What is a Meat Skewer?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A meat skewer is a long, thin rod which is designed to be threaded through meat or mixed meats to hold them together as they cook. Meat skewers are especially convenient for grilling, as they can keep foods from falling through the mesh of the grill. Some classic foods often cooked and served on skewers are brochettes, kebabs, and satay. Many kitchen supply stores sell meat skewers, especially in the summer, when a great deal of grilling and barbecuing is going on.

Satay is typically served on skewers.
Satay is typically served on skewers.

The construction materials used to make meat skewers vary. Many companies manufacture simple bamboo skewers which are designed for a single use; others make metal skewers which can be cleaned after use and re-used. It is also possible to find meat skewers made from aromatic woods which will flavor the meat as it is cooked; cedar, lemongrass, and apple meat skewers are all fairly common.

Shish kebabs are often made with herb-roasted chicken on a skewer.
Shish kebabs are often made with herb-roasted chicken on a skewer.

The function of a meat skewer varies, depending on the dish. For things like brochettes, made from mixed meats and vegetables which are cooked together, the skewer holds the ingredients together as they are cooked. It also prevents the small ingredients from falling through. Meat skewers can also be used to help truss meats like chicken breasts; for example, a chicken breast could be stuffed and skewered to keep it tightly folded around the stuffing. Finally, a meat skewer provides convenient handles from grilling, allowing people to move and manipulate meats on the grill without touching them.

If you are working with wooden meat skewers, soak them before use so that they will not catch fire when used on an open fire or grill. Many metal meat skewers come with cool-touch handles made from wood or silicone; if they do not have such handles, be aware that the metal gets very hot as the meat cooks, and never hand a meat skewer to someone directly off the grill, as it could burn them.

When selecting meat skewers, you may want to think about how they will be used. If you see yourself doing a lot of grilling, you might want to consider reusable metal meat skewers, especially if you can find some with cool-touch handles. A metal meat skewer can also be handy for roasts like turkey and chicken, keeping the meat pinned in place while it cooks. If you need meat skewers for a one time grilling project, wooden skewers might be a better choice, as you can dispose of them after use rather than having them clutter up your kitchen drawers. Disposable skewers also offer lots of flavoring choices, if you want to get experimental at the grill.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I inherited a valuable pair of antique (Georgian) sterling silver meat skewers, but I cannot for the life of me imagine actually using these on a hot grill or in an oven where they would blacken.

Were they only used for presentation at table, I wonder? I use them as hair ornaments, like chop-sticks because I hate to keep them unused in the silver chest.


For me thin, metal, flat skewers work the best. Thin is practical because some more delicate pieces of meat or especially fish or seafood can easily brake with a thicker skewer.

Metal can better withstand heat, and can be re-used. No matter how much you soak bamboo skewers, in high heat they can burn.

Flat skewers hold food better when flipping. A round skewer might turn, but the food sometimes does not, it just stays in place.

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