Secrets of the Grill: Kebabs

Russian Lamb Kebabs with Tomato-Prune Sauce (Shashlik)

Russian Lamb Kebabs with Tomato-Prune Sauce (Shashlik)

Robust lamb and onion kebabs steeped in a tenderizing seltzer and vinegar marinade are paired with a sauce of tomatoes, prunes, and herbs in this traditional Russian dish.Todd Coleman

In countries surrounding Eurasia's Caucasus Mountains, people have been cooking their meat on swords, sticks, and skewers over an open fire for eight centuries. My Russian family keeps the tradition alive each summer, balancing skewers of marinated lamb shoulder and onions over coals on a mangal, a grateless grill. We serve them traditionally, slathered in salty, tangy sauces, which perfectly complement the richness of the meat.

Second Act

Reserve the marinade, cook it down, and use it to baste kebabs as they grill. As the marinade caramelizes on the meat's surface, it creates a flavorful crust.

Onion's One-Two Punch

Thick slices of onion do double duty: When raw in the marinade, they lend sharp flavor to the meat; threaded on the skewer with the lamb, they add sweet, crunchy contrast.

Go Fat Over Lean

Fatty cuts of meat are great for kebabs: As they cook, the fat melts, moistening the meat and resulting in a tender kebab with nice char.

—Juliya Madorskaya