Smoked Chicken Kabobs | Step-by-step Instructions and FAQs

August 31, 2022

During the last summer when the weather was great, I heated the grill for some favorite, old-time family delicacies. Smoked chicken kebabs – a recipe I grew up with – happened to be on the menu, and I'm showing you how it's done today. If you've been following my recipes, you'll see I have a soft spot for smoked chicken breasts done on a Traeger. I've been doing them for ages!

We're doing something similar today. Except we will be focusing on the marinade part and the use of skewers. So, I'll show you how to make smoked chicken kabobs step-by-step, including some tips, tricks, and FAQs. Let's jump straight to the recipe!

Smoked chicken kabobs

Grilled Chicken Kabobs Recipe

Grilled chicken kebobs are perfect in so many ways. They're easy, delicious, and great for a party. And they're made even better with a white tangy barbecue sauce. So here is everything you need to make chicken kabobs on a grill.

Preparation time: 45 minutes | Time to marinate: 12 hours | Portions: 4 persons

Items Needed 

Tools Needed 

  • Any pellet grill such as the Traeger grill
  • Whisk 
  • Blender
  • Skewers (wooden or metal)

Ingredients for the Marinade

  • 200ml or 7oz buttermilk 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste 
  • 2 tsp spice mix, e.g., for chicken
  • 1 lime
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bell pepper or more (depending on how spicy you want it)

Ingredients for the Chicken Kabobs

Chicken Kabob with Vegetable Tempura

Instructions

Part 1: Chicken Marinating 

Step 1: Prepare the Chicken for Marinading 

First we have to prepare the chicken because we will be adding them immediately after the marinade is ready. By the way, we're using chicken breast fillets. 

I always recommend bone-in chicken breasts in my recipes, but this time I suggest you use boneless skinless chicken breasts since we're hooking them in the skewers. The bones aren’t needed here!

So, remove any tendons from the chicken pieces and make them into bite-sized cuts.

Step 2: Make the Marinade 

Combine the buttermilk, sunflower oil, spice mix, and tomato paste in a bowl. Cherry tomatoes can replace tomato paste. Squeeze the lime and add the juice to the bowl as well.

Step 3: Prepare and Add the Vegetables 

Using a blender or grater, finely chop the onion and crush the garlic. Add both to the bowl with the marinade. Stir all ingredients thoroughly with a whisk 

Step 4: Introduce the Chicken Breast Fillet in the Marinade  

Add the prepared chicken breast fillet to the bowl with the marinade. Cover the bowl and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. 

An hour is enough, but the longer it is, the more flavorful and tender the chicken will get. This is why I like to marinade my chicken pieces overnight. 

Step 5: Place on the Skewers  

Put the pieces of meat on the skewers. Combine the meat with vegetables, sausage, or other ingredients according to your taste. 

If possible, use double metal skewers for the chicken. You can easily turn the chicken kabobs with them.

If you want to use wooden skewers, soak them in water for an hour beforehand. When you prepare them this way, they will not end up burning on the grill.

Part 2: Cooking on a Grill

Step 6: Choose Your Grill Option 

You can grill chicken kabobs on a gas, charcoal, or pellet grill. However, the pellet grill, such as the Traeger grill always works for me as it adds a smoky flavor to the recipe. I also like using the Pit Boss for smoking chicken breasts. 

Step 7: Prepare your grill

On your pellet grill, fill it with your desired wood chips or pellets. Apple mashed pellets work for me here too. Then, before you start, you have to preheat pellet your grill to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Step 8: Place the Skewers Over the Heat and Cook 

Place the chicken kabobs over the direct heat. Now, watch them carefully. Turn the chicken kabobs after about 5 minutes so they can cook evenly. 

Once both sides have developed roasted flavors, set the chicken kabobs on the indirect area. Close the grill lid and let the kabobs cook for 5-10 minutes.

Step 9: Confirm the Donenes

Before serving, check the thickest piece of meat to ensure it is fully cooked inside. To do this, cut it in half. Or simply measure with a thermometer. The minimum is 145 degrees internally. 

Preparation Tips

  • I like to use double metal skewers. Wooden skewers tend to catch fire. If you like wooden skewers, it is best to put them in cold water for about 1 hour beforehand. 
  • This allows the wood skewers to become soaked and not burn as easily. Let the surface dry slightly before placing on the grill.
  • Chicken needs to be cooked through, but don't leave it on the grill for any longer than necessary to avoid drying out. 
Two Grilled Chicken Kabab with Cucumber Salad

Tips, Tricks, and FAQs 

Cooking Variations

To make grilled chicken kabobs taste varied, add other ingredients to the marinated chicken. I like to add pineapple, which gives the skewers a fruity twist. Hawaiian chicken skewers are also popular with children.

Vegetables such as red bell pepper, zucchini, pieces of onion, and mushrooms are also a fresh enrichment. Aside from the red bell peppers, how about spicy chorizos to complement the chicken kabobs?

Marinating and Seasoning the Chicken Kabobs

When inserting the chicken breast fillet, you can let your imagination run wild. With the help of the marinade and spices, you can create skewers that take you on a culinary journey around the world.

You can use the following as a base for your marinade:

  • Buttermilk: I like buttermilk because it's the real secret of my chicken skewers. Buttermilk ensures that the meat is tender. Feel free to use fruit buttermilk if you can find a suitable variety for your skewers (e.g., lime). Alternatively, yogurt is also suitable.
  • Citrus juice: The juice of citrus fruit (e.g., lime or lemon) also does wonder in the world of marinades. Lemon juice, for example, has a pH of around 2 and 3. This means it's 10,000 to 100,000 times more acidic than water. The acid helps to make the skewers tender and tasty.
  • Sunflower oil: Cooking oil is a major ingredient in marinades. However, sunflower oil is a great option because it binds your ingredients together without affecting the taste.  
  • Other basic ingredients: Grated onions, garlic, and tomato paste or cherry tomatoes are other basic ingredients that go well with many variations of chicken skewers.

Adding Regional Flavors

If you like Indian, you can also marinate the chicken with a good curry mixture.

It gets American with a dash of barbecue sauce and a BBQ rub, such as Sunny Rub, Fajitas and Chicken, or the New Mexico BBQ Seasoning from Stay Spiced! 

Wrap a slice of thinly sliced ​​bacon around each skewered ingredient. The combination is simply irresistible.

You can also give your chicken skewers a Thai twist with a teaspoon of peanut butter. Sesame seeds and soy sauce make the recipe perfect.

With lots of extra vegetables and Mediterranean herbs, you can make Italian chicken skewers. 

You will get chicken skewers Persian-style when you bring paprika powder, garlic, and mint into play.

Tips: Sprinkle spices such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage (or a mixture) only after grilling or roasting so they don't burn and retain their full aroma. Be very careful when marinating the meat with honey and then grilling it. The high temperatures not only caramelize the sugar but also burn it easily. The black crust is inedibly bitter.

FAQs 

1. How Long Should Chicken Kabobs Marinate?

You can marinade it for 6 to 12 hours or even longer. There are no hard and fast rules here, as much as it's in the refrigerator. However, according to the USDA, after two days, the marinade may break down the meat fibers, making the chicken mushy. 

2. How Long Does It Take to Smoke Chicken Kabobs?

Chicken kebabs will be well-cooked within 8 to 10 minutes. The exact times will depend on how thick you cut the pieces of meat. After cooking, always cut a thick slice of chicken in half to check if it's done. You’ll know it’s done if it’s completely white and opaque on the inside. As I always say, the piece of meat must have an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees.

3. How Long Does It Take to Smoke Kabobs?

You need about 60 to 90 minutes to smoke steak kabobs. However, when you marinate the meat, especially chicken, the cooking time considerably reduces as the meat fibers loosen up for more heat exposure. 

4. How Long Does It Take to Cook Kabobs on a Pellet Grill?

When the pellet grill is preheated for up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, the kabobs will be thoroughly cooked for 6 minutes max on each side, and 12 minutes overall. So, it's enough to cook for 6 minutes on one side and 6 minutes on the other side after flipping the skewers. 

5. What Temperature Do You Cook Kabobs on a Traeger?

400 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for grilling kabobs on a Traeger. I personally like sticking to 450 degrees on my Traeger pellet grill. As for the meat, ensure they get up to 145 degrees Fahrenheit in internal temperature. 

BBQ Teriyaki Chicken Kabobs

Conclusion 

The good thing about grilled chicken kabobs is that you can start the preparation – that is, the marinating – the night before. So when you have guests around the next day, you can throw it on the grill right when it's time to eat. 

Make sure you don't over-marinade it (more than 18 hours). Also, follow my marinating tips and grilling suggestions. 

The first step is always the marinade to get the chicken tender and flavorful. Smoked paprika, liquid honey, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and curry are the common ingredients I use for the marinades. 

Having lemon juice in the marinade makes the meat tender. Garlic, curry, and paprika give it a great taste. If you want it to be a bit spicy, it's best to use chili flakes. 

You can dose them better than chili powder, and the flakes also look pretty. The oil in the marinade settles on the surface and protects the meat from drying out.

Bon appetit!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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