Perfectly grilled kabobs are tender, juicy, nicely seasoned and evenly cooked. With a little planning and preparation, even novice cooks can grill flawless kabobs. Remember that chunks of vegetables and fruits cook faster than meats, so you may want to thread them on separate skewers to simplify your grilling process. Also, use only tender cuts of meat. Marinades add flavor, and if your marinade is vinegar-based, the acid may help tenderize the meat slightly. However, the small chunks of meat cook quickly on skewers, so the meat must be tender at the start.
Combine the ingredients for a marinade in a medium bowl and mix well. For a citrusy marinade that complements chicken, lamb, pork and beef, mix 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, the juice of one lime or 1/4 cup bottled lime juice, 2 tsp. chili powder, and 1 tsp. each paprika and onion powder. Add cayenne pepper flakes, sea salt and pepper to taste. Reserve some marinade for basting purposes, if desired.
Wash the chicken, if using, in cold water and pat it dry. Trim any excess fat from the chicken or meat, then cut it into evenly sized 1 1/2-inch pieces.
Place the meat into the marinade, tossing it lightly to cover all sides of each piece. Marinate the meat in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to overnight.
Soak bamboo or wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. Place a weight, such as a bowl or plate, on top of the skewers to keep them submerged.
Wash and prepare your choice of vegetables and fruit for the kabobs. Leave soft items, such as small mushrooms, berries and cherry tomatoes, whole, and cut solid vegetables and fruit, such as bell peppers, onions and pineapple, into evenly sized chunks.
Thread the meat and vegetable pieces onto the skewers. Your goal is to have the meat evenly cooked and the vegetable and fruit chunks browned but not burned. To avoid burnt items, thread the vegetables and fruits onto the ends of the skewers with the meat in the middle.
Position the skewers on the grill, placing the meat over the hottest area in the center of the grill so it will cook faster. Arrange the ends of the skewers with the vegetables and fruit near the cooler edges of the grill.
Cook the kabobs for three to four minutes, then turn them and cook the other side for three to four minutes or until done. Use the reserved marinade to baste the kabobs during grilling. Basting is particularly useful in keeping the delicate fruits and vegetables from charring, and it lends flavor continuity to the entire kabob.