Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Koobideh Kabobs (AKA Ricky Channels His Inner MacGuyver)

Lets just acknowledge that some foods are more photogenic
than others and move on with our lives, OK?
You've probably made kabobs before. They're really easy to make, and just about everyone likes them. You stick some chunks of meat and vegetables on a few sticks and throw them on the grill, and you're done. Most restaurants that serve kabobs also have a type that you probably haven't made, though. They're called "koobideh" (along with about fifteen other slight spelling variations.) Koobideh are made from ground meat and spices wrapped around a skewer and grilled in the same way as other kabobs.

They're already paleo without making any adjustments, and they're also a good way for me to curb my never-ending craving for steak without setting off Miriam's "steak, again?!!" alarm bells. Since the recipe is really simple, I thought I'd take the opportunity to grind my own meat. If you don't have a meat grinder, you can just use hamburger from the store, but sometimes I like to get crazy with the kitchen tools.

Also, you may have noticed in the picture that I didn't wrap the koobideh around regular skewers. There's a very good reason for that. Most standard skewers aren't really wide enough to handle koobideh very well. As the meat cooks, it shrinks a little, and eventually a standard skewer will just spin inside the meat without letting you turn the kabob. If you, like me, don't have a set of super wide skewers, you've got a couple of options. You could use popsicle sticks. You could also use those bamboo chopsticks that come connected to each other (don't separate them). If you use either of those, make sure to soak them in water for a while before putting them on the grill. I decided to use some of the cheap butter knives that I've got hanging around my kitchen. They're about the right length, and they're wide and flat, so they help turn the meat even after it's cooked.

Skewer vs. butter knife. Notice how much wider the knife is.

That beef actually is grass-fed and organic. It cost about a million dollars.


1 to 1 1/4 lbs hamburger (I ground my own, you can use pre-ground if you want.)
1 tbs minced onion flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp turmeric


Meat Grinder (If you're grinding the meat yourself)
Large Bowl
Wide Skewers (or an appropriate substitute)
Grill or Grill Pan

If you're grinding the meat yourself, you need to cut it into 1 to 2 inch cubes so that it will fit into the grinder. Leave the fat on the meat; it will help make the kabobs juicier.

The size isn't really important. You just need to get it small enough to shove into the grinder.

Add the onion flakes, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and turmeric to the meat before grinding it.

Adding the spices now is the easiest way to get them mixed into the meat.
The grinder does all the work for you.

Add the meat to your grinder and follow it's instructions to grind the meat. (With mine, I turn it on and start slowly feeding the meat into it, then the hamburger comes out the other end. Yours probably works similarly)

Put the meat in along with all its spices...
and seasoned hamburger comes out the other end.

If you've been grinding your own, your hamburger should now be seasoned and sitting in a large bowl. If you bought your hamburger pre-ground, you should put it into a large bowl with all of the spices and use your hands to mix everything together.

Make sure that the spices are evenly distributed through the meat.

Now, use your hands to form the hamburger into tubes around your skewers. You'll need to pack the meat pretty tight to make it stay put. Depending on exactly how much hamburger you used and the size of your skewers, you'll get anywhere from four to six kabobs. Set your kabobs in a dish that you can cover and put in the fridge for about an hour. This will let the fat in the meat firm up a little, and will also help hydrate the onion and garlic.

They're basically meatloaf-on-a-stick.

After refrigerating, put the kabobs onto a hot grill or grill pan. Cook them on their first side for two minutes, and then roll them one quarter turn. Repeat for all four sides. Then, reduce the heat to medium and cook each of the four sides for one additional minute. When you're done, you will have cooked the kabobs for twelve minutes in total.

The grill pan gets used a lot because it's easier to photograph.
Given a choice, I actually prefer a regular grill.

Remove the kabobs from the heat and let them rest for a few minutes before serving.

My trusty draining rig makes its one-thousandth appearance.

  • Whether you grind your own hamburger or not, you need to have some fat in the meat. An 80/20 blend of hamburger is a good bet. For grinding your own, go with chuck.
  • You don't have to stick to beef for this. Lamb or chicken are also popular choices for koobideh. Although it's not traditional, there's no reason pork wouldn't also work.
  • I've seen some recipes for koobideh that include an egg. It's in there to help hold the meat together, but I don't think it's necessary if you've got hamburger with a decent amount of fat. If you make this with chicken, you might want to add the egg.
  • My butter knives have really flat handles, so they're a good substitute for wide skewers, If your knives have really thick handles, they may not work as well.

1 comment:

  1. I have a suggestion to improve this recipe :) If you pulse 1 medium onion (instead of the onion flakes) into a paste (with a food processor or magic bullet) then add the ground beef (and seasonings) and pulse for a minute or two, until it forms a ball in the the processor, then continue your recipe... well, you will go from a really good Koobideh to an AMAZING Koobideh!!