There is a debate in the cooking community about whether it is necessary to soak wooden skewers in water prior to grilling or broiling in the oven. Some say it's absolutely needed and others claim its a wasted step. So, who should we believe?
Soaking your skewers can prevent them from catching on fire, which ultimately leads to all your meat and veggies falling to the bottom of the grill. The precooking treatment also prevents splintering of the skewer—no one wants to eat a kebab and get a splinter in his tongue. Yes, the ends of the skewer will probably become charred, even if you soak them, but the black-tipped end gives the dish a little aesthetic character.
Skewer Soaking Tips
If you opt for the bamboo skewers, fully submerge the sticks in water and soak them for about half an hour, at least. You can also use wine as an alternative to the water, which will give your meat and vegetables another flavor element.
It's a good idea to soak a few extra skewers, just in case you break one or two while preparing your kebabs. If shish kebab is a common dish at your house, soak the whole package of skewers, drain them well and put the extras in your freezer to pull out as needed.
Ways Around Soaking
An alternative to soaking skewers would be to use stainless steel or metal skewers. They do not require any soaking and can be reused. Stainless steel skewers can be found easily online and in stores. Look for them in the kitchen utensil aisle or in the warmer months, they are usually located by the grill accessories.
Metal skewers are more expensive than wooden skewers, but choosing this option is worth every single penny. You can get years of use out of the metal options rather than single-use bamboo skewers, as it's never recommended to reuse porous materials once they've had contact with raw meat.
Cooking sprays work well with metal skewers too, making it easier to slide your kebab off the skewer easier than if you have to tug your meats and vegetables off the stick and running the risk of the bamboo skewer breaking off in the process.
Remember that wooden or stainless steel skewers will work, no matter what type of kebab you are making. For kebabs using heavier types of meat and vegetables, go for stainless steel skewers. Wooden skewers tend to break when weighed down with lots of meat and vegetables. The metal skewers generally have handles that let you grasp them to easily flip your kebab.