A common cooking wisdom at this time of year is to avoid turning on the oven at all costs. Such advice sends Southerners running to their grills, and I am one of them—but not because I fear a hot kitchen. (Just ask my family, who sweated through my homemade pie obsession last summer). I will always choose flavor over comfort, but at the peak of summer, not much beats the smoky, visceral taste of a wood-fired grill.

The appeal of the grill extends far beyond the plate, however. Outside, there are no dishes to be done, counters to clean, or TV to watch while your dinner cooks. There are only cicadas and good company, and if you’re doing it right, a cold beer or glass of rosé to sip. I like to grill some less expected dishes — heaps of radishes, marinated eggplant, stone fruits for dessert later — but summer also calls for the classics. Burgers. Corn on the cob. Kebabs.

Whether they’re the main attraction or part of a larger feast, steak kebabs are sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Swapping the standard peppers and onions for small, flavor-packed shallots and grape tomatoes updates this grilling favorite, and a balsamic-red wine marinade makes them irresistible. So: fleeing a hot kitchen or chasing the best flavor? It’s all the same when a kamado grill is the end destination:


Serves 4


¾ c. dry red wine
½ c. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ c. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 large shallots, sliced
1.5 lb. sirloin steak, trimmed into 1-in. cubes
1 pint whole grape tomatoes


1. Whisk together first 7 ingredients. Transfer about ¾ c. of the marinade to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half, until slightly syrupy. Turn off heat and reserve.

2. Meanwhile, pour the rest of the marinade over the cubed steak, tomatoes, and shallots in a glass dish or plastic bag, turning to coat. Marinate in refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 8 hours.

3. Bring marinated mixture to room temperature about 30 minutes before grilling. Light a medium–hot fire in the grill. In the meantime, thread steak, tomatoes, and shallot slices onto metal skewers.

4. Place skewers directly on the grill and cook about 3–4 minutes per side for medium rare steak. Baste skewers with the reserved marinade reduction during grilling and remove from heat when done.


Upgrade your Grill

Trade your trusty kettle or gas grill for a kamado-style grill, a ceramic, charcoal fired grill that’s part smoker, part grill, and part wood-fired oven. The dome shape and ceramic walls promote air circulation and heat retention, while an ingenious vent system gives you precise temperature control. Food comes off the grill juicy and tender, with a smoky flavor no other grill can match.

Consider your Fuel

Friends don’t let friends use briquettes. But really. Briquettes are made with chemicals and glue that can ‘off-gas’ unwanted flavors into your food. If you want a clean burn and deep, true flavor, only natural, hardwood lump charcoal will do. Pro tip: bigger chunks will burn longer, perfect for smoking and slow cooks.

Timing is Everything

If you wouldn’t dream of putting a ribeye in the oven to slow roast alongside potatoes, don’t put them on the grill simultaneously either. Map out your cookout in advance so your proteins and veg each get their appropriate amount of cooking time.

Handle with Care

A sturdy pair of leather, heat-resistant gloves is as essential as a meat thermometer for serious grillers. A quality pair will allow you to quickly turn skewers, carry hot trays, or adjust grill grates. (Welding gloves are great for this!)

Photography by Jivan Davé