Kabob Heaven: Koobideh Kabob (Persian Ground Beef Kabob)

Koobideh Kabob (ground beef kabob) is a family favorite. My mother-in-law took the time to teach me (and my little girl) how to make this delicious meal.

Persian Ground Beef Kabob (kabob-e koobideh) by FamilySpice.com

My mother-in-law is a professional when it comes to making Persian Kabob-e Koobideh, Ground Beef Kabobs. You know, ground meat on a skewer? It sounds easy, but it’s an art form to cook pieces of meat or chicken over an open flame. If the mixture is off by an ingredient, the whole thing falls off the skewer and into the hot coals. And the kabobs must remain moist and tender, practically melting in your mouth, certainly not like thick, heavy meat patties.

Making Persian Ground Beef Kabob (kabob-e koobideh) by FamilySpice.com

My mother-in-law’s master hands work quickly. She has lovingly and selflessly made these kabobs for her family as long as she can remember: first for her children and her husband, and now for her grandchildren, daughter-in-law and extended family.

My own grandmother was also a master in making koobideh. But she is gone now, and I never had the opportunity to learn from her. So one afternoon, I invited my mother-in-law over and we made koobideh together. I watched her work her magic and learned her koobideh recipe.

My grandmother making Persian Ground Beef Kabob (kabob-e koobideh) by FamilySpice.com

It’s a simple recipe, which of course required me to run to the measuring spoons to make sure I wrote everything down exactly as she explained. Like most home cooks, both my mother-in-law and my grandmother do not work in exact measurements. They measure everything by sight and feel.

My daughter was only  3-years old at the time of this koobideh lesson. She loved every minute of it and even helped out! My girl loved working with the meat patties, probably because it reminded her of play doh. My boys also enjoy making kabob with their Maman, as did the other grandchildren who are now too old and too cool to be seen massaging ground beef.

Making Persian Ground Beef Kabob (kabob-e koobideh) by FamilySpice.com

When we are at Maman’s house for a kabob dinner, the kids are gathered around her as she grills the kabob, turning each skewer at just the right time for even cooking. My mother-in-law sneaks bites of kabob fresh off the girl and feeds them to the kids, who typically are the last to be served dinner, after their elders serve themselves first.

My grandmother making Persian Ground Beef Kabob (kabob-e koobideh) by FamilySpice.com

I have memories of my grandmother sitting on her haunches fanning the flames of her little hibachi-style charcoal grill. My husband rigged his mother’s gas grill with metal stands so the skewers of meat sit above the open flame. Now she can stand easily and not crouch over a low grill.

The hubby has found that those big stainless steel catering buffet pans are a cheap and efficient way to grill koobideh kabob. Or any kabob, for that matter. For Persian kabob, we use long flat skewers which hold the meat better and keep the food from rolling or spinning on a regular thin skewer. (You typically find these at your local middle-eastern stores) The long skewer fits perfectly over these aluminum pans, resting on the edges of the pan as the meat lays over the open pan, high above the hot coals burning underneath.

Making Persian Ground Beef Kabob (kabob-e koobideh) by FamilySpice.com

Because koobideh making is a bit… challenging, it is the most popular meal to order at Persian restaurants. But despite our adventures eating kabob at restaurants, my kids always agree. It’s never as good as Maman’s kabob. This is one family recipe I will definitely pass down to my children and of course to my own grandchildren.

Read my husband’s favorite way to enjoy chelo kabab and koobideh kabob here.

This can also be made with a mixture of beef and lamb. But for practicality purposes, we primarily use ground beef. Low-fat (10% fat or less) is not recommended for this technique. You need the fat for flavor and to help the meat stick to the skewer. Please use 15-20% fat ground beef. Much of the fat will burn off during the grilling process, and you are left with moist and tender skewers of koobideh kabob to enjoy.

Grilled Ground Beef Kabob (Kabob-eh Koobideh)

Koobideh kabob is traditionally made with ground lamb or beef. It is traditionally cooked on long, flat skewers. Served with rice it is called Chelo Kabob.

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-sized onions
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 lb ground beef, 85% lean
  • 2 lavash bread

Directions:

  1. Using a food processor, grate:
    • 2 medium-sized onions
  2. Place the onion mixture into a blender and puree until smooth, about 2 minutes.*
  3. Place the onion mixture in a strainer over a bowl and drain the juice. Kabob will not hold its shape if mixture has too much water.
  4. Using the food processor again, but with the chopping blade, place in alternating layers the onion mixture and:
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 2 lb ground beef, 85% lean
  5. Add onion juice little by little if mixture is dry. Meat-onion mix should have elasticity and stretch to it.
  6. Put kabob mix into big bowl and knead like dough. The more you knead the kabob mix, the lighter the kabob. Texture should be airy, not a solid mass like in a hamburger. Kabob mix shouldn't be sticking to your hands.
  7. Allow kabob to marinate in a refrigerator in a covered bowl for 2-4 hours.
  8. Remove kabob mixture from the refrigerator and start your charcoal at least 30 minutes prior to grilling.
  9. The amount of meat you use, depends on the size of skewers you have. Long flat skewers work best with ground beeg kabob as it holds the meat better than a thin round skewer. For our skewers we started with a baseball-size ball of kabob mix.
  10. Gently pierce the meat patty with your skewer and slide it down to the middle of the skewer. Use onion juice or water to keep your hands moist and to keep them from sticking to the meat.
  11. Softly squeeze the meat flat as you position the meat onto the skewer. Make sure you leave room on either ends of the skewer as it rests over your grill.
  12. Using two fingers to mimic scissors, pinch both ends of the kabob meat, cutting off any excess.
  13. Also using two fingers softly squeeze down the skewer leaving ridges.
  14. Place skewers on the grill. The meat should not touch any grill plates. Instead the skewers should be propped up over your coals or flame. You know your grill is ready when you hold your hand over the grill for 3 seconds and your hand feel too hot to remain there.
  15. Cook until done, approximately 15-20 minutes, turning the skewers every minute to evenly cook. If you wait too long and cook one side too much before turning the skewer, your kabob will fall off the skewer.
  16. As kabobs are done, remove from grill and remove meat from skewers by grabbing it and sliding it down the skewer with:
    • 1 lavash bread
  17. To keep warm until all the meat is cooked, cover with:
    • 1 lavash bread
  18. Serve hot.

Notes:

Serving Suggestions: Serve with basmati rice or lavash bread.

Cooking Tips: The ingredients are simple, but the technique is key. You want the meat mixture to be sticky enough to stay on the skewers and not fall off during the grilling process. Long flat skewers work best with this kabob.

To cook in the oven, form kabob mix into desired shape and place onto a broiler pan coated with non-stick spray. Broil in the oven on the top-most shelf until kabob starts to brown, about 5-7 mins. Turn kabob over & broil for 5 more mins or until cooked through.

* This step can be skipped. The secret to great ground beef kabob is to make sure your onions are pureed very smoothly. You don't want to taste the onion pieces, as you would in a hamburger. The texture is very different.

Prep Time:

Yield: 8 skewers of kabob

Cook Time:

Total Time:

(This post has been updated. It was first published January 8th, 2009)

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6 Responses to Kabob Heaven: Koobideh Kabob (Persian Ground Beef Kabob)

  1. Lois at #

    This is always my favorite meal at your place. Watching your husband grill the meat skewers over his make shift grill is half the fun. The other half is listening to his stories of growing up in Iran.

    • And I believe, you were just invited for another night of kabob at our house!

      • Lois at #

        Really? We’re so making that happen! We love sharing food, fun and family with you all.

  2. Eha at #

    Thank you for a wonderfully informative lesson. The ingredients are so simple but I fear the method will take some time: have never made a mixture this way and have always been taught mince should be handled as little as possible 🙂 ! Very interesting and shall soon try to see whether I can get it right!! Have the right skewers . . . oh, and love the family photos . . . enjoyable post . . .

    • Eha, until my mother-in-law showed me how to do it, I wasn’t very successful making kabob either. The food processor may become a mess to cleanup afterwards, but it fluffs the meat beautifully and my kabob never fall off the skewers. Let me know how it works for you!

      • Eha at #

        Sent this to some friends and quite a few wrote back to say they would subscribe . . . yes, shall tell you when I get a reasonable result 🙂 !

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