It is not stew season, not even a little bit, and yet the grocery stores continue to sell stew meat, with blatant disregard for the weather. It would be rude, almost mocking, except for the fact that stew meat can be used for non-stew applications, especially kebabs.
This is not an original thought I came up with on my own. Yesterday I was talking to my friend Dan Boeckner, a prolific maker of kebabs (and music, I think), because I knew he had been making a lot of kebabs and I wanted to know what marinades he had been using. He (generously) shared the details of two marinades — one Balkan and one Sichuan, but I (selfishly) continued to ask questions. “What cut of lamb do you use?” I asked. “Stew meat,” he replied, “because it is cheap.”
Not only is stew meat cheap, but it is already cubed, and as a lazy cheap-arse, I am delighted by both of these features. Beef stew meat (chuck) is the most common, but you can find pork stew meat (shoulder) and lamb stew meat (also shoulder, but from a sheep instead of a pig), and all are good for a kebabing.
If you are starting to get frantic at the thought of tough kebabs, please calm down. Though stew meat is commonly rendered tender by a low and slow cooking process (like stewing, for instance), you can tenderize your meat cubes chemically with an overnight marinade. We have a list of cheap and easy marinades right here, and I’m sure there are many more for you to try out there on the internet. Blended feta cheese or the liquid that feta comes packed in would also work, as would onion dip, which is the new thing that I’m all about. Just make sure you let your meat stew in the marinade for at least eight hours before skewering and grilling for the most tender, flavorful results.