How to make tender, juicy pork skewers on the grill, the griddle or in the oven.
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Read on for relevant information and step-by-step pictures (1 min)
Pork Skewers Are All About The Right Cut of Meat
The best cut of pork for skewers is without a shadow of a doubt from the pig’s shoulder. Pork tenderloin could work too, but is not ideal. Look for one of these options:
- shoulder blade area – buy a pork steak ready shoulder blade roast or boneless country style ribs (which are not ribs at all, but just called this way)
- the neck part which sits on top of the shoulder and on its own is known as pork neck fillet or pork collar
These cuts are most suitable to use for pork skewers for a few very compelling reasons:
- rich in flavor
- generously marbled – won’t dry out, finish tender
- easy to find
Ingredients for Pork on Skewers
- Pork cubes. Be sure to cut your choice of pork shoulder in uniform, about 1.5 inch cubes. They will cook more evenly.
- Marinade. The ingredients will depend on your choice of marinade (see options below). We like to include beer when grilling pork skewers.
- Skewers. See the notes below.
Pork Skewer Marinades
- Marinating the cubed pork flavors its surface.
- Keep the meat in the marinade bowl or bag for at least 1 hour and as long as overnight.
- For grilled pork skewers avoid marinades that include too much sugar or other sweeteners as they will easily burn once in contact with the hot surface of the grill, grill pan or griddle.
- For inspiration take a look at these Pork Marinade Recipes
Choice of Skewers for Pork Kabobs
By far the best performing skewers are made of stainless steel and have a blade shape. The length can vary. They are easy to turn, clean and maintain.
Round skewers are inferior in that they do not hold food very well and make it frustrating and difficult to turn the pork kabobs (the skewer itself turns, while the food doesn’t).
Disposable wooden skewers such as bamboo even when soaked in water are not a good solution for meat kabobs. It takes about 30 seconds on the grill or in the oven for their ends to dry out and in the case of pork kebabs they are likely to catch on fire, whether on the grill or in the oven.
TIP: If using soaked bamboo skewers do this to be on the safe side – after you thread the pork and any other vegetables on them wrap the ends with a bit of aluminum foil.
Workflow – Grilled Pork Kabobs (including Grill Pan or Griddle)
- Cube the pork. Trim the excess fat from the piece of pork shoulder you selected. Cut into about 1.5 inch cubes.
- Marinate. Prepare the marinade. Smother the cubed pork with it and let it soak refrigerated for a couple of hours, overnight works particularly well.
- Thread the skewers. Bring the pork to room temperature. Prep the onions (and/or peppers if using) by cutting into appropriately sized pieces to match the pork cubes. Skewer the meat and onions alternating between meat and vegetable as you thread.
- Grill/BBQ. Heat the grill to medium-hot and lightly brush the grill grates with oil before you place the skewers on. Alternatively heat up a lightly greased grill pan or a griddle over medium-high heat. Place the skewers onto the hot surface. Be patient before you lift them to turn them for the very first time – initially the meat is likely to stick to the surface and will gradually release as it begins to char. Grill on all sides until the pork cubes are tender and nicely charred, no need to use a thermometer.
Workflow – Pork Skewers in the Oven
The process here is largely the same and differs only in the last phase, the actual cooking of the skewers.
- Prep. Follow all the steps through threading the skewers. Preheat your oven to 375-400 F, depending on its calibration (how strong it tends to be).
- Bake & broil. Place the threaded skewers onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, about 1 inch apart at least. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until tender, turning once or twice. Switch to the broiler and broil the skewers for a couple of minutes, until the meat has a nicely browned crust. Turn frequently to make sure the surface doesn’t burn.
Flavors Themes and Variations for Pork Skewers
- Pineapple Pork Skewers. Use the Al Pastor marinade from this list and alternate fresh pineapple cubes with marinated pork.
- Filipino Pork Skewers. These popular pork kebabs are often made with pork belly, even fattier than shoulder. The authentic marinade includes a banana ketchup, below is a simplified version. Reserve a third of the marinade to use as a glaze.
- Mix together: 1 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup lime soda, juice of 1 lemon, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 tbsp sriracha sauce, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.
- Vietnamese Pork Skewers. Use the Vietnamese marinade with fish sauce from this list and skewers pork cubes only.
- Souvlaki Pork Skewers. For these Greek style pork kebabs the marinade is all about the oregano, the most Greek herb of them all.
- Use this souvlaki marinade recipe and accompanying ladolemono dressing.
- Balsamic Mushroom Pork Skewers. Be sure to reserve 2 tbsp from the marinade to brush over white button or cremini mushrooms about 1 hour before you skewer. Do not marinate the mushrooms with the pork. Alternate pork cubes and mushrooms.
- Mix together: 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper.
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- 2 lbs of boneless pork shoulder*
- 1 large onion
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup flavorful beer (craft pale ale, German dunkel, etc)
- 7-8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
PREPARE THE PORK SKEWERS
1. Trim excess fat from the pork shoulder and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes.
2. Make a marinade by mixing the marinade ingredients. In a non-reactive container or freezer bag combine the cubed pork with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to overnight. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
3. Cut the onion into thick chunks similar in size to the size of the pork cubes. Thread the skewers** by alternating onions and pork.
GRILLED PORK SKEWERS
1. Heat your gas grill to medium-hot and lightly brush with oil before you place the skewers on. For charcoal grill wait until the coals turn white. Alternatively heat up a lightly greased grill pan or a griddle over medium-high heat.
2. Place the skewers onto the hot surface. Grill on all sides until the pork cubes are tender and nicely charred. Be patient before you lift them to turn them for the very first time – initially the meat is likely to stick to the surface and will gradually release as it begins to char.
OVEN BAKED PORK SKEWERS
1. Preheat your oven to 375 - 400 F depending on how strong you know it to be. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the skewers on top about 1 inch apart.
2. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the pork is tender, turning once or twice. Turn on the broiler and broil the skewers for the last couple of minutes for a nicely browned finish. Turn frequently to make sure the surface doesn’t burn.
Serve the skewers garnished with fresh herbs and charred lemon - a little citrusy squeeze really brightens up the flavors of the pork skewers. Remind everyone to handle them with caution - the ends will be hot!
*The best cut of pork for skewers is from around the shoulder area. Look for boneless country style ribs, pork steak, boneless pork shoulder roast or pork neck fillet.
**The best skewers for pork are stainless steel with a blade shape. They perform well - easy to turn, easy to clean and maintain.
Avoid round skewers. They do not hold pork very well and make it frustrating and difficult to turn the kebabs (the skewer itself turns, while the meat doesn’t).
If you must use disposable bamboo skewers be aware that even once soaked their ends will promptly dry out on the grill or in the oven. To avoid them catching on fire wrap the ends with aluminum foil after you thread the pork and onions.
Consider these alternative PORK MARINADE RECIPES
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 423Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 102mgSodium: 369mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 27g