make the marinade by mixing all the ingredients together.
  • Add the chicken, and mix well.
  • Allow to marinate for better flavor, if you choose.
  • Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes.
  • Thread meat and vegetables onto skewers.
  • Grill over charcoal to your desired internal temperature.
  • Or bake on a tray in an oven preheated to 400ºF (200ºC).



Calories: 267kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 654mg | Potassium: 643mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2470IU | Vitamin C: 90mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 3mg

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