Hawaiian Chicken Skewers are prepared by marinating chicken thighs in mixture of pineapple juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and dry mustard. Grilled to perfection, with chunks of fresh pineapple, these chicken skewers are absolutely phenomenal!
HAWAIIAN CHICKEN SKEWERS
If there’s one thing that I can never get enough of, it’s food on sticks, and Hawaiian Chicken Skewers are no exception. What is it about food on sticks that appeals so greatly to the masses? Think of any carnival or summer fair you’ve been too. Now, think about all of those lineups of hungry people at those brightly coloured food trucks. How many of those food trucks serve food on sticks?
Is it a cleanliness issue? Do we love food on sticks because it eliminates the need for us to get our hands dirty? I can certainly see the appeal at a fair or a festival. (We all know there’s so many germs on those rides!) Pulling food off of the stick with out teeth certainly helps to keep the germs on our hands from spreading to our food.
FOOD ON STICKS – PRIMATIVE OR JUST COOL?
I think it goes a little deeper than that. Preparing food on sticks is primitive really. Many, many years ago, before the invention of skillets and grills, meat was mainly cooked on sticks over an open fire. In many cases, that skewered rabbit or chicken was passed around the fire and every family member took a bite to help fill their bellies.
But, we’ve come a long way since mankind needed to cook meat that way. So, why the appeal still? Personally, I think it has continued to maintain its popularity simply because it’s fun. I can remember being a kid and eating those battered hot dogs on a stick and dipping it into ketchup or mustard. It was such a change from the everyday fork and knife routine that I’m not sure if the battered hot dog was as good as it seemed at all or if it was just that it was on a stick!
PREPARING TO COOK ON A SKEWER
When it comes to thinking about preparing a main such as chicken, pork, tofu, or even seafood, grilling on skewers helps to lower the cooking time. If you use metal skewers, the metal gets hot and helps to cook the inside of the meat, while the outside chars – both of those things together helps to lock in moisture, which can easily escape down through the grill if you’re not careful.
I tend to use wooden skewers when cooking meat simply because I cannot seem to source any short metal skewers. I have metal skewers, but they’re quite long and I use them only when grilling vegetables. When grilling vegetables, it’s easy to remove them from the skewer and pile them into a serving bowl. They still look fine; they still have those lovely grill marks; and, of course, they taste great.
Meat, on the other hand, does not have the same appeal when you remove it from the skewer and serve it in a bowl. Leaving the meat on the skewer is a better look for grilled meat. For some reason – even though it still tastes great – it does not look so good when you remove it from the skewer. So, use shorter skewers and serve the meat just like that. Everyone loves to bite or pull the meat from a skewer.
OUTDOOR GRILL VERSUS STOVETOP
If you’re preparing these Hawaiian Chicken Skewers on a grill pan on your stove top, you can probably skip the part in the recipe card below that tells you to soak the wooden skewers. These chicken skewers don’t take very long at all and will cook quickly. There’s very little risk of a wooden skewer getting scorched or catching on fire.
Preparing these chicken skewers on an outdoor grill though might result in burned skewers. Be sure to soak them if that’s how you plan to grill the chicken. The reason is simple – chicken thighs have some fat on them and on an outdoor flame grill, that fat is going to melt down into the fire. The fire will shoot up and will burn your skewers. It just does not look as presentable with a black stick of charcoal sticking out of your chicken!
FOR BEST RESULTS, USE CHICKEN THIGHS
For my Hawaiian Chicken Skewers, I would highly recommend using boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I love working with chicken thighs. No matter what cooking method I throw at them, they always come out tender and moist. I’m also a fan of dark meat.
You can use breast meat for this recipe too. Because breast meat tends to cook faster than dark meat, there is a risk of cooking the meat too much. I know chicken breasts are leaner and healthier, but the thighs are certainly more moist and tender. In the end though, it’s up to you.
PREPPING AND MARINATING
When it comes to marinating chicken, some of us think that it’s okay to marinate it all day or even overnight. That might work for some marinades, but not all. Let me explain.
If you’re using a marinade that has acidity in it, then I would not marinate longer than two hours. The acid will react with the enzymes in the chicken and actually toughen it. Since this particular marinade has both pineapple juice and ketchup, which are highly acidic, it’s two hours maximum!
A marinade consisting of more mellow ingredients, like a mixture of olive oil, garlic, onion, and herbs, etc., would allow for a longer marinating time. The good news is that even though two hours is the max, you only need the chicken to sit in the marinade for thirty minutes!
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR GRILLING
If you’ve been baking and cooking for some time, I’m sure you already know that pre-heating is key! Just like when you preheat your oven when you bake a cake, preheating a grill is vitally important for several reasons, but there are two I’ll discuss now.
First, preheating a grill will prevent the chicken from sticking. When the grill is hot, and the chicken is placed on it, it will instantly begin to sear the meat. This sear not only adds flavour and looks pretty, it also prevents the chicken from sticking.
Secondly, preheating the grill will pretty much eliminate the need to overcook! If you place the chicken on a cold grill and turn on the heat, before the grill is hot, the chicken has already started to cook from the heat building on the grill. This will overcook the chicken and make it dry and not very appealing.
Hawaiian Chicken Skewers
- 10 whole boneless, skinless chicken thighs, roughly cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into 1 inch chunks
For the Marinade:
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, grated
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- non-stick cooking spray
- In a bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients.
- Pour the marinade over the chicken and stir well so that all of the chicken is coated with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, if using wooden skewers and an outdoor flame grill, soak your skewers in water until ready to use.
- Once the chicken has marinated long enough, remove it from fridge. Pierce the chicken onto the skewers, adding a piece of pineapple at random throughout the length of the skewer. Don’t pack the chicken too tightly, but the pieces should touch each other.
- Preheat grill to 375 degrees F. Place the skewers onto the grill and cook until browned. Flip and cook the other side. Internal temperature of the chicken should be 165 degrees.
- Remove from grill. Plate and garnish. Serve immediately.