We've always read we should soak wooden or bamboo skewers in water for half an hour or so before putting them on the grill. Otherwise, they'll catch fire.
True or false? Well, it's a practice that's up for debate, and we haven't skewered enough kabobs in our day to have an adequate comparison of soaked vs. non-soaked sticks.
But we did read this thread on the Epicurious blog about whether or not to soak skewers, and several commenters say not to; your skewers will get a bit charred no matter what, and they won't go up in flames. One notes that Cook's Illustrated, the grand poobah of kitchen testing, claims soaking is unnecessary.
There's also this article that quotes Gourmet's John Willoughby as saying, "Don't soak the wooden skewers. It just seems, no matter how long you soak, the tiny little pieces on the end are just going to burn anyway."
At the same time, recipes in Gourmet magazine (like these Chicken, Mushroom, and Boy Choy Kebabs) still call for soaking skewers before you load them up.
So what gives? Our thought is that really thin, flimsy skewers might have a tendency to catch fire more quickly, so the magazine is covering the bases. But if your skewers are thick and sturdy, we don't think it would be a huge problem.
An alternative would be to use metal skewers, which are reusable and non-flammable, although they stay hot and are hard to pick up.
Stay tuned — we're posting some ideas for alternative, fancy kabob skewers tomorrow morning...
What have your experiences taught you? To soak or not to soak?
Related: Look! New Cool Grill Gadgets
(Image: Flickr member joshbousel, licensed under Creative Commons)