Kebabs can be a delicious snack and it’s not hard to see why kebabs in general have been popular and come in so many forms in so many cultures, and why Doner kebabs in particular have really taken off in many areas, but they are far from the only ones!
However different some of these kebabs might be, it doesn’t change the fact that there seems to be one common problem many people have when making or grilling various kebabs for the first time: keeping them from falling apart.
There are multiple reasons kebabs fall apart with the most common being too much fat in the meat mixture, too wet or oily a mixture, lack of a binding agent in the mixture, or improper skewer preparation.
Don’t worry, with 20+ years of kebab cooking experience, and having made every mistake in the book during that time, I’m here to talk about all the various popular kebab types, why each tends to fall apart, and what you can do to fix the problem.
Let’s jump in!
Why Do Kebabs Fall Apart?
There are several different versions of kebabs, so we’re going to focus on some of the main ones where a lack of stickiness is the issue which include:
- Doner Kebabs
- Mince Kebabs
- Shish Kebabs
These can be very different types of kebabs, and because they are designed and produced in very different ways the common problems, and therefore also the solutions as a result, but there are many ways to keep kebabs from falling apart.
The key is understanding the main reasons that kebabs tend to fail. This will vary so we’ll tackle each one.
- The main culprits when a kebab falls apart
- Direct solutions on how to prepare them to avoid these common problems
Let’s get to it!
Why Do Doner Kebabs Fall Apart?
The main issue with Doner Kebabs falling apart isn’t going to be about the meat since Doner Kebabs feature giant sausages with the meat sliced off into a warm pita or pita-like bread. Since the meat is sliced that isn’t going to be the issue.
This is the classic “fast food” issue of the bread falling apart and putting a sticky, oily, meaty, dressing mess on your fingers. Not ideal, since where that should all be mixing is in your stomach.
In this case the reason would be letting the Doner kebab sit too long while it’s heavy on the sauce. The meat should be relatively clean and with a thicker pita bread the truth is that Doner Kebabs shouldn’t have a problem otherwise, so the key is to go light on the garlic sauce and not let it sit too long.
How to Stop Doner Kebabs from Falling Apart
If you are making your own version at home that involves sliced or shredded meat, pay attention to the amount of fat attached to the meat. While fat can help mean flavor, too much makes it hard to bind the meat and can make the kebab fall apart when the grease comes out of it.
So for home kebabs, trim any excess fat. The proteins you choose should have enough flavor to work without extra fat and this will also make there be less grease to worry about soggying up the pita bread.
Why Do Mince Kebabs Fall Apart?
Mince kebabs refer to any recipe where the meat (usually ground) is mixed with other meat and ingredients like spices, finely chopped onions or peppers, herbs like parsley, and if that’s all, then that might be the problem since you’re missing any signs of good bonding agents!
Generally there are a few reasons that mince meat or mince kebabs will be too loose and fall apart when cooking…which is definitely the wrong time for that to happen.
Those common causes are:
- Too much moisture in the mix
- Mixture is too warm when set to cooking
- Make sure the end of the kebab is sealed to the skewer
- Too much air in the mix
- Too much oil in the mix
These are all problems and most of them all come back to preparation.
How to Stop Mince Kebabs from Falling Apart
Let’s go through the issues one by one and how to deal with them:
Too much moisture in the mix
This is usually from a bad mixture of too much egg, too much liquid from not properly pressing water out of pieces of finely minced veggies, or from having too much fat in the meat.
The fat mixture being too high you can tell if oils seep out when cooking starts. This shouldn’t be happening much, if at all, and there shouldn’t be consistent dripping.
Your mixture needs more binding agents
There are multiple ingredients that can be used as binding agents for kebabs. Salt is a classic one because salt does a great job drying out moisture and helping meat bind more tightly.
Mince meat kebabs require some binding agent, normally more than salt. This could be flour, bread crumbs, or a bit of egg. Egg isn’t a traditional ingredient so be wary of allergies and be aware of that, but this is a great way to bind the kebab meat mixture a bit more – just don’t use too much (I generally recommend 1 small egg instead of a large one) for a basic batch.
The Mixture isn’t properly sealed to the skewer
Mind the details and make sure each end of the kebab mix is sealed to the skewer. If you’re confused by this wording, this blog gives some great pictures, just scroll down to pictures 4 and 5 and you get the perfect illustration of what a properly sealed kebab skewer is versus one that isn’t.
Your hands or the meat (or both) are too warm
Running your hands under cold water for a minute can help take down the temperature of you hands, and any kebab meat mixture should spend at least an hour in the refrigerator before being brought out and cooked.
Why Do Shish Kebabs (aka Skewers) Fall Apart?
Shish Kebabs (aka Skewers or Skewer Kebabs) shouldn’t have this issue. The cubed meat used in these types of kebabs are things like lamb, chicken, or beef. There’s no reason larger chunks of these, held right by onions, peppers, mushrooms, and other bits of food should not have any problems staying on the skewer.
If there are issues here it almost certainly has to be with careless skewering of the pieces of meat or accompanying vegetables and mushrooms.
Why Do My Kebabs Fall Apart in the Air Fryer?
I love what an air fryer can do, but if your kebabs fall apart that’s disappointment along with a mess to clean up. The main reasons kebabs would come apart in an air fryer come down to one of two things: too much moisture or too much oil (fat) in the mix.
How to Keep Kebabs from Falling Apart in the Air Fryer
Make sure your kebab meat mixture uses salt and some binding agent like bread crumbs and egg. Follow the best practices of refrigerating the mixture at least an hour before hand and pack it together tightly.
You do not want it loose, you don’t want cracks, and you definitely don’t want it wet or warm.
If you follow these prep instructions you should be good to go.
How Do You Make Kebabs Stick Together?
By following the tips in this article you can make kebabs stick together. Remember that cold meat, cold hands, salt and binding ingredients are all important parts of making sure that the kebabs are the right consistency, temperature, and perfect for tightly wrapping around skewers for grilling.
Tips for Making Your Kebabs Stick Properly
- Squeeze excess water out of chopped veggies like peppers or onions
- Make sure your hands and any ground meat are both cold
- Make sure any meat mixture isn’t oozing excess oil or water
- Use eggs, breadcrumbs, or even instant mashed potatoes as a bonding agent
- Refrigerate the meat mixture for at least an hour before prepping and cooking the kebabs
- Make sure the meat is sealed to the skewer and there aren’t loose gaps at the base of the meat
- Add more salt to your meat – one of the best binding agents
As you can see there are a few common reasons that kebabs fall apart and by looking at the most likely culprits and taking care of those problems, you will be able to make your own kebabs without any worries about them coming apart when cooking or eating.
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