Cook's Illustrated (May/June 2015)
Are you pro- or anti-kebab?
Two summers ago, we declared our displeasure with kebabs. And since then, we've stayed pretty Debbie Downer when it comes to skewering our meals.
It just seems like a whole lot of work for very little payoff. True, you do get some "Pin-worthy" photos. But for the most part, kebabs seem, to us, to involve spending great amounts of time threading raw meat and oversized vegetables onto little skewers, just to then sit there and watch while your guests awkwardly try to figure out how to eat them.
But we're both smart enough to admit when we've made a mistake. And we were wrong -- horribly, unmistakably wrong -- about kebabs.
Because Cook's Illustrated has shown us the error of our ways.
We did a fair amount of complaining while making this dish, even though it's one of the simplest dishes we've made in a while. The complaining was, of course, all about the kebabs. We complained about cutting the the pork tenderloin into cubes. We complained about threading it onto metal skewers (a must for this recipe). We even complained as we were placing the pork onto the grill, thinking it would be difficult to flip.
For the record, none of those things was actually difficult or time-consuming; it was just our kebab prejudice showing.
Then we sat down to eat these kebabs, and we were changed men. This pork cooks no more than 8 minutes on the grill, meaning this whole dish can be completed within 30 minutes. And it is darn tasty. The meat is perfectly tender and juicy, and -- yes, thanks to the kebabification -- each bite has a nice grilled finish on all sides. The seasoning is a flavorful mix of hoisin and five-spice, punched up with some garlic powder.
The entire affair is so simple and so delicious that it's an absolute must for you to cook this summer.
Kebabs all around!
Note from America's Test Kitchen: You will need two 12-inch metal skewers for this recipe. We prefer natural pork, but if your pork is enhanced (injected with a salt solution), do not salt it in step 1.
1 (12-ounce) pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
2 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
Vegetable oil spray
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1. Toss pork and salt together in large bowl and let sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk five-spice powder, garlic powder, and cornstarch together in bowl. Add hoisin to five-spice mixture and stir to combine. Set aside 1 tablespoon hoisin mixture.
2. Add remaining hoisin mixture to pork and toss to coat. Thread pork onto two 12-inch metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between pieces. Spray both sides of meat generously with oil spray.
3A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
3B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).
4. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place skewers on hotter side of grill and grill until well charred, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip skewers, brush with reserved hoisin mixture, and continue to grill until second side is well charred and meat registers 140 degrees, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer to serving platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with scallion and serve.