This Is How Long You Need to Soak Your Skewers Before Grilling

updated Jun 9, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

The simplest way to serve supper this summer always starts with skewers. Slide your favorite ingredients on and fire up the grill. Skewers of shrimp, vegetables, and chicken are not just easy to prepare, cook, and serve, they are also more fun to eat. The one caveat that can keep you from a complete kebab celebration? Remembering to soak wooden skewers before you start cooking.

Bamboo skewers, like the ones you can buy in bulk at the grocery store, are inherently flammable — they are wood, after all! The dry and brittle wood easily burns on a hot grill, unless you take preventative action. The best way to keep wooden skewers from burning is to soak them in water before firing up the grill.

Credit: Kelli Foster

How Long Should You Soak Skewers?

Before you spear meat, vegetables, cheese, or fruit with the sharp end of a wooden skewer, you need to soak those sticks. A 9x-13-inch baking dish is the perfect size for bathing bamboo skewers. Simply fill the dish with water — the water temperature does not matter — and set them aside to absorb the moisture. For most recipes, 30 minutes is the soak time sweet spot. Quick-cooking skewered appetizers, like this antipasto appetizer , are only on the grill for a short time. Technically, they can get by with a quick 10-minute soak before risking burn-out. For longer cooking foods, like steak and potatoes, it is not a bad idea to extend the soaking time to a minimum of 30 minutes or up to overnight.

What Happens If I Skip the Soaking Step?

Soaking skewers for at least 30 minutes gives the brittle bamboo enough time to absorb and trap the moisture. Place soaked skewers on a hot grill, and the moisture will evaporate before the wood starts to burn. If the skewers have soaked up enough water, only the tips of the skewers will show a bit of burn, while the rest remains intact. If you thread your ingredients onto dry skewers, the wood at the ends and the bits in-between bites of food will burn, wasting the entire skewer of food. It’s practically impossible (not to mention unsafe) to pick out thin shavings of skewers after the skewer has burned, so save yourself the trouble and soak your skewers.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

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