Grab Hold of Skewers

While it may appear a bit "unrefined," eating food on a stick takes us back to a time when utensils didn't exist. Whether you call them skewers, brochettes or pinchos, cooking and serving a variety of foods speared by long sticks can be a fun, simple and healthy way to add flair to your next meal.

One of the most widely known uses of skewers is for cooking the Turkish classic, shish kebabs. Directly translated as "gobbets of roasted meat," traditional kebabs are made of bite-sized pieces of marinated lamb, beef, chicken, seafood or seasoned vegetables. Foods are threaded onto thin skewers and roasted or grilled over blazing coals or an open flame.

Several variations of the shish kebab can be found around the globe, including French-style en brochette dishes that may include shrimp and vegetables. Indonesian satays typically have meat paired with a savory dipping sauce. Spanish and Latin American tapas-style  often combine meat, vegetables and bread.

Used for both cooking and serving food, skewers are typically made of wood or metal. Wood and bamboo varieties are generally intended for single use and should be soaked in water for 20 to 30 minutes prior to cooking to prevent charring or burning. Some cooks forgo water and soak skewers in juice, beer, wine, herb marinades or soy sauce to infuse foods with extra flavor as they cook. Metal rods, on the other hand, are sturdy and reusable. Handle these skewers with cooking mitts, as they absorb a lot of heat while lying on the grill.

Cooking with skewers is a unique way to serve flavorful, lower-calorie, portion-controlled meals. Since grilling and roasting require minimal added oil, fat and calories stay low. Given the limited amount of food each skewer can hold, portions are automatically controlled. Approximately one to four ounces of sliced or cubed meat, seafood or extra-firm tofu fits on each skewer, and smaller portions allow for added vegetables such as bell peppers, mushrooms and onions. Alternating between pieces of meat and fresh vegetables brightens up the dish while enhancing the nutrition and flavor of each kebab. Go sweet and grill fruit such as pineapple, peach and mango, or make fresh or frozen fruit kebabs using grapes, strawberries and kiwi. Be creative with the foods you add to skewers — the results will be both delicious and nutritious.

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Christy Wilson
Christy Wilson, RD, is a health and nutrition writer, recipe developer and nutrition consultant. Based out of Tucson, AZ, she is a nutrition counselor at the University of Arizona and at a local HIV clinic where she also teaches a monthly cooking class. Read her blog and recipes at ChristyWilsonNutrition.com and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.