FireWire Flexible Skewers - First Look
04/24/14 - 09:28 Filed in: Kebabs | Grill Tools
I just tried out some new skewers, called FireWire skewers, on my Big Green Egg. To say I love them, would be an understatement. I can't believe it took me this long to get around to trying them. I really like kebabs and up until this point I hadn't been able to do many kebabs on my Big Green Egg. This dry spell ended last Friday night when I made my first batch of kebabs on the FireWire skewers. This entry will describe my initial experience and tell you a little more about these great skewers, if they've been off your radar screen too.
BACKGROUND:Life is typically about compromise. You win some, you lose some. In the case of my Big Green Egg I felt I gained a lot of capabilities and abilities and I gave up very little in return. The Big Green Egg didn't have as much area has my six burner gas grill or even my smoker, but through the use of the Adjustable Rig or the Two-Tier Swing Rack I have gained more usable area. You can't use a rotisserie unit on a Big Green Egg, but then again the chickens I have done on the Egg are as moist as any rotisserie chicken I have ever made. The last capability I felt I was missing out on was the ability to cook a lot of skewers on the Egg. The trouble was the various flat skewers that I had were all about 17" (43 cm) long. The Egg itself was 18 1/4" in diameter. At most I was able to fit three or four skewers at a time. This limited the amount of kebabs I could cook at any one time.
The first picture shows 9 Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue brand flat-bladed skewers on my gas grill. The second picture shows my Big Green Egg, which only could fit 4 of those same skewers. Using the 4 FireWire skewers I now own, I can fit the same amount of food as those 9 skewers and by coiling them in concentric circles I can fit it on the BGE.
Starting around a dozen years ago, I began hearing about some flexible metal skewers called FireWire skewers. Back when I started hearing about them, they were more of an interesting curiosity for me. I had my six burner gas grill and a couple dozen flat skewers in three different sizes that took care of my needs. They seemed like they should solve the problem of making kebabs in a round grill like a Weber kettle or the BGE. Over time I ran into people who had tried these skewers. Most of the people who told me about them didn't seem to be real enthused with them. So when I got my own BGE, I never considered these skewers as a viable solution. About a year ago, at a Big Green Egg cooking demonstration, I saw somebody using FireWire skewers quite successfully and they were quite vocal in their praise for them. So I picked up a pair and it is taking me nearly a year to get around to trying them out. To say I like them is an understatement, and I am kicking myself for not trying them sooner.
DESCRIPTION:The FireWire not your typical flat bladed, square or round solid skewers. These skewers are flexible and are made from stainless steel braided wire and are about 29” (74 cm) long. At one end of the skewer is a 5 inch (12.5 cm) solid piece of stainless steel that looks like a needle. Instead of having a real pointy tip, the tip end is actually rounded over. The braided stainless steel cable comes out of the back end of this "needle-like" metal tip and terminates at the other end where the cable is looped back on itself and the two pieces are clamped together with a cable clamp. This loop makes a little makeshift handle to pick up the skewers. This handle also serves to help keep the food on the skewers. Actually if you are familiar with what the new hybrid temperature probes for the Maverick ET-732 or ET-733 remote read thermometers looks like, these FireWire skewers actually look similar. The probes don't have the loop at one end and the gauge of the wire is smaller, but they do look alike. You use the needle end of the skewer to push the food onto the skewer. Then you slide the food down the shaft of the needle and onto the wire behind. The skewers can be bent into almost any shape you want including threading it in and around other food on your grill. The loop makes a handy stop to prevent the food from sliding off the far end of the skewer.
ADVANTAGES: There are many advantages to these skewers. Some of which you may not have considered before buying
- The flexible shape is ideal for a round grill like the Big Green Egg.
- You also can skewer all of the food and then bend the skewers into a circular shape that will fit into a marinade bag.
- It is much easier to put food on these skewers with their relatively small diameter. With my flat bladed skewers, I often had to precut "starter" holes in soft items like peppers or onions to prevent them from breaking apart when they slid onto the blade of the skewer.
- The smaller diameter of the wire makes it easier to slide the food on and off the length of the skewer as well. These last two items taken together make getting food on or off the skewers a much quicker and painless proposition.
- These skewers are nearly twice as long as a conventional skewer. It is easier dealing with one skewer of food versus multiple skewers.Turning the food was quite easy as well. Wearing heat resistant gloves: You simply grab the loop and the needle end of the skewer simultaneously, raise the skewer into the air until the food is up off the grill, and then drag it to the left or the right to lay the skewer of food on a new side. It actually takes less time to do, then it just it to describe. Just be sure that your grill and your food is well lubricated.
- From some of the videos it appears to be easy enough to pick up moldable skewers of food and flip them all at once. This is something you can't say for regular skewers.
- The skewers are dishwasher safe. I rinse them off with some hot water and dish detergent on a sponge and then looped them into a coil and put them on the top shelf of the dishwasher as recommended by the manufacturer. After one such cleaning my first skewer that I used looks as clean as the unused one.
GOTCHAS:Like me you may search online for these skewers to look at videos and reviews of them before you plunk down your money. Let me warn you about two YouTube videos that could get you into some serious food safety trouble.
- The first is actually put out by the company that makes the FireWire skewers and honestly they should know better. There is a promotional video all over the Internet about the fire wire skewers showing them in use. One of the things they promote is the fact that you can leave the needle end of the skewer sticking out of the grill. The idea here is that and doesn't get hot and you can pick it up quickly when it is time to turn the skewers. That is a HUGE food safety no-no. Think about it: You have just gotten done sliding raw meat, poultry, or fish onto those needles and onto the skewers. If you leave those parts of the skewers in the grill they will be sanitized by the heat of the grill. If you let these dangle over the side as suggested in the video they do not get heated. Not only are you handling these needles with your bare hands which will later touch food, you are also sliding your cooked food back over these needles to get them off the skewers. Once again I really can't believe the company making these didn't catch that.
- A second video, that is not as widely circulated, is by some clown on YouTube who calls himself Chef IrixGuy. His qualifications for being a chef seem to be that his house came with a kitchen. He has several YouTube videos where he is making kebabs using the FireWire skewer. In one of the videos he is making chicken, onion and pepper kebabs and putting them on a fire wire skewer. This next thing would be hilarious if it wasn't so dangerous. Towards the end of the video, he comes back from washing his hands and he is talking about salmonella poisoning. He then proceeds to pour all of his BBQ sauce onto the raw chicken and says that he is going to use any extra to dribble some of the extra on the food when he heads out to the grill. You should never ever reuse marinade without first boiling it for three minutes or so. Even so, most folks recommend you don't even do that with any marinade used for poultry.
If you follow normal rational procedures for food safety these skewers are as safe as any out there. Just don't be fooled by YouTube videos from people who should know better.
PRICE:The fire wire skewers retail for $9.99 for a pair at my local grill stores. I discovered something very interesting in my last trip to a Big Green Egg dealer. It seems there is a big green egg branded version of the skewers, the identical skewers, which retail for $14.99. And what are you getting for your additional five dollars? Nothing IMHO. The packaging has the Big Green Egg logo on it and there are several additional pictures and some additional applications of green ink on the packaging. This is a case where buying the BGE branded version is adding no value to the proposition. It is essentially taking an extra $5.00 out of your pocket and giving you nothing extra in return. I have no problem paying for Big Green Egg accessories when they add value to the proposition. But I must say I consider this instance a total rip off and I would save yourself the five dollars and get the skewers at a regular grill dealer who charges a fair price for them.
In the original positioning of this entry I incorrectly berated Williams-Sonoma for charging $14.99 for two Fire Wire skewers. Victor posted a comment saying the product description says there are FOUR not two in the W-S set of Fire Wire skewers. I looked on their website and that is indeed what is listed. This is the best price yet. I apologize for getting this wrong. I passed by the display in the store and could see the price, but I didn’t pick up the package or get close enough to read the quantity. Thank you Victor.
CONCLUSIONS:I really love the flexibility, pun intended, of these FireWire skewers. Easy to load up, easy-to-use and easy to clean. I wish I had bought them a long time ago. But I am trying to make up for lost time in that I have purchased another pair. I am looking forward to many great kebab dishes coming off my Egg real soon.
SOME RELATED LINKS: Here is a link to the picture entry for the meal made this date.
SPANISH-STYLE KEBABS Kebabs Picture Entry
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