Summer is grilling time, but even in the middle of winter, home cooks sometimes get a hankering for chicken kabobs. They not only provide the foundation for an easy and yummy meal, but there’s something about running a sharp stick through a veggie or two as well as through the chicken that makes those veggies suddenly delectable to the kind of young chow hounds who otherwise wouldn't go near one. The best chicken kabobs hang out a while before cooking in a marinade, and the best chicken kabob marinade combines an acidic base to help tenderize the meat with a few well-chosen flavor enhancers.
A good chicken kabob marinade contains an acidic element, and the wise home cook mixes them in a nonmetal bowl while marinading the meat in a glass or ceramic container as well. Denser veggies like bell peppers and onions can go into the marinade with the meat. More delicate bites like cherry tomatoes should be added in the last 30 minutes. Either dried or fresh herbs can be used, but it’s important to know that dried herbs are more potent, so a lesser amount is adequate. Fresh herbs have a better chance of permeating the meat with their wonderful and various perfumes if they are minced by hand or tossed into a blender with the other ingredients.
A traditional shish kabob marinade works well with chicken too. It combines the sweetness of honey or brown sugar with soy’s deep flavor and a little olive oil as a base. The juice of a lemon provides acidity to help break down any meaty toughness with onion, garlic, and ginger for snap and a little cayenne or other hot pepper.
A variation on this chicken kabob marinade substitutes white or red wine vinegar for the lemon and a splash of steak sauce for the soy sauce. A good amount of minced onion and oregano or other herbs brings flavor to the fore. As with other chicken marinades, the meat needs to rest in the liquid at the very least for two full hours in order to absorb the flavors and to let the acidic base do its job.
Home cooks who want to Thai up their kabobs need only a few ingredients. Instead of lemon juice or vinegar as the acidic base, lime juice brings a citrusy high note. Mixed with olive or canola oil, a few shakes of soy sauce, and a little fish sauce as well, this chicken kabob marinade can also handle a spoonful of creamy peanut butter for those who like it.
Seasoned home cooks and newbies alike can experiment with chicken marinades without fear. Adding fresh ginger, orange zest, or fruit juice will subtly change the flavor. Unusual seasoning accompaniments like curry powder, jarred chutney or fruit preserves, or ground cinnamon can put a cook’s personal signature on an already very popular dish.