With just a little bit of prep, using mostly pantry ingredients, Mexican Dry Rub Grilled Chicken Skewers are fast, easy, and delicious!
If there’s one thing that I can never get enough of, it’s food on sticks. 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 line ups 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.
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!
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.
If you’re preparing these Mexican Dry Rub Grilled 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 quite quickly, so 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!
Before you get to the recipe, I wanted to mention that you can increase the heat level in this recipe to suit your personal tastes. To keep the flavour mild, I added only 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. You certainly add more if you want more heat.
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Mexican Dry Rub Grilled Chicken Skewers
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 10 whole boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cut into one inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 whole lime, cut into eighths
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
- If using wooden skewers, place the skewers into a flat baking dish and cover with water. Allow the wooden skewers to soak while you prep the recipe. If you’re using metal skewers, you do not need to pre-soak.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne. Set aside.
- In a larger bowl, add the chicken and the dry rub mixture. Toss well to coat. Rest the chicken in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Skewer the chicken pieces onto the skewers being careful not to place them on too tightly. Push the pieces together so that they are touching and flush with each other, but not tight.
- While you are skewering the chicken, preheat an indoor grill pan or an outdoor grill to medium heat. Use a pastry brush to brush the grill with some of the cooking oil.
- Place the prepared chicken skewers onto the grill pan. Leave about half an inch between each skewer.
- Grill for 3-4 minutes per side. Once done, remove from the grill and garnish. Serve immediately with lime wedges. Allow guest to spritz the desired amount of lime over their chicken skewers.
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