A flavorful shish kabob marinade can be had by soaking meat with a myriad of different oils, vegetables, juices and spices. A traditional way to prepare kebobs is with a historical marinade originating from the kebob's homeland, the Middle East. An overnight soak in barbecue sauce, by contrast, will infuse the meat with a completely different, yet equally tantalizing, taste.
The first shish kabob marinade originates from the creators of the kabob — Persians. Typically made with minced goat or lamb, or whole chunks, the meat is skewered and grilled, often with alternating pieces of fruit or vegetable. Traditionally, the shish kebob marinade used when preparing this dish is a mixture of a chopped onion, yogurt, some dried mint and occasionally some minced garlic. After being covered and refrigerated, the meat will be ready for the spears and the grill in about six hours, though a full night's rest would not be unusual.
Spreading in popularity throughout the Middle East, different countries and cultures put their spin on the meal. Several shish kabob marinades originate from India, where additions like curry, coriander, all spice and cardamom are not uncommon. Another shish kabob marinade incorporates more heat with the addition of chiles, either chopped finely or in powdered form.
Another type of shish kabob marinade incorporates more acidic qualities by adding citrus juice or herbs like cilantro. South and Central American varieties forgo yogurt altogether in favor of various oils or vinegars. Asian varieties may incorporate a whole range of other ingredients, from soy sauce and rice vinegar to sesame oil and ginger.
A popular marinade from China includes five key spices: soy, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger beer and pineapple juice. The westernized version of this shish kabob marinade for steak contains soy sauce, tarragon vinegar, brown and granulated sugars, ginger and garlic. Still, another variation includes olive oil, soy sauce, dry lemon-pepper seasoning and garlic powder.
Depending on the origin of the recipe, shish kebob meat may be cooked on a rotating vertical spit before a broiler or in individually skewered portions. The doner kebab, a Turkish delicacy that is spread worldwide in popularity, rotates a processed and seasoned slab of lamb on a vertical spit. A variation of this is the Mediterranean gyro — a peppery and fatty blend of lamb and often other meats that is sliced once browned, then served with onion, tomatoes and tzatziki cucumber sauce in a pita. In either case, the marinade typically contains some blend of olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, rosemary, salt and extra pepper.