Get a handle on kebabs. We've included eight recipes for seafood on skewers.

By Julia Dowling Rutland
September 04, 2002
Brit Huckabay

When humans first put fish to fire--back when sashimi wasn't atrend but a fact of life--it no doubt was on a stick. And it nodoubt was dull. Thankfully kebabs now get properly dressed: insavory sauces and ornamental skewers, adding flair to today'sgatherings.

To bathe fish in flavor, brush a marinade on the kebabs. Withfew exceptions, fish and shellfish are low in fat and can dry outwhen cooked, so the addition of butter or olive oil in the marinadekeeps seafood moist and prevents flesh from sticking to grillgrates. Fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel will baste in theirown natural oils to offer juicy, flavorful meat.

Presentation proves as important as the prep work. Of the manyskewer styles (usually wood or metal), wood or bamboo types are themost readily available and reasonably priced. Use versions 6 inchesor shorter for cooking appetizers, 10 inches and longer forentrées. Of course wood burns, so soak them in water for atleast 30 minutes before grilling. The natural texture of woodactually helps hold food on, but to avoid having food spin heaviestside down when you're flipping it, simply use two skewers. Mostwood skewers are disposable. Reusable skewers must be washedthoroughly after use, because porous wood can trap bacteria andgerms.

Metal skewers also come in many styles; flat or double-prongedmetal versions work well because the food is less likely to spin.Just remember the ends remain hot after cooking. Diners should usea fork to slide the food onto a plate.

Select thick, firm-textured fish for kebabs. Popular choicesinclude swordfish, tuna, and salmon. Purchase fish steaks so it'seasy to cut cubes. If you have a thin piece, leave the skin on; itkeeps the meat from falling off the skewer and peels off easilyafter cooking. Many fish, such as flounder and sole, are too thinand delicate for skewering. Unless prepared whole in a grillbasket, they'll fall apart.

Judith M. Fertig, coauthor of Fish & Shellfish, Grilled & Smoked (Harvard CommonPress, 2002), touts monkfish kebabs. "Monkfish has a lobsterlikeflavor and is easy to cut into chunks," she says, noting itspopularity in Spain and Portugal. Judith recommends mixingdifferent fish on a skewer for variety, but "make sure all piecesare the same size for even cooking." Also, leave space between thefish pieces when threading ingredients. "When the fish touches theveggies," she says, "it cooks slowly and unevenly."

To keep kebabs from sticking, spray the grill grate with cookingspray or brush with oil before heating. Be sure to preheat thegrill; fish is more likely to stick to a cold grate. And don'tforget that loaded kebabs are unwieldy. Use tongs to turn or removethem, being careful not to crush tender seafood. If the kebabs dostick, use a metal spatula to loosen them gently.

Finally, fish kebabs are done when the flesh goes fromtranslucent to opaque. At that point, you can see the fish start toflake. It's OK to peek with a fork or sharp knife.

Fishy Business
Thick, firm-textured fish works best for kebabs. Here are afew ideal choices:
cusk, halibut, kingfish, mahi mahi, monkfish, salmon,yellowtail snapper, striped bass, swordfish, tuna.

Let local availability, personal taste, and recommendations fromyour grocer dictate substitutions.