Russian grilling is not exactly a Weber grill and sizzling burgers, hotdogs, steaks. It’s centered around a mangal - a long, open-style barbecue without wire grills and stars a type of kebab - meat cooked on a metal skewer over hot charcoal called shashlyk. 

It was the only thing my granddad was allowed to do in the kitchen. He was responsible for buying the pork shoulder, cutting it up in matchbox-sized pieces, slicing up the onions, which he did wearing goggles, doing his magic with marinating, giving it all just enough time to sit, chopping up birch tree wood for the charcoal, getting the coals to the right temp in a mangal and making sure no-one could complain that it was too dry or too raw. Just right. 

Russians love to think of shashlik as this sacred dish of summer holidays, but hey, you can rock it just as well. You can do it on the beach, by a lake, at someone’s dacha. You get the idea.

Prep time: about one hour plus letting it sit overnight

What you’ll need: 

  • A kilo of pork shoulder or lamb, cut up into two-bite pieces. An medium-sized onion sliced up. Three tablespoons of white vinegar. Some people use mayo as a marinade instead. Salt and pepper. Toss it all together and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Alternatively, you can just buy pre-cut and brined shashlik at a grocery store.

  • You can also grill fish and vegetables if you a mesh grill called reshetka. 

  • A mangal - you can buy a basic one at a large store like Lenta for 

  • Shampuri - metal skewers

  • A bag of wood charcoal

  • Lighting fluid for the charcoals

What to do: 

  • Place the charcoal in the mangal and light them up. Make sure they are hot and glowing, not coming up in flames.

  • Thread the meat into the skewers so you get about the same number of each skewer. Place the pieces close together - they’ll stay juicier this way. Some people like to add mushrooms or vegetable slices - we say no to unnecessary complexity (things start cooking at different times and it gets harder to get the meat right).

  • Fan the coals and let these babies sizzle! Cooking time varies depending on the temp and the amount of meat but it should start turning crispy-delicious around the edges. Sample to make sure.

  • Serve with sliced up tomatoes, cucumbers, green herbs and ketchup. 

  • Accept compliments for grilling like a Russian!

The best part about grilling is that just like anywhere in the world, it’s not about the food. It’s about the company!