- First, a word about grinding. The kebabi and saté men I met on the barbecue trail grind their own meat from scratch, and time permitting I like to do the same. But I know that perfectly delicious results can be obtained with a lot less fuss and time by using preground meat, so that is what I call for in the recipes.
- If you do grind your own meat, use a fairly fatty cut (unless otherwise instructed), like shoulder (for lamb and pork) or chuck (for beef). Put it through the fine plate of the meat grinder (the plate with 1/8-inch holes).
- Sometimes I call for kneading the kebab mixture by hand, either over a low heat or at room temperature. Kneading (especially over heat) creates a smooth, tightly knit, almost spongy texture much prized by Central Asians. There is no need to knead unless instructed to do so in a recipe.
- Some of the recipes call for molding the ground meat onto skewers. In general, chilling the meat before molding it will make the task easier. If it is necessary to chill the meat, I note that in the recipe. I also like to chill the molded kebabs for 1 to 2 hours before grilling. This makes the meat less likely to fall off the skewers. Note that chilling is a luxury not available to many kebab and saté chefs in the Third World, who have no refrigeration. If you’re pressed for time, most of the koftas, kebabs, and satés in this chapter can be assembled and grilled without chilling. If you’re preparing the meat ahead of time, always refrigerate it until you’re ready to grill.
- The ground meat should go on flat skewers (available at Middle Eastern and Iranian markets see Mail-Order sources). Ideally the skewers will be 1/2 inch wide, but you can get away with using a 1/4-inch-wide skewer. Use slender metal or bamboo skewers only as a last resort the meat is more likely to fall off them.
- Because ground meat satés are fairly fragile, I suggest arranging them on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap as they are prepared. When I prepare larger kebabs, I rest both ends of the skewers on the sides of a roasting pan so that the meat is suspended. This prevents the kebabs from flattening out.
- I also recommend grilling ground meat kebabs "without a grate," a procedure in which the ends of the skewers rest on bricks or metal pipe so they are raised above the grate. This makes the kebabs less likely to stick and fall apart than if they’re placed directly on the grate.
If you’re in a hurry or you don’t have bricks or pieces of pipe, you can cook directly on the grate. Just remember to oil it well before adding the kebabs.
- Use tongs for turning the kebabs. (Try to hold the ends of the skewers, rather than the meat part, when turning.)
- To unskewer a ground meat kebab, do as an Iranian kebabi man does: Use a piece of pita bread or lavash as a pot holder. Gently pull the portion of meat toward you to loosen it, then push it away from you to unskewer.
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