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Kabob Koobideh – Persian Beef Kabob

Flavored with onion, salt, pepper, and that’s about it, kabob koobideh cooked over open flame is truly a labor of love.

We serve ours with basmati rice, lavash bread or saffron rice.

plated kabob koobideh

While meat on a stick sounds simple enough, it’s an art form- one I am still trying to master. From forming the beef onto the skewers to keeping it there over an open flame, I treasure the experience (and the failures) of learning how to make wonderfully simple and great-tasting kabobs. 

Kabob koobideh is one of the most popular kabobs found in Iran. Our beef kabobs are flavored traditionally with grated onion, salt, and pepper before cooking on the grill. We coat the skewers in a wonderfully aromatic and rich marinade made of bloomed saffron, juice from an onion, butter, and just a little bit of lemon juice right at the very end.

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

  • Beef: The higher fat content in the beef could cause the meat to pull away from the skewers and fall into the flame. As a result, I use an 80/20 blend of ground beef. You can also use ground lamb, ground chicken, or a combination of ground beef and lamb, which all taste amazing!
  • Onion: For best results, grate the onion to break them down and release all the liquid from the onion. Then, grated onions combine with the beef to make the kabobs.
  • Salt + Pepper: I use the basics to add flavor to the beef.
  • Saffron Stems: Be sure to bloom the saffron before using it. Doing so will draw out the richness and fragrance of the saffron. Bloom by gently mixing the stems with a hot liquid, like water or milk.
  • Butter: Butter is needed to make saffron butter to flavor the kabobs.
  • Onion Juice: Reserved onion juice adds another layer of savor to the saffron butter.
  • Lemon Juice: Lemon juice brightens the saffron butter and provides needed acidity.

HOW TO MAKE KABOB KOOBIDEH

Bloom the Saffron:

  1. Add saffron stems to a mortar and pestle or small bowl and use the back of a spoon to break the saffron stems into smaller pieces. Add them to a small bowl with boiling water. Stir and let it stand for at least 5 minutes. 

Prepare the Onions:

1. Use a grater or food processor to grate one medium onion into a small bowl.

Grate onion in a food processor.

2. Place the onion into a sieve or cheesecloth. Press or squeeze the onion to release any fluid; reserve the onion juice and grated onion separately. 

It's important to squeeze as much of the liquid out of the onion as possible to ensure the beef remains on the skewer.

3. Stir salt and pepper into the grated onion mixture.

Grated onion is the base flavor for kabob koobideh.

Mix the Ingredients:

1. Mix the Ingredients: Then, add the beef and grated onion to a mixing bowl. Using your hands, combine until well incorporated and knead for about 5 minutes.

Mix the beef and onion together in a large bowl to form the kabob koobideh.

2. Then, form a ball. By kneading the meat with your hands, it’s easier to locate large onion pieces in the mixture. Onion of this size will cause the beef to pull away from the skewer when grilling.

I prefer to hand-knead the beef mixture especially to eliminate larger pieces of onion that could have found it's way into the mixture.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Roll the beef into a ball and set aside to chill.

Form the Kabobs:

  1. Pour clean water into a small bowl with ice. You will dip your hand into the water to prevent the meat from sticking to your hand. Set the bowl next to the meat mixture for easy access.
Ice baths are critical as you form the beef mixture onto the skewer.

2. Hold the metal skewer with one hand and form a fist-size amount of beef onto the skewer using your other hand; be sure the meat wraps around the entire skewer with no spaces or cracks.

Dip your hand in the water and then repeat with another handful of beef on the same skewer (2 generous handfuls per skewer). Repeat with the remaining ingredients until all the skewers are loaded.

3. Use your thumb and forefinger to create indentations in the beef.

After the kabob koobideh is formed onto the skewer, use your fingers to make indents for the kabobs signature look and ridges to lock in all the flavor.

4. After forming the meat onto the skewers, line them onto a baking sheet for easy transportation. Consider refrigerating the skewers before adding them to the grill.

Form the meat onto the skewer and place them on the grill.

Prepare the Saffron Butter:

  1. Warm butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the reserved onion juice and saffron water. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
Additional flavor is added to the kabob koobideh through saffron butter.

2. Remove from heat, add the juice of 1 lemon and stir to combine. Set the saffron butter next to the grill with a pastry brush for easy access during the grilling process.


Grill the Kabobs:

  1. On a gas grill, remove the grates and set them aside.
  2. Adjust the burners to high heat for 10 minutes to preheat the grill before adding the kabobs.
  3. Set the skewers into the grill over high heat; cover and cook for 1 minute. Flip the kabob, and cook for another minute. Check the meat every 30 seconds for the first several minutes and flip the kabob if it looks like the beef will separate.
Form the meat onto the skewer and place them on the grill.

4. After the first minute, lightly coat the kabobs with saffron butter using a pastry brush; cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Form the meat onto the skewer and place them on the grill.

5. Flip and coat the other side of the kabob with saffron butter. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.


For the Assembly:

Allow the kabobs to rest for 5 minutes, then slide them off the skewer and onto a serving platter. Serve kabob koobideh with saffron rice, and enjoy!

Fresh kabob koobideh off of the grill is ready to be served.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why is the beef falling off of the skewer?

What’s the most frustrating part of making kabob koobideh? It has to be keeping the meat on the skewer! As difficult as it may be, it can also be rewarding as you grow in your koobideh skills. Making these kabobs requires patience as you learn, and I am right there with you. Here are a few reasons you may be fishing your kabobs out from the flame.

• The skewers are too warm. I like to put them in the freezer at the start of the day if I know I’m cooking koobideh. 
• The skewers are too wet.
• The beef is too warm. If it’s a hot day, consider refrigerating the kabobs after you’ve formed the meat onto the skewers.

Can you make kabob koobideh without a grill?

You sure can. I prefer to do so on the stovetop rather than the oven; it’s possible to cook the kabobs either way. The stovetop method produces results closer to that of grilling. I add an ingredient when using this method; liquid smoke is perfect for creating the smoky, signature grilled flavor of kabob koodbideh.

1. Preheat a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat.
2. Add 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan, and swirl to combine.
3. Form the beef onto the skewer just as you would for the grill. Then, carefully slide the meat off the skewer and into the pan. Lightly coat with saffron butter using a pastry brush. Repeat this two more times (no more than three kabobs in the pan at a time, or it will produce too much liquid). Increase to medium-high heat and sear the first side of the kabobs for 2-3 minutes. Flip, coat with the other side of the kabob saffron butter, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
4. Remove the kabobs and set them aside.
5. Repeat step 3 with the remaining beef mixture.
6. Once the kabobs have had an opportunity to sear, lower the heat to medium, and return them to the pan. Tap your liquid smoke 2-3 times into the pan; cover and cook for 10 minutes.

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Fresh kabob koobideh off of the grill is ready to be served.

Kabob Koobideh – Persian Beef Kabob

Tressa Jamil
Flavored with onion, salt, pepper, and that's about it, kabob koobideh cooked over open flame is truly a labor of love.
Prep Time 35 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Marinating Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 35 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Persian
Servings 8 kabobs, 6-inches
Calories 354 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

For the Kabob:

  • 2 pounds ground beef, 80/20
  • 1 ½ medium white onion, shredded, juice reserved
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, coarse ground

For the Saffron Marinade:

  • ¼ teaspoon saffron stems, broken down
  • 4 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 stick butter, unsalted
  • ½-1 cup reserved onion juice
  • 1 lemon, juiced

Instructions
 

Bloom the Saffron:

  • Add saffron stems to a mortar and pestle or small bowl and use the back of a spoon to break the saffron stems into smaller pieces. Add them to a small bowl with boiling water. Stir and let it stand for at least 5 minutes. 

Prepare the Onion:

  • Use a grater or food processor to grate one medium onion into a small bowl.
  • Place the onion into a sieve or cheesecloth. Press or squeeze the onion to release any fluid; reserve the onion juice and grated onion separately. 

Mix the Ingredients:

  • Stir salt and pepper into the grated onion mixture.
  • Then, add the beef and grated onion to a mixing bowl. Using your hands, combine until well incorporated and knead for about 5 minutes. Then, form a ball. By kneading the meat with your hands, it's easier to locate large onion pieces in the mixture. Onion of this size will cause the beef to pull away from the skewer when grilling.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Form the Kabobs:

  • Pour clean water into a bowl with ice. You will dip your hand into the water to prevent the meat from sticking to your hand. Set the bowl next to the meat mixture for easy access.
  • Hold the metal skewer with one hand and form a fist-size amount of beef onto the skewer using your other hand; be sure the meat wraps around the entire skewer with no spaces or cracks. Dip your hand in the water and then repeat with another handful of beef on the same skewer (2 generous handfuls per skewer). Repeat with the remaining ingredients until all the skewers are loaded.
  • Use your thumb and forefinger to create indentations in the beef.
  • After forming the meat onto the skewers, line them onto a baking sheet for easy transportation. Consider refrigerating the skewers before adding them to the grill.

Prepare the Saffron Butter:

  • Warm butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the reserved onion juice and saffron water. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, add the juice of 1 lemon and stir to combine. Set the saffron marinade next to the grill with a pastry brush for easy access during the grilling process.

Grill the Kabobs:

  • On a gas grill, remove the grates and set them aside.
  • Adjust the burners to high heat for 10 minutes to preheat the grill before adding the kabobs.
  • Set the skewers into the grill over high heat; cover and cook for 1 minute. Flip the kabob, and cook for another minute. Check the meat every 30 seconds for the first several minutes and flip the kabob if it looks like the beef will separate.
  • After the first minute, lightly coat the kabobs with the saffron butter using a pastry brush; cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Flip and coat the other side of the kabob with saffron butter. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.

For the Assembly:

  • Allow the kabobs to rest for 5 minutes, then slide them off the skewer and onto a serving platter. Serve kabob koobideh with saffron rice, and enjoy!

Notes

  • Skewers: For the kabob koobideh, use flat kabob skewers and not round ones. They provide a greater surface area for the meat to adhere to and cook from the inside out. 
 
  • Prepare Your Grill: If you choose to leave your grates on your grill, be sure they are well oiled and cleaned. You don’t want the kabobs to stick! 
 
  • Nutrition Disclosure: The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 KabobCalories: 354kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 31gFat: 24gSodium: 309mgSugar: 1g
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
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