Best Type of Beef for Making Shish Kebabs

Beef Shish Kebab
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Shish kebab is a dish of skewered and grilled cubes of meat that is popular all over the Middle East. Traditionally made of lamb, beef or chicken is more commonly found in the United States. When selecting the type of beef to make your kebabs, you have unlimited choices but ultimately you want your beef on the skewer to be tasty, tender and not break your budget.

illustration that shows the best beef cuts for shish kebabs
Illustration: Alex Dos Diaz. © The Spruce, 2019 

Origins of Shish Kebab

The term shish kebab hails from Turkey—the word shish means skewer in English, and kebab basically refers to meat, vegetables, or other ingredients that served on a stick. While shish kebab may have Turkish roots, the dish is common all over the Middle East. Beef, lamb, seafood, chicken, and even goat may all be served on a stick. Vegetables are often placed on the skewer, but in the Middle East, shish kebab is often just meat. It's an easy, economical, and traditional way of cooking meat.

Top of the Line

The best cut of beef for kebabs is definitely filet mignon. Other excellent beef options include Porterhouse, and if it looks good at the butcher or in the meat counter, also try a rib-eye. They all grill nicely and don't require a marinade to make them tender. But while those cuts meet the criteria of best tasty beef, they're pricey and will take a chunk out of your wallet.

If you're willing to splurge and want an easy preparation and great taste, do go for the filet mignon and you will not be disappointed. On a side note, tenderloin/filet mignon is best served rare or medium rare so, if you prefer your beef more well done, it may not be necessary to spend the money on a tenderloin.

Less Expensive Beef

For those looking for great flavor on a budget, sirloin tips work well if they are marinated ahead to make them more flavorful. This is also an excellent option for those that prefer their meat more well done. Ideally, begin marinating your sirloin the night before or in a pinch, at least a few hours before firing up your grill. You can also buy large sirloin steaks and have the butcher cut your selection into 1-inch cubes for your kebabs. It's usually free for the butcher service, even at grocery stores, and will save you some prep time.

Other Beef Cut Options

Chuck steaks or chuck roast can be chewy at best and downright tough when cooked quickly as a standalone meat selection. However, using citrus in a marinade for chuck helps break down the muscle in the meat, turning a relatively tough and inexpensive cut into a tasty and tender chunk of beef on a stick. Create marinades made with oranges, lemons or limes, which will help to both tenderize the meat and also infuse great taste.

Kebab Choices

Although beef remains one of the main choices when selecting meat for kebabs, don't limit yourself. Consider using other meats, such as chicken, lamb, and even seafood. Avoid choosing more than one type of meat or even different cuts of the same type of meat on individual skewers because of varied cooking times. But a mixed grill of different proteins on different skewers makes a great selection for lots of different tastes.