The image above is of five different skewers, and they are obviously all different. There are pros and cons to each of them, but which one is the best? I tested each of them and while some of the results were obvious, some were very surprising.
We use skewers on a fairly regular basis, both in my house and as a part of CookUntilEpic. Whether it’s just a quick batch of shish kabob marinated in Italian dressing, Shish Tawook, or Kafta, skewers get a lot of use around here. A good skewer seems nearly impossible to find. Bad ones are nearly impossible to avoid. Below, I’ll break down my favorites and least favorites from my collection and tell you why you should avoid the worst of the group.
The criteria for my testing of these skewers is a mixture of both experience and a practical test. My past experiences with some of these skewers has led me to cast them aside in search of better options. If I went to turn a kabob and the meat and vegetables rotated freely and wouldn’t turn the way I wanted them to, that was an immediate failure for the skewer.
For the practical test, I quartered an onion and separated the layers. I then skewered a piece of onion with each skewer. After the onion was run through, I attempted to spin the onion on the skewer.
The first skewer is from Steven Raichlen. It’s a 3/8″ stainless steel skewer. The extra wide design helps keep the food from spinning on the skewer, which is the biggest issue I’ve found with skewers. If you can turn the kabob and have every piece of meat and every vegetable turn at the same time, that’s a huge plus for ease of use and also for even cooking. With the onion test I found nearly impossible to turn the onion on the skewer without completely destroying it, which made this skewer the hands down winner of the test. The biggest complaint I have with these is that they’re longer than a normal skewer and hard to store.
The second skewer is just a basic bamboo skewer. I picked this particular pack up at Wal-Mart, 100 skewers for $0.99. I’ve always shied away from bamboo skewers, though I’m not sure why. After giving these a test though, I’m starting to change my mind. Even though these are just a fraction of the width of the Steven Raichlen skewers, the texture of the bamboo grips the food and keeps it from spinning on the skewer. The results of the onion testing confirmed this to a degree. The onion would not spin easily on the bamboo until the skewer became saturated with the water from the onion. Once the bamboo was soaked, the onion spun freely. The downside to these is that they will eventually burn, no matter how long they’re soaked.
The third skewer is also from Wal-Mart. It’s a non-stick coated skewer, and was about $5 for a 4 pack. These really seemed like a great idea. They’re more than long enough, have a decent sized loop at the end and the non-stick makes cleanup easy. However, the non-stick also gives them no grip on the food whatsoever. That surface, coupled with how narrow and almost circular they are makes them easily the worst skewer I own. This was further proved when I skewered the onion piece. From the start, the onion would spin freely and had almost no purchase on the skewer.
The fourth skewer is a bit of an oddity. I have no idea where it came from, but I have a few of them in my kitchen drawer. The mystery skewer’s main feature is that the tip of it is wider than the rest of it. This almost guarantees that the food will spin on the skewer when you try to flip the kabob. It’s really a poor design. This design flaw was really brought to light by the onion test. The wide bladed tip would punch a large hole in the onion, which would then allow the narrower portion of the skewer to float freely in the opening.
The fifth and final skewer came from Ikea. It’s the Molnfri skewer and was a steal at $2 for 6 of them. Sadly, it seems that Ikea no longer carries this product. This skewer was, until recently, my go-to skewer. It’s flat bladed design and large loop at the end made it the best choice until I got the Steven Raichlen skewers. The flat blade design would keep the food secure while cooking and makes turning easy. The large loop at the end makes it easy to grab with grill tongs or a gloved hand. Like the skewers from Steven Raichlen, the Ikea skewers’ wide design held the onion well. It was easier to get the onion to turn on the skewer due to the fact that the Ikea is much narrower.
Based on my experiences and testing, some of these skewers stand out and are worth recommending. Others are destined for the scrap pile. I felt that the Steven Raichlen skewer was the best design. The wide blade makes turning a kabob easy and painless. The next best design was the skewer from Ikea. They’re much cheaper than the Steven Raichlen design and function very similarly. The random skewer from unknown origins and the non-stick skewer were by far the worst design. They allow the kabob parts to spin independently of the skewer, which makes it tedious to cook with them.
The overall winner was one that I wasn’t really expecting to win. I honestly expected the Raichlen skewers to be the clear winner. However, it was the bamboo that was the winner. The caveat to this is that the skewers shouldn’t be soaked beforehand. The fact that the bamboo is hugely cheaper than even the cheapest metal skewers also plays into the decision. For the price of 6 Steven Raichlen skewers, you can have 1,500 bamboo skewers.
Even if our cooking styles and equipment needs differ, hopefully this in-depth look can give you better insight into the pros and cons of each type of skewer and help you choose the best one for your kitchen.